Ways to stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors for Memorial Day weekend

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- With the long weekend ahead, many people will be hiking, camping, or boating to kick off summer. But ahead of getting into the great outdoors, there are measures people can take to protect not only themselves, but others, as well as nature.

Coronavirus has affected many aspects of daily life, and it could also impact how you spend your time outdoors.

Forest Ranger Kent Nelson said he expects the number of people out and about to be high, and asked people to plan ahead. One suggestion is to plan your activities at different times than you normally might in order to avoid crowds.

“If you’re used to doing a hike in the afternoon, that may be the most crowded time, so to keep appropriate social distancing, you might want to get up early and get that hike in early, then you’ll be back home and safe afterwards, or to your campsite,” Nelson said.

Additionally, he suggested following the slogan “know before you go,” and asked people to be flexible.

“Your family or your friends have maybe traditionally gone to the same spot every Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “Well that may not be available, or it may be there with some restrictions, or it may be overcrowded, in which case you want to go on to another place.”

When it comes to fire safety, Nelson said there are steps you should take to prevent wildfires.

“Check with the local officials to makes sure you’re allowed to have that campfire, and if you do, make sure you always have some water handy, and a shovel during the fire,” he said. “And when you’re done, make sure it’s completely out before you leave the area.”

Nelson described a method called "drown, stir, and check" to ensure the fire is completely out. He said in that process, you drown the fire with water, stir it with a shovel, wait a few minutes, then hover your hand above the campfire to see if there’s any heat. If there is, you need to repeat the process until there’s no more heat.

“If you’re going to have a campfire, keep it small, not tall,” he said. “A smaller campfire is easier to control and easier to put out if something comes up and you have to leave.”

Nelson said it’s about “common sense” and “courtesy” to make sure everyone has a safe weekend enjoying the outdoors.

“Not everyone feels the need to wear a mask, but when you are wearing a mask you are protecting others in case you’re asymptomatic. It’s courteous, people will have to kind of do that on their own,” he said. “But again, if a place that you’re going to to go for a hike or boating or anything, if it’s crowded, then move on to the next one, be flexible, and enjoy the great outdoors.”