My least favorite part of owning a guiding service that offers hiking and backpacking excursions in the Blue Ridge Mountains is our annual Risk Management Review. We start by thinking about everything that can go wrong: dog bites, tick bites, snake bites (lots of bites), burns, bears in camp, twisted ankles, broken bones, lightning strikes, heat stroke, hypothermia, heart attacks, allergic reactions, assault, a lost hiker, and car accidents on the drive to the trailhead. And there’s more, trust me there’s more. Doesn’t that make you want to come hike with us?!

Fortunately, we have had to respond to very few of these emergency situations over the past 12 years. And because we have Risk Management Procedures in place and our guides are trained in Wilderness Medicine, we have always been able to respond appropriately.

In this new world of corona, every business, school, organization and family is now creating their own risk management policy. Some are formal; others internal. But we are all currently weighing the risk of staying at home versus economic hardship and social-distancing versus depression. And it is going to look a little different for everyone.

Our Blue Ridge Hiking Company policies are predicated off industry best practices as well as our our values, our location, and the fact that we often work with new or inexperienced hikers. We are more conservative in our routes and risk taking than other outfitters in the area and we also prioritize our risks differently than an outfitter in Alaska or Florida might.

I wish, I wish, I wish that nothing bad ever happened on one of our hikes. As a natural caregiver and the owner of the company, I never want anything to go wrong. There are many nights when I lose sleeping because I know that a trip is out in bad weather or a member of the group has special needs or concerns. But I also know through 14,000 miles of personal trail experience and 12 years of owning a guiding service, the benefit of spending time in nature outweighs the risk.

As counties, states, businesses and individuals start to ease coronavirus regulations, it is important to access your own level of comfort and risk management. Just because a “stay at home” order is lifted doesn’t mean that you need to leave the house. And those who immediately seek out employment, adventure, and companionship when regulations lift will need to do so with the health of their community and loved ones in mind.

If you haven’t already done it, it’s time to think through your Risk Management Plan. It’s not going to be fun or easy, but thinking through difficult scenarios and deciding who your decisions impact will help you weigh the benefit against the risks and allow you to make better decisions moving forward.