Great Divide Trail Pre-Hike 1: Coronavirus

Monday, March 16, 2020

Let me suggest a scenario. A seemingly normal human being opens his bathroom cupboard and methodically counts the eight rolls of toilet paper inside. He frowns. He drives to the supermarket. He fights another shopper for a cart. He rushes to the toilet paper aisle, bowling over several children on the way, and claws the last three packages of toilet paper into his cart, howling triumphantly when he successfully purchases 90 rolls. If this is you, GO SIT DOWN YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

This is a strange time to be a thru-hiker (or any human being living in this world). The chance of actually contracting COVID-19 (I’ve added a hyperlink for future readers not seeing this word in the news every day) in North America is still low, but backpackers are feeling its impacts because suddenly everyone wants what we want. Hand sanitizer. Unappetizing dehydrated meals. Equally unappetizing rice to which more appetizing ingredients can be added. It’s like there’s a band and at one point you were the only fan and could always get tickets to their concerts, then some other fans came along and also bought tickets – fine, we’ll allow that – but then some other fans came along and started buying 200 tickets each due to irrational fears that they would lose 199 of those tickets, and then scalpers began buying huge chunks of tickets to resell at higher prices on eBay. Where does all this leave us? In a tragic state of irritated minds and unsanitary hands.

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Some fools abandoned this toilet paper, which is now valued at $300 per roll, along the Florida Trail.

I won’t delve into the hoarding of toilet paper and bottled water, which fills me with equal portions of laughter and contempt. It’s the hand sanitizer that’s the problem, since washing your hands properly as a solo hiker without contaminating your water bottle is virtually impossible. I’m a germaphobe to start with, so my thoughts when I circulated around the stores in my city and failed to find any hand sanitizer for my Grand Enchantment Trail hike – there are zero cases of COVID-19 in this city or province, just in case you’re wondering – were grim. Luckily for me, my family came through. My mother found me 90 ml (3 oz) of Purell, which is extinct in the wild, and my sister’s partner found me an entire 950 ml (32 oz) bottle of foam sanitizer! The latter is tricky compared to gel since it needs to be used in a specific bottle to foam, otherwise it’s like pouring water over your hands, but I was able to order some 60 ml (2 oz) foamer bottles to repackage it in. The only problem is that a 60 ml foamer bottle is bigger than I thought it would be when looking at my empty 60 ml Purell bottle, so it doesn’t fit in a pants pocket well. It will live in my backpack hipbelt.

Hand sanitizer repackaged in various bottles, because that’s what hoarders have reduced us to.

Now that I’m not hiking until July, my hand sanitizer situation is in flux. Maybe Amazon and eBay will crack down on reselling and individuals with 500 bottles will pause and reflect and think to themselves, ‘Do I really need 500 bottles of hand sanitizer and 8372 rolls of toilet paper?’, and in that case, I could purchase travel-friendly gel sanitizer.

A final word to the hoarders: if you’re going to stock up on pasta sides, please buy the ones with cheese. I don’t like those.

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