There is pleasure in the pathless woods.
Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)
While “pathless” pleasure can be among the certainties of a wilderness excursion, it’s also a romantic and risky notion in this day and age. Where there are no paths, a trek under trees can be perilous; a walk through grasses can be injurious; a hike over rocky ridges can be precarious; a ramble across secluded land can be downright dangerous.
When “in the sticks” stay on the beaten path and, among other benefits, worries are fewer. Wander off-trail and there’s no telling what might happen. One cautionary tale is that after a few months of hibernation there are grumpy and hungry rattlesnakes in those wildflowers. Other warnings include the facts that after drought there are frail trees in those woodlands. After earthquakes and erosion there are unstable rocks on those buttes. And after prolonged threat of wildfire, robbery or lawsuits such as injured/wounded burglars suing homeowners, there are uneasy residents on their remote properties.
To avoid getting lost and becoming a trespasser, it’s advisable for nature enthusiasts, backpackers and those who care to roam the most isolated areas of these coastlands to do some homework. Research trails. Read and respect posted signs. Be certain you’re traveling across public land and not the land of a private party who may own a guard dog, firearms and a backhoe.
Trespassers by definition are lawbreakers. To most rural residents, unlawful entry into privately owned rangeland or forest feels no different than being an urbanite and having an uninvited stranger sneak over the fence and sightsee the backyard. Rare is the individual who finds a lawbreaker invading his or her domain and isn’t suspicious of said offender’s motives. Mistrust coupled with alarm is not a combination that typically creates positive results. Right or wrong, to sense a threat is often to respond by taking action.
When it comes to potentially hazardous encounters, spontaneous protective reactions seem to be more common than rational assessments and careful consideration. It’s not unheard of for an intruder to “go missing” only to have friends and relatives wonder why he/she never texts anymore. Thankfully, I’ve never known it to happen around these parts, but why take a chance? Contrary to popular belief, requesting permission is way better than planning to ask for forgiveness — especially when there’s the possibility of meeting up with the end of double barrels.
Influenced by nature — particularly when respectful adventurers stay on designated paths — sensual gratification is there for the taking in these Santa Lucia Mountains and all along California’s Central Coast. Locally, any of the many accessible public trails can elicit the same romanticized delight that Lord Byron wrote about.
Be safe out there. Happy outdoor explorations and discoveries!
Michele Oksen’s writes a column for Mountain Musings every other month, alternating with Marcia Rhoades. This feature is special to The Cambrian.