I got the first dose of my COVID vaccine last Friday. 

It was a fairly nonchalant experience, but I made myself stop for a moment and take it all in before I sat down to get my shot. 

It was very efficient — Check in, take your temperature, go to station number 10, shot in the arm, My Little Pony Band Aid, end of story — The whole thing took less than 20 minutes, but the historical significance of that moment will linger for a long time.  

I’ve been obsessed with history since I was in my early teens, and read endlessly about the Great depression, World War Two and the American frontier in particular. I always used to think, “Why doesn’t anything interesting ever happened now a days?”

Boy do I regret saying that now. 

Whatever your thoughts are on the pandemic, it’s undeniable that we’re living in historic times. I like to think my grandkids might ask me about the pandemic someday. I’m actually grateful to have been around to see 2020, although I’m much more grateful to have it behind me. The shot kind of signified that. Not necessarily the end, but certainly the beginning of the end. 

We’re all wondering what normal will look like when we are able to completely reset. The pandemic permeated every facet of daily life more efficiently than any event since World War Two. The affects weren’t necessarily profound, but they were widespread. This included our relationship to the outdoors. 

People flooded to state parks, lakes, forests, campgrounds and canoe landings all over the country in 2020, driven by the utter lack of anything else to do. Fishing license sales in Wisconsin increased by 13 percent in 2020 when compared to the previous year. The sale of first time buyer fishing licenses, offered to anyone who has not purchased a license in the last ten years, increased by over 50 percent. 

Other statistics across the state reflect the same kind of increases. The sale of state park stickers rose by 42 percent in 2020, and the total number of state park visitors topped 20 million, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data. 

Gun deer license sales also increased, although by a much more modest three percent. 

I’m interested to see what 2021 will bring. Last year’s fishing licenses expired at the end of March, so we’ll have to wait and see how many 2020 first time buyers pony up again this year. I hoping the pandemic revealed the importance of wild places to people who may not have been keen on visiting them prior to COVID. And even if most of these newcomers don’t return to the woods this year, I like to think they might still hold the protection of wild places in higher regard than they did in the past. 

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