Closed until further notice.

Those are the words of the week as all of us struggle to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outdoors world is no different. State parks and national parks have closed visitor centers and other recreational buildings to comply with federal guidelines that promote “social distancing.”

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Trails remain open for people to get outside and enjoy nature -- which I highly recommend -- but the best course of action for now is to keep those activities as solitary as possible and avoid getting too close to other people.

Ducks Unlimited and other groups have postponed spring fundraising banquets, outdoors sports shows have been put on hold and numerous organizations have canceled planned gatherings.

Such is the state of the world in which we presently live.

Given the cancellations, postponements and general uncertainty facing all of us, the Outdoors Calendar that traditionally runs every Sunday has been suspended until things get back on a more normal track, whenever that might be.

A month ago almost to the hour as I write this from home and basically live in isolation, I was snowmobiling across Lake of the Woods with some friends on the return leg of a four-day fishing trip from Warroad, Minn., to Oak Island on the Northwest Angle.

As I wrote in a column after the trip, the ride north took longer than usual, thanks to blustery northwest winds that hampered visibility and forced us to drive slower than we would have liked. There were no mechanical issues, but the strong wind twice blew the cover off the portable fish house one of my buddies was towing.

We got to the sheltered country of the Northwest Angle and Islands -- as it’s called in tourism lingo -- just in time to witness a brilliant winter sunset.

By comparison, the return trip four days later was smooth sailing. The day was cold, but the sky was clear and much of the trail was freshly groomed. A ride that took 2½ hours on the trip north took barely an hour on the trip back.

To a person, we were on top of the world as we got off our sleds back in Warroad for a celebratory, end-of-trip beverage at Lake of the Woods Brewing Co., near the mouth of the Warroad River.

None of us could have envisioned the 180-degree turn life would take less than a month later, but that’s the reality all of us now face.

Until the blustery scenario we now are in improves, the best we can do is stay safe, stay positive -- easier said than done, I know -- and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure this bumpy ride is as short as possible.

Making a choice

As the COVID-19 situation worsened early this past week, I made the decision to cancel out on a lake trout fishing trip to Clearwater Lake in northern Manitoba with a Canadian friend who has fishing contacts in that part of the province.

We were supposed to have left Saturday, March 28, and returned three days later. But given the uncertainty and the potential risks of contracting the virus or, even worse, unknowingly spreading it to others, the decision to cancel was an easy one.

Two days later, the U.S. and Canada announced a mutual agreement to close their borders to all nonessential travel. Some might argue that fishing is essential travel, but the actions of the two governments reaffirmed to me that I’d made the right decision.

In the meantime, while I sequester myself in the house and work from home, my Canadian friend, who’s retired, is practicing what he jokingly refers to as “ice-olation” by taking occasional trips to nearby Lake Winnipeg.

I like his thinking.

For those planning to continue fishing, stick to that “ice-olation” principle, keep the group small and take the risks seriously. Don’t be “that person” who picks up or spreads this virus by ignoring the guidelines.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to

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