So here is the first of a few places we found along the way to spend our isolation and how we arrived at them…
I had been optimistic when this all began. I encouraged people to go out and about in the wilds; to find themselves in nature. But then I figured out that most people, sadly, don’t respect nature if they’ve never been in it. I never realized there was etiquette to be observed. But once the woods and wilds became the one place anyone was allowed, everyone went. Which resulted in the worst consequence: Los Angeles closed nature.
Luckily at the end of April, just one county over where there were far fewer people and even fewer people infecting others, people were allowed to be nature. They adhered to the logical rules of being in nature: not littering, being quiet, going alone or with one other person, and being respectful. They also adhered to the new corona-virus norm: staying at least 6 feet (but preferably 6 miles) from any other human, and if close contact was required, wearing a mask. So Nature was open for recreation there.
However, they encouraged people to not stray far from home. Only go to nature you can walk to. Do not drive. To discourage this, they closed the parking lots. If you know anything of the car culture in Southern California, you know that lack of a legal parking space does little to deter people from driving or parking.
San Francisco Open Spaces had used a different and wholly effective strategy: they merely reduced the number of spots in the parking area and added barriers along the roadside to make it impossible to park unless you were lucky enough to get one of the prized spots in the lot. This kept people out. Ventura, on the other hand, closed the safe parking lots, but left open the precarious roadside (which was also cliffside in the mountains) for which one could park and walk down to the trails.
I did not know this was the situation until I arrived, but like any good Southern California driver, I did not let a closed parking lot stop me. After all, it distinctly said the trail was open… just the parking lot was closed. There was not a single house within ten miles. I’m not sure who they expected would be trekking through without a vehicle. Or if this was a sort of like the stop smoking campaign that was really “Cigarettes are still legal, but you can’t smoke them anywhere” tactic. “You can hike here—but only by hiking TO here.
The trail was narrow, but we only passed three people—all of which (including me) put up our masks as we passed—after we smiled and said Hello of course. These were regular hikers. They were silent while walking, but shared pleasantries with those they saw.
To be out in the wilds was spectacular after a whole month of being where the vast majority of land is concrete and the only naked earth nearby was off limits.
It gave Tucker the opportunity to sit on places I never let him—like on tables.
I still hadn’t seen the waterfall, and decided we’d keep hiking till I could see it. I didn’t think Tucker would collapse from heat exhaustion, and I’d brought an umbrella to provide shade from the sun for him.
About a quarter mile away from the stream, I looked back and there it was. That stream we had crossed was the top of the waterfall. The placid pool gave no indication that it was a masterful cascade only a short bit down the canyon.
But we’d find a way. Because nature is where we need to be to feel whole again. And it was going to be a long season ahead.