My work takes me to remote locations way off the beaten paths, other times it sends me right into the most crowded shoulder to shoulder tourist zones you can find. The further out you go, the less rules there are telling you where you can and cannot go. For the protection of the habitat, for your own protection, for the protection of the sign-maker’s job- there’s always someone or something to protect the closer you get to town. I joke, but I do understand. We humans are indeed part of the natural landscape, but we are also a powerful force when we congregate in masse, and will often unwittingly destroy the beauty that first drew us to a place.
It had been too long since I’d visited this particular state park, and I thought I’d be spending this day painting in the solitude that I remembered here on one of Southern California’s last undeveloped stretches of coast. Instead, I was greeted by an endless stream of daytrippers much like myself making our way along the network of roped-in trails to a series of designated viewpoints too small to accommodate the volume of visitors jostling for the view.
Out of respect, I set up to paint just outside the railing, literally standing awkwardly on the poured concrete footing of the railing so as not to block anyone’s view, but also to avoid setting a bad example by walking out onto the sensitive terrain. I thought it was an excellent solution. Instead of gratitude, I found myself one sarcastic remark away from being rewarded with a $400 fine by a volunteer ranger. It took great effort to keep it zipped, but I managed.
By the end of the day, I’d walk a fine line on the razor’s edge of park rules and regulations, bluffing my way through 2 more interactions with park authorities (did you know it’s against park rules to eat chips and salsa in the parking lot? When I learned this I was very glad that I had kept the beer out of view) and would find myself eager to return to urban civilization where one can unwind and relax.
All this outdoors and nature stuff can get pretty stressful sometimes.