Tag Archives: California

The Shrinking Outdoors

Last weekend, a lot of people in the Los Angeles area tried to go hiking, or to the beach, or otherwise outdoors…to the same places. Which ended up creating the crowds that the shutdown was supposed to prevent, just in different places. 🤦‍♂️

So over the last few days, various cities, counties and the state have closed a bunch more parks, beaches, hiking trails and bike paths. It’s still OK to walk in your neighborhood as long as you keep your distance from people, but destination-based going outdoors is mostly off the table now.

Meanwhile the coronavirus continues to spread, and cases continue to climb, driven by people who were exposed before “social distancing” became a thing as they start developing symptoms. And in some cases succumb to them.

It’s been almost three weeks since I last went for a photo walk or a hike in anything resembling more nature than a patch of weeds in someone’s lawn. It feels like a year ago. And they just closed that beach and the paths along the bluffs.

Though I’ve got to say: in retrospect I’m relieved that I couldn’t find parking closer to the pier because of the kite festival, and ended up at a less crowded part of the beach. I could have gotten exposed to Covid-19 the same day the flu hit me, which would’ve been a really fun one-two punch. As it is, the whole household has been mostly isolated since then, and not only have we avoided picking up Covid-19 as near as we can tell, but I managed to not give anyone else the flu. So that’s good.

Back to the outdoors, though. Over the last year or so I’ve realized that getting outside really helps me de-stress. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a search for songbirds, a hike through nature (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), or heck, a search for Pokémon, spending at least some time outside with sky and sunlight makes a difference.

It’s probably going to be mostly walks around the block for a while. Most of the open nature spaces in the area are either closed outright (Madrona Marsh, for instance), or are open but with their parking lots closed (like Hahn Park). Even the bike path where I’ve spotted hawks and scrub jays and a wide variety of plants (not just puncture vine) is closed. The South Coast Botanic Garden is still open for now, but they’ve instituted an appointment system to limit the number of people inside at a time. I’m debating trying to go this weekend. While it’s still possible.

Though to be honest, if the process of getting there and back induces too much anxiety, it’ll pretty much defeat the purpose.

CA Lockdown Confusion

On Thursday, Los Angeles County ordered that everyone stay at home except for essential activities like buying food, getting medical care, taking care of someone, or going to an “essential” job. Later that evening, California issued a similar order.

But something was unclear: The county specifically mentioned that the guidelines didn’t apply to just going out to walk your dog, hike, or get exercise as long as you maintained your distance from other people and didn’t try to use facilities that were closed, like playground/gym equipment. The state didn’t.

And while I’m reasonably certain that we’re not at the point where they’re going to be arresting or fining people just for walking around the block, I don’t want to be like the guy who explained to Italian police that “I have to hunt the Pokemon” when they charged him for breaking quarantine.

State officials clarified it to the press on Friday:

“Californians can still go hiking and biking outdoors without violating Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “safer at home” order issued Thursday, state officials say. Though many activities have been curtailed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, going outdoors isn’t one of them.”

Good – that explains why South Coast Botanic Garden sent out the notice that they were still open for hiking despite cancelling events. They have stopped taking payments at the gate, though, which is understandable.

And today the state’s official page on the directive features this clarification:

Can I still exercise? Take my kids to the park for fresh air? Take a walk around the block? Walk my dog?

Yes. So long as you are maintaining a safe social distance of six feet from people who aren’t part of your household, it is ok to go outside for exercise, a walk or fresh air.

For now, at least.

Last Walk Along the Coast Before the Virus (No, Not That One)

Sailboats in the distance, ocean spray in the foreground.

Last weekend, before the flu hit me, I tried to de-stress by going somewhere for a photo-and-nature walk. I ended up at the actual Redondo Beach, south of the pier. Partly because there was nowhere to park near the pier due to the Kite Festival, which now that I think of it may have been one of the last big gatherings in the area before everything was canceled for pandemic control.

Parking along the top of the bluffs was still pretty full, but the actual beach was only sparsely populated. Mostly people were using the walking and bike paths at the top and bottom of the bluff. I imagine I wasn’t the only one already trying to avoid crowds while still getting out.

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Ring! Ring! Who’s There? *handcuffs*

Cnet has a report on how police departments are being inundated with false alarms from Amazon Ring alerts because people have freaked out over the camera footage of innocent activities. In one case someone called to report footage of themselves walking into the door!

I’m reminded of a case that happened nearby just a month ago. In Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles), police from five cities — and an LA Sheriff’s helicopter — descended on a neighborhood because someone panicked over Ring footage of a food delivery sent to the wrong address. It took them an hour and a half to confirm that there was no crime in progress.

The story basically filled a bingo card:

  • IoT doorbell camera (and of course it was Ring)
  • Gig/app delivery service
  • Upscale neighborhood
  • Paranoid reaction to, you know, people
  • NextDoor posts quoted in article (because of course they are)
  • Massive police over-response
  • SMS alerts sent to neighboring cities

It was absurd. Fortunately no one was hurt or arrested, so it remains an absurdity, but between the waste of resources, the increase in fear, and the risk that something could have gone wrong, it fits right in with these other cautionary tales. As Fight for the Future puts it:

Ubiquitous, privately owned surveillance camera networks are NOT going to make our neighborhoods safer. They just make us all paranoid. Soon we’ll be snitching on our neighbors Red Scare style. Enough

Art or Eyesore?

A few miles from Hearst Castle, a trash collector spent fifty years cobbling together his house out of junk and found objects. As Cambria became more trendy in the 1970s, neighbors wanted him to tear down the multi-level “eyesore,” while others saw “Nitt Witt Ridge” as a folk art monument. It’s still there, and still a controversy within the city and its historical society.

This seems like the kind of roadside construction that would fit in with American Gods’ cosmology. More like The House on the Rock than Hearst Castle, despite the proximity.

And it turns out that the first of Wyland’s 100+ whale murals, on the wall of a Laguna Beach hotel, was later painted over as an “eyesore.” (C’mon, really?) But since then, a friend of his bought the building, and he’s recreating the original mural. On canvas this time, so he can move it if anything happens to the wall!