I rounded the corner by bicycle and was hit with a sinking feeling; yellow caution tape strung across the trailhead entrance to my local stream, closure orders stapled to the signposts. My stream. The one I frequent nearly daily. That this is National Forest land makes no difference, it has become an extension of my backyard. I know the bends and the boulders, the most comfortable depressions nestled into oak roots, places for sitting and watching the water until the sun dips on a random Tuesday after work. This place is important to me, intertwined with my identity, but like so many front-country escapes, it has been overrun in the recent weeks as people turn from the bars and restaurants and malls to the outdoors. I cannot blame them, I will not begrudge a non-local family for driving out to take a walk…but it was as if all of Los Angeles did it at once. My quiet sanctuaries and hidden hermitages were suddenly overrun and the State stepped in. It was inevitable.
Thankfully, after reviewing local forest orders today, all is hardly lost; the high country is still open and I see nothing that would make solo backpacking against the law in certain watersheds or trail systems.
The shock of the entire quarantine situation has subsided some, shifting more into a state of low-grade background anxiety and simply worrying about this new face of suffering in the world. My family is, quite fortunately, safe and healthy at the moment. The initial instinct to hunker down and stay close has been blunted some with time; not out of restlessness or impatience, but out of actually seeing the situation for what it is. As my family and I settle into our respective routines, a solitary drive up the mountain and a night spent among juniper and sage no longer feels wholly inappropriate. It’s a relief, even if temporary. Here’s to going back out.