On a recent morning two Andover friends embarked on a search-and-enjoy mission looking for one of the world's more ornery critters: snapping turtles.
One friend mentioned, as they walked the road at Recreation Park, how this was the first day people had to wear masks in public.
"Even if you are outside?" the other fellow asked last Wednesday.
He tightened a string on his face covering. "Okay, if it's the law," he continued.
They reached the road's end and entered a path to Pomps Pond.
Fifteen minutes earlier, just above the road at a picnic table, Andover's health director, Tom Carbone, talked through a mask about this very topic, as well as how to think about coronavirus safety in the great outdoors.
The governor's mask order requires people to cover their nose and mouth in public when they're unable to keep 6 feet between them.
Whether you walk, paddle or ride, think about the probability – not possibility – of infection, said Carbone.
Andover's 32 square miles teem with open space to enjoy land, water and road activities.
Ultimately, good judgement is key, he said. This morning, en route to Recreation Park, Carbone passed five walkers in semi-rural settings. Four of them wore no mask.
Their risk of infection looked highly improbable, alone and with ample opportunity to maintain social distance if they came upon another walker or a bicyclist or runner.
Had people been walking in a group, they might have been advised to wear masks, said the director.
Carbone recently stopped running. Studies indicate people who exert themselves may emit greater viral loads. The viral stream extends to surprising lengths. Runners, like others, may not know if they are infected.
"I just felt I owed it to people to not be doing that any more, running," said Carbone, who now walks daily.
In the weeks to come, The Eagle-Tribune will accompany hikers, people engaged in water activities and cyclists, to report healthy practices for each.
The town has yet to reach a decision on rules for swimming at public beaches or the more than 20 pools it regulates. It awaits guidance from the state.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, over about 60 minutes, visitors were enjoying Recreation Park and Pomps Pond.
They came to walk dogs, fish, skateboard, bicycle and spy turtles. Two shaggy dogs dove into the pond. The fishermen got skunked. And the turtle seekers – Ben Kellman and Steve Golden – saw no snappers.
Have a question on outdoors safety? Send it to Terry Date, 603-978-2373, or firstname.lastname@example.org