This year the annual Moore-Sbragia family trip is filled with outdoor adventures.
Bridley Slinker of Myrtle Creek said her family visits every summer from Modesto, California, and “there’s not a lot else to do this year except going outside.”
On Monday, eight of the family members were recreating a family photo at Susan Creek Falls.
The parking lot at the trailhead was full around noon and people of all ages were walking the nearly 2-mile hike.
Leon Glaser of Roseburg hiked the trail with his two young daughters and his father.
Glaser, who owns JosephJane Winery, said he had planned to visit Southern California this summer but ended up going to a winery in Dundee instead.
Staying close to home and enjoying the outdoors have become popular activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which thwarted plans for extensive travel.
“We have seen a marked increase in the number of people recreating in the forest,” said Umpqua National Forest spokesman Mark Turney.
The Bureau of Land Management confirmed its campgrounds were fuller than normal too.
“The BLM recognizes that it is difficult for Americans to remain inside for weeks at a time and that public lands are among places people look to for opportunities to be outside,” BLM spokesman Derrick Henry said. “As long as social distancing and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local-recommended practices are observed, getting outdoors and visiting public lands can be a great way to avoid cabin fever without coming into close contact with people.”
Many of the campgrounds got rid of their first-come-first-serve spots in favor of reservations only. Susan Creek Campground was fully booked, a change from prior seasons.
Jeri Baumgardner said she’s a full-time camper. “It brings back childhood memories,” Baumgardner said. “My family camped at this site 50 years ago and although I don’t remember it. I love the simplicity and the quiet here.”
Jason Averett of Roseburg said he camps at Susan Creek every summer and he noticed a difference in the number of people.
“I’ve been coming here for probably 10 years,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out and about this year.”
All outdoor areas follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep clean. Averett said that meant showers were not available this year, but everything else remained open.
Averett does worry when he sees travelers from out of state, especially Washington and California where the coronavirus outbreaks are larger than in Oregon.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team has also repeatedly stated that several of the newest positive test results are linked to travel, especially outside Douglas County and outside Oregon.
Turney said, “We still have to remind people that, even though we’re meeting or exceeding those guidelines, we can’t guarantee a COVID-free environment.”
“There are people everywhere,” Turney said. “I know a lot of people are hiking, fishing, swimming, and some just camping and enjoying the outdoors.”
Because of COVID-19, the camping season got a late start in opening up campgrounds and hiring season workers. “We have some incredible workers in the forest,” Turney said. “They are really dedicated to getting the forest open.”
With more closures announced amid the coronavirus, the Umpqua National Forest has started discussing an extension of the outdoor season, but Turney said that will also largely depend on what happens during the fire season.