Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start to summer in the United States, whatever the actual calendar. It’s the time when folks head to the hills, the beach, the great outdoors — a long weekend of sun, fun and togetherness.

This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, heading outdoors needs to be done responsibly.

And we are not talking just about the important safety precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus — washing hands, staying 6 feet apart and wearing face coverings. No, we are talking about Outdoors Etiquette 101. Don’t leave a mess. People who cannot be in the outdoors wisely should stay in their backyards or city parks.

In New Mexico, reports from such popular hiking and camping spots as the Jemez and Pecos show that humans — as is too often their habit — have been loving the outdoors nearly to death. We understand the need to get in the car and escape to the wild — when so many people are restricted to their homes because of COVID-19 and shopping, movies or concerts are canceled, getting outdoors is balm to the soul.

Sadly, people also are trashing the land. Too many cars, too many people, trash, dog poop, human waste and other problems are causing damage, not to mention spreading germs.

Look at this post from the owners of La Cueva Lodge in Jemez Springs, shared on Facebook, about the deluge of visitors with a recent photo of cars crammed along both sides of N.M. 4: “It is so sad that is what just a 1/4 mile of the mountains looked like this weekend. The Entire Mountain was overrun.

“Fires left. At a Stage 2 fire restrictions which means NO FIRES — NONE allowed.”

Besides the overcrowding, U.S. Forest Service bathrooms are closed. There is no trash pickup. And guess what? People are not packing out their waste or their trash. Dog poop is littering trails. The forest is a mess, and visitors to the Pecos area say it’s not much better there. (The state of New Mexico, perhaps using its congressional clout, needs to lean on federal officials to open bathrooms and resume trash pickup.)

People are leaving behind piles of trash on trails and by trash cans that are not being serviced. Worse, because of extremely dry conditions, smoldering campfires are common. If there is not a fire in the forests, it will be almost a miracle — people are being incredibly careless.

This weekend, if you do go outdoors, be responsible. Remember that most tribal lands are closed. Check for other closures. Be prepared with snacks, water and your own trash bags. Avoid crowded trailheads — close to home in Santa Fe, our popular hiking trails sometimes resemble busy sidewalks in a city. Wear face coverings when passing other people and keep at a distance. Respect each other and the outdoors.

Experiencing the outdoors is a great way to ease the anxiety of living amid a pandemic. Sunlight brings much-needed vitamin D for the body and joy to the soul. It is freeing to be outside rather than in the house.

But if people aren’t more careful, this escape will be closed. We can’t risk forest fires because campers or hikers start a campfire and don’t put it out. Villagers in Pecos and Jemez Springs should not have to be picking up the trash of visitors. Either recreate responsibly or do everyone a favor: Stay home. The backyard is waiting.

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(6) comments

Dr. Michael Johnson

Yes, yes, of course. Old Inez would rather see everyone cowering in a corner at home with your mask, goggles, and gloves on, afraid to do anything, than go outside and enjoy the world. Typical.

Jim Klukkert

Dr. Micheal Johnson- I am tempted to simply quote the editorial, "Either recreate responsibly or do everyone a favor: Stay home." To which I could add, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Here is a more reasoned response. Lately some of your comments have provoke lively and informative discussion. The dialogues with Khal, and others, are a most welcome and positive contribution to a community conversation.

Other comments of yours seem to dip into fiery quips, that while perhaps building partisan spirit on one side or another, yield more smoke & heat rather than light & clarity.

I get that you are not fond of the editor's political perspective. If you would concentrate on putting forth your perspective, rather than expressing your vindictive, I think we would all be better for it.

Finally, you have often expressed deep disappointment and disatisfaction with certain aspects of life in New Mexico. Would we all not find improving the lot of NM easier, if we strive for civil and substantive conversation?


Dr. Michael Johnson

I will try to remember all that, and do better. But being an old man, seen most everything and been most everywhere, set in my ways and enjoying my freedoms to exercise my rights, I sometimes get annoyed by certain things I read. And of course with the sorry and awful state of the state and world, anger comes easily when it comes to left wing politicians, people lecturing me from a holier than thou perspective (like Inez), politicians running my life in arbitrary and capricious manner, and of course the typical NM political incompetence and corruption, such as the criminal who was elected to represent me in my, and your, state House district. It serves me to remember my great grandfather, a delegate to the 1910 NM Constitutional Convention, who was the lone socialist. He had radical ideas, like giving women the right to vote, marriage to anyone, swift and simple recall of elected politicians, and state provided health care. He ran afoul of the original Santa Fe Ring with those "radical" ideas, and they spread the rumor he had smallpox and had him quarantined in a Santa Fe hospital for most of the convention so he couldn't express his opinions and push for his ideas. I guess maybe I am somewhat like him.......[beam]

Jim Klukkert

Dr. Michael Johnson [thumbup] I look forward to the day we can sit down together with a single malt to share. [smile] I would love to hear those sorts of stories, and more.

I too am an old man. Many years ago, being schooled a little bit in enough Psychology to be sent into Public Schools [sad], I came across Ericson's concept of Developementally Appropriate Stages of Growth. I believe those of us who have been around the block this many times are now elders. In some cultures, elders get a lot of respect. As elders in that Developemental Stage, Appropriate behavior consists of offering our support, considered wisdom and good humors as payback to those who are going to have to suffer those many longer years we have already survived. [beam]

You are a bright guy Mike, and I am not half bad. Because of numerous differences between us, a civil discussion may shed much light on a number of topics, and perhaps result in some new formulation as to the way forward.

I think that would be pretty good in a world where so many are simply shrieking at others, and never hearing a darn thing.

Thanks Mike, have a great day here in the Valley.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Thank you, I also look forward to that day. I do spend much of my time, in a normal world, not today, mentoring and helping university students, faculty, baseball players, car restorers and car judges, and others from my knowledge, experience, and educational perspective. Part of my problem is all of that is now gone away, so we are left with these kind of experiences. I look forward to getting back to the real world someday too. Survive.

Jim Klukkert


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