My Saturday has generally gone well, and I got to see some beautiful sights (as will you below the orange filigree), but there were also a couple of moments of frustration and/or obnoxiousness that have spurred some political reflections.
Usually what I do before a day hike is trawl around Google satellite views looking for accessible trails in the area with reasonable parking options, and I thought I'd hit on something with great potential: A trail that parallels the San Gabriel valley while also making jags into canyons for some varied scenery, so there would be both the vistas and the safety of cellphone coverage. It was also of a length that would have been challenging without being overly strenuous, and I'd never been there before - it all seemed to be going well.
There were also some '70s or '80s-looking auto wrecks in a few ravines, I guess from back sometime when people were allowed to drive up there. I hope no one died in them:
And just when the desert landscape was starting to become monotonous, about halfway through my planned trip an idyllic little farm came into view, and I looked forward to passing by it more closely...
...DENIED. A "Private Property: No Trespassing" sign was a few feet behind where I took that photograph, just so there would be no mistake about the meaning of the fence completely blocking the trail. Thing is, the trail isn't that wide, and is carved out of the chalky rock of the hillside well beyond any of that farm's useable property, so as far as I could tell there was no rational basis to fence it off like that. They could have put the fence at the bottom of the hill, or along the trail so no riffraff would dare to set foot on their pristine private property, and still not interrupted the damn trail - one which, by the way, the satellite map clearly shows starting up again just a hundred yards or so on the other side of the farm.
The pointless, inconsiderate selfishness of it just really got to me. Who exactly do these people think uses these trails? Marauding trail pirates come to steal their apples (or whatever it is they're growing)? It would have been trivial - utterly trivial - for the owners of this farm to post signs indemnifying them against injuries or property losses to people who use that part of the trail (Enter At Your Own Risk), and tell people not to leave the trail while on the property - you know, being considerate to fellow citizens rather than acting like some fat medieval baron plopping a castle down in the middle of a public road.
In England, for example - according to documentaries I've seen - there are public footpaths that go straight across private farms and even right in front of farmhouses, and everyone respects the public prerogative: As long as people passing through are respectful of the property they're crossing, there's no problem. But Noooooo, we can't have that here. That would be soshullisticky. I was instantly pissed, and felt tempted to climb the fence and cross anyway - let them call the cops if they're that douchey, the fucks. It's not like this was a place where I could just go around their property - they'd built a farm right up against a hillside, and cut a very scenic and interesting public trail in half. Note that the owners would be able to cross the entire trail continuously, while everyone else would have to double-back, drive for fifteen minutes, and come from the other direction to see the other half of the trail. Bastids. Selfish rat-bastids.
Now, in the interest of fairness, I could be totally wrong about these people. There are many possibilities for why they fenced off the trail that don't necessarily require their being human sewage. If, for instance, they had a very bad experience with someone crossing their property and overreacted, I could understand that - although it's still wrong in every way: Morally, ethically, and civically. Or if some government agency told them they had to. Etc. etc. But I doubt it. I think they just closed it off because they could and resent people being on their property, however far from any actual asset, or how respectfully (and briefly) people cross it. It makes me sick to my stomach, knowing how likely that is to be the reason.
Having my trip cut off halfway through was demoralizing - I'd set a challenging goal for myself, and was making good progress, and then here's this damned fence and suddenly my plans are kaput. All so someone's precious property wouldn't be soiled by my presence for the all of 5 minutes it would take to cross, dozens of yards from any building or crop. I'm a little surprised how much harder hiking is in a demoralized state - muscles seem to drag, and everything is annoying.
Anyway, I decided not to let Herr Trailfencer (whomever he/she/they is/are) ruin my day, so once I got back to the trail head, I took a different path up into the mountains and got some great canyon vistas:
I was a little irritated by the prevalence of graffiti on the rocks going up this trail. Why the hell would taggers go up there to do that? First off, the exposed rock faces in these mountains have basically the consistency of hard chalk, and any exposed surface will fragment and break within a few years - the trails are littered with the evidence of that. So there's no "immortality" to be had from tagging them, and based on the scribble-y-ness of the graffiti, I doubt any of them were based on artistic ambitions. So what the hell is the point? Why even go into the mountains if that's the kind of people they are? Surrounded by natural beauty and awe-inspiring vistas, the thought that pops into their head is that they want to scribble some illegible bullshit in neon orange paint on a rock that won't be there in ten years. Who does this? What is this strange species of asshole that is intrepid enough to seek out mountain landscapes, but still mindless and soulless enough to futilely try defacing them?
So that was the second type of asshole I ran into on this trip - at least, by their works - but the third type were present in person. At the trail head is a great big sign saying No Motorized Vehicles. A little ways further up the trail is another big sign saying No Motorized Vehicles. Who should zoom past me, but not one, not two, but three assholes on...you guessed it...motorized vehicles. Specifically, unmuffled motorbikes belching out totally unfiltered smoke into my face as they passed, and making that loud revving sound only truly committed assholes find appealing. I couldn't help thinking, "If you fucks accidentally zoom right off a cliff, try not to land on any birds or lizards - that might be a tragedy."
More melancholy thoughts occurred to me as the trail became less and less maintained, going from solid pavement to patchy pavement to dirt, and then to rocks, finally dead-ending with a "Road Closed" sign on a metal gate. This was the main trail, and I could have easily bypassed the gate - many hikers and bicyclists do - but I wasn't in the mood for more disappointments, and I could tell looking past the gate that the trail hadn't been maintained in a long time. That got me wondering, why aren't these trails better maintained? Why are most of them defunct, overgrown, and blocked off, and much of the remainder in poor condition? Why are the signs all rickety, old, bullet-ridden, and rusted even on maintained trails?
The answer isn't hard to guess - decades of neglect. Tax cuts and budget cuts leading public agencies to cut corners over, and over, and over, until there are no corners, just an ever-shrinking circle. And that got me thinking back to how shiny and spotless the gate blocking off that farm had been, which opened up a whole domain of thought - how new and well-maintained the churches, corporate centers, and commercial areas are compared to the schools, libraries, and roads. The more I thought about it, the more disgust turned to something like cold fury. For instance, why does the public have to pay fees to enter National Parks? The owners of private parks don't have to pay fees to enter their own property, do they? So why does the public have to pay to enter their own property? Well, because rich people don't want to pay taxes for the benefit of their country, so parks departments don't have the resources to do their jobs, so instead they ask us to pay for the privilege of using our own property.
Enough. I don't want to read one more goddamned news article about budget cuts ever again. Not on the state level, and not federally. No more fees. No more tolls. Not on roads, not in parks, not anywhere. Enough of this pay-for-use shit - either it's public property or it isn't, and if it is, then it's paid for with tax money. And if there isn't enough tax money, raise fucking taxes. Raise them on the people who obviously have too much money on their hands. Raise until we can afford for every school to be spotless, every road to be well-paved, every bridge to be structurally sound, every designated wilderness trail under the purview of a public agency to be kept up and safe, and countless other things besides that a civilized nation simply expects rather than treats as luxuries that we peons dare not demand. Not one fucking more cent of budget cuts. Not one more cent of fees or tuition hikes for college students. It's about time we re-nationalized the nation. Sick of this shit.
Anyway, there was a consolation prize - a different trail led up to a series of terraced overlooks, and I think you'll agree the sights were worth the trip: