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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Should you wear a mask while hiking?

Should you wear a mask outdoors? That's the big question as we head out on the hiking trails this summer. (Leslie Kelly)
Should you wear a mask outdoors? That's the big question as we head out on the hiking trails this summer. (Leslie Kelly)

Hello, summer hiking season. Can I introduce you to the newest addition to my trail wardrobe? The mask.

Yes, face coverings have become a true hot-button subject, but there's solid, scientific evidence wearing one cuts down on the chance that you'll become infected with COVID-19 or that you'll be passing it along if you're one of those silent spreaders. 

The question about whether to wear one outside isn't as clear cut, though. Doesn't the natural breeze prevent germs from hanging in the air? The CDC guidelines say you're OK as long as you're able to maintain six feet of distance from others.

That's not always easy to do on hiking trails, as we found out on a recent trip to the North Cascades National Park

While grinding up the 1,500-foot vertical climb to Pyramid Lake, we saw no one else. The journey through the forest, accompanied by birdsong and the soothing sounds from the nearby creek were the kind of balm that's one of the reasons we're committed to getting out in nature as often as possible. 

Coming back down, though, there were more folks coming up the narrow trail and none were wearing masks. My approach is to wear mine around my neck and pull it up when we see others. John's more casual about it. He steps off the trail to provide a six-foot buffer zone, but might not pull on a mask. 

One group came right up to us and starting talking to us in close proximity. Like they'd never heard of social distancing. It pains me that we have to think about this at all, but we do. And while the mask-wearing debate has now turned ugly and gotten political, I'm going to go back to the adage often repeated by my Nana: Better safe than sorry.

So, I'm going to continue to mask up on the trail when I see others coming up. Plus, I'm not mad that it hides my growing collection of wrinkles. 

How about you? If you feel strongly, send us a note at 

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.