Hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic is on the downslope this month as we Americans celebrate our independence from the British monarchy. As for myself, I’m also celebrating independence from COVID-19 and the lockdown this nation endured this spring in response to the virus. We were told to shelter in place, to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. The thing is, Los Angeles is so densely populated that many felt the need to escape to the unpopulated outback of Los Angeles County. I was certainly one of those people. I found independence in national forests by going riding.

Many went to the beach the first weekend of the lockdown, and authorities responded by closing the beaches. Not my riding buddies and me; we went riding in the Angeles National Forest. It had just rained, and the dirt was perfect in most areas, but the red-clay areas were muddy and super slick. It was an awesome day of riding under a canopy of oaks and pine trees. Independence in national forests is refreshing.

Next weekend I had long planned a memorial ride in Arizona for my dad, mom and three riding buddies. But, one healthcare worker had tested positive in Cochise County, so the whole county was shut down, except for a few restaurants that were open for pick-up orders only. So, nine of us saddled up on bikes and in a van for a ride through Texas Canyon and the Coronado National Forest to Tombstone. We stopped along the way for a picnic while adhering to the social-distancing rules. It was a great ride, and it did us good to get out and about in the Arizona outback.

When I returned to the office, I had an e-mail from Kathryn Sosbe, Office of Communication for the USDA Forest Service. It said, “We are learning that in a time when space is needed, you are finding solace and satisfaction in the great outdoors. Except, so is everyone else, which creates crowded trails and parking lots.”

“Just this weekend I recreated on my nearby national forest,” said Chris French, who is the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, which oversees the 193 million acres of public land. “I was surprised by the crowds of people that were present. I realized that even for places that I love that I would need to change my needs on behalf of the greater good.

“Forest Service employees are proud of the lands we manage on behalf of Americans. Some like to refer to these national forests and grasslands as America’s backyard. So do we. They serve a multitude of purposes, including timber for building, firewood for keeping warm, in-season hunting for a valued food source for many families, and a supply of clean water that 20 percent of the nation enjoys. We also help local economies, most especially rural communities, that rely on tourism and other work that emanates from the lands we manage. Forest service lands connect communities through the roads we help manage.

“Our national forests and grasslands can be a critical resource for people in difficult times,” French said. “Across our nearly 30,000 sites the Forest Service manages nationally, we want to ensure the safety of our communities, our employees and visitors. We appreciate your understanding as we all manage through this challenging time.”

I agree totally. It rained the entire week, so Saturday morning we returned to the ANF for some trail maintenance, then a crew of four hit the trails for yet another cleansing day of riding. Sunday, I was supposed to meet Jack and Shane at Red Mountain for a UTV ride, but the ride was canceled because the BLM temporarily closed Cal City, Dove Springs and Jawbone Canyon, shutting down an area that hosts up to 200,000 OHVers on big weekends. It’s sad that the BLM isn’t as understanding as the USFS, so I explored local USFS roads instead.

If COVID-19 is still an issue now, there are three official government-wide sources of up-to-date information about the coronavirus: ,, and Ride safe and stay sane!

See more where-to-ride information here:

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