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“Hiking Nude in the Angeles National Forest - A Cautionary Tale”
By Brian K.
For nearly thirteen years I have been hiking the same trail here in Los Angeles County above my rented Altadena home. I never tire of it. It is always changing with the days and seasons and years. I have seen mountain lions, a bear, bobcats, rattle snakes, rabbits, coyotes, bucks, does, and fawns, and a rich variety of birds. I have watched the plant life live out its seasonal cycles.
For twelve years I hiked this trail without incident though I hiked it as often as possible with as little clothing as possible. In the early years I made great effort to avoid running into other people. I would wait until I was high in the mountains before hiking naturally. Other times I would hike before sun up or after sun down. Occasionally, I would still run into someone, but usually could quickly hold my jogging shorts in front of me and give the appearance of wearing them. The light was dim and the occasional fellow hiker seemingly oblivious to what I was doing.
Over the years, I befriended the many foresters who worked up at a ranger station in the hills. They came to know that I hiked the trail nude. Occasionally, they might suggest that I be careful, but never expressed any real concern. One said with a laugh, “My mother always told me if you’re not half-crazy you’re not living.” Another told me lightheartedly that the one female ranger was looking forward to running into me. I got to know all their names and would often walk with them on the trail when they were hiking up or down from the station. I would wear clothes in their presence.
During the last two years, the trail has become less used. A landslide at its entrance discouraged most hikers from using it. More ardent hikers began using an alternate entrance, more difficult to get to and steeper.
On Monday, October 23, 2006, I wrote the following:
“I went hiking at 4:30 in the afternoon. About twenty minutes into my hike, I came across a man coming down the trail. I held my jogging shorts in front of me, expecting him to pass me by. He asked me why I was hiking nude. He said he would call the sheriff if he ever sees me there again without clothes. I asked him his name. He said that he is a forest technician. I asked him if he had authority over the Deputy Forester with whom I had a friendship. He said the Deputy Forester was his boss. I said, “Well then I suppose you should do whatever he tells you to do.” I was confident that the Deputy Forester did not have problems with my hiking naturally. I did not tell him that the other forestry employees were friendly with me.
He repeated that if he ever saw me again without clothes he would call the sheriff. I explained that I had discussed this with a sheriff already and he assured me that what I was doing did not deserve a citation and that he would not cite me. He had obviously discussed me with other forestry personnel. He claimed that they said they had “warned me” already. It became apparent that my friends working at the forestry station might not be so confident of their tolerance of my nudity when one among them was willing to make an issue of it and be quite vocal about it.
He asked me if I was a teacher to which I responded yes. “Well then, you should know better.” I bit my lip as this mid-twenty year old told this mid-forty year old that I should know better. “What if you run into children?” he asked. I could appreciate his anxiety and respect his feelings. I explained that I had never run into children without my clothes in twelve years of hiking. I assured him that I would always cover up in his presence. He repeated that he would call the sheriff should I ever be seen without clothes on this trail again. I responded respectfully, “I suppose you just have to do what you have to do,” and I continued up the mountain without putting my shorts on.”
When I got home, I contacted AANR who referred me to an attorney for the Naturist Action Committee named Allen Baylis. Though I was trying to be brave, I felt frightened that my hiking freedom might be threatened. I not only enjoy hiking without clothes. I feel a need to hike without clothes. My daily hike during the last two hours before sundown is a time of refreshment, inspiration, prayer, quietude, and renewal of my place in this universe. This young, bold forest technician was not only threatening my right to hike naturally, but my very source of daily centering.
My conversation with attorney Allen Baylis was tremendously encouraging. He assured me that everything was going to be okay, that I was operating within the law, and he would email me detailed information I could share with the Deputy Forester. I received the information within a short time, studied every detail of it excitedly, and printed it out to present to the Deputy Forester on Wednesday morning.
Following what turned out to be a disappointing meeting with the Deputy Forester, I wrote the following letter to Allen:
October 25, 2006
I just got home from meeting with the Deputy Forester, Jose Martinez, stationed at Henniger Flats here in Altadena. We talked for about an hour, but he was not interested in looking at any of the information I brought.
He said that in anticipation of my meeting with him today, he had called Altadena Sheriff's Department to ask for advice from them. They stated that simply being nude up there was cause enough for arrest and if he or any of the other forest technicians called them, they would immediately dispatch sheriffs to arrest me. The sheriff assured him that if necessary even a helicopter would be employed to pick me up mid-trail.
When I tried to explain the meaning of anti-nudity laws, ordinances, etc., he said simply that interpreting or enforcing the law was out of his jurisdiction and that his role if someone complained would be simply to call the sheriff. He made it clear that he was telling all of his forestry technicians the same thing. In other words, if this new technician, Juan Cueva, is bothered (as he has so clearly stated to me) he will definitely call the sheriffs' department and they have assured the boss that they definitely will arrest me.
The Altadena Sheriff also said that Deputy Forester, Jose Martinez (the boss with whom I met) should encourage me to go down to the Altadena Sheriff's office and talk with them. Jose said that as a friend he would encourage me not to do that. I can only imagine what might happen if I did. Some "kind" officer would invite me into a "private" room, offer me something to drink, and have a nice little man to man talk, all of which would be videotaped and audiotaped. He would then arrest me on the spot, thinking himself to be quite brilliant and thinking he "had one in the bag" with full confession and everything.
Please advise me as to what to do. As I said, I am not going to stop hiking nude on this trail. However, I need to be prepared with what to say should sheriffs arrive to arrest me. My guess is that I should only give them my name, address, telephone number, any identification information they might ask, but not answer any questions regarding whether I was hiking nude or not or "what exactly happened." They may come across as if they want to clear my name or solve everything simply by getting me to tell my side of the story, or who knows what, but the fact is, I don't trust the majority of officers.
May I call you again or will you call me? Thanks, Allen.
Allen again assured me that everything would be fine, that we would do some research and he would write a letter to the captain of the local sheriff’s department and explain the laws particular to this area. During the next few days, Allen and I worked together to gather the information needed for Allen to compose the following letter:
October 31, 2006
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.
780 Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Attn: Capt. JoeGutierrez
Dear Captain Gutierrez
A client who wishes to remain unknown to you at this time has retained my services to assist him or her in protecting the rights of individuals engaged in lawful conduct. This client fears unlawful arrest due to an apparent misinterpretation of the law on the part of Sheriffs at the Altadena Sheriff’s station.
My client enjoys hiking on trails in the San Gabriel Mountains. Some of the trails used are in unincorporated Los Angeles County, while other areas are within the Angeles National Forest. The issue is that this client, and other hikers as well, enjoy hiking these trails dressed only in the clothes that God gave them, that is to say, in the nude. For several years, my client did so with no problems. The NFS [National Forest Service] Rangers, forestry technicians and fire authorities have encountered these nude hikers, and realizing that there is no general federal statute or regulation prohibiting nudity on federal lands, have done nothing to discourage the natural hikers.
However, a recently hired forestry technician, assuming that simple nudity is illegal, approached my client and threatened to call the County Sheriffs and have him arrested if he saw my client nude in the area again. My client has attempted to clarify with the Rangers the state of the law in California. However, Deputy Forester Jose Martinez elected to call the Altadena Sheriff’s station to inquire as to the legality of nude hiking. Unfortunately, it appears that a member of the staff at the station misinformed Deputy Martinez.
Deputy Martinez informed my client that the Sheriff’s Department told him that simply being nude on the trails would be cause for arrest and that the Sheriff’s Department would send a helicopter in to assist in the apprehension of any nude persons if necessary.
Since the Sheriff’s Department did not specify which crime the nude person would be charged with, I will assume that any such arrest would be made for alleged violation of California Penal Code section 314.1, indecent exposure, which reads in pertinent part:
314. Every person who willfully and lewdly, either: 1. Exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby….
It is settled law in the State of California, that simple nudity does not constitute indecent exposure in violation of P.C. 314.1. The California Supreme Court ruled in In re Smith that; “Absent additional conduct intentionally directing attention to his genitals for sexual purposes, a person, … does not "lewdly" expose his private parts within the meaning of section 314.” (In re Smith (1972), 7 Cal3d. 362, 366) Additionally, The California Appellate Courts have interpreted the terms “offended or annoyed” in cases such as, In re Dallas W. (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 937, and People v. Archer (2002) 98 Cal.App4th 402. These and other cases make it clear that the intended offence or annoyance must be sexual in nature. Therefore, the California Jury Instruction for indecent exposure includes the following:
1160. Indecent Exposure
The defendant is charged [in Count] with indecent exposure. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
The defendant willfully exposed (his/her) genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by the defendant’s actions;
When the defendant exposed (himself/herself), (he/she) acted lewdly by Intending to direct public attention to (his/ her) genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying (himself/herself) or another person, or sexually offending another person.
As to Los Angeles County ordinances, section 17.04.480 prohibits nudity in any County Park, as defined in 17.04.130. This offense is merely an infraction per section 17.04.300. Therefore, my client, wishing to obey the law, intends to avoid being nude in any County Park.
Outside of any Los Angeles County Park, in unincorporated sections of the Los Angeles County and on federal land such as the Angeles National Forest, there is no law prohibiting simple nudity. I will suggest that spending valuable law enforcement resources to apprehend unclothed hikers in such areas would not be a prudent use of county assets.
I hope that this letter clarifies the situation and works to avoid any misunderstanding or un-due conflict. I would appreciate a response to this letter at your earliest convenience.
R. Allen Baylis
Attorney at Law
After several days, I spoke with the Deputy Forester about the contents of this letter. He assured me that none of the forestry personnel would be calling the sheriff. He asked me to be respectful. I was glad to assure him that just as I had always been respectful in the past, I would continue to be. Allen and I waited and waited hoping for a response from the captain of the Altadena Sheriff’s Department. Just when Allen was considering sending a second copy, he received a response from the Los Angeles County Sheriff, Leroy D. Baca, and the Altadena captain, Joe Gutierrez. Leroy D. Baca oversees nearly two hundred sheriff’s stations in Los
Angeles County. He writes:
County of Los Angeles
Sheriff’s Department Headquarters
4700 Ramona Boulevard
Monterey Park, California 91754-2169
Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff
November 8, 2006
Mr. Allen Baylis
Attorney at Law
4050 Katella Avenue
Los Alamitos, California 91001
Dear Mr. Baylis:
I have received your letter that states your concerns that some of our deputies may be misinterpreting the law as it pertains to section 314.1 of the California Penal Code.
I asked my staff to research the applicable laws and ordinances to determine if simple nudity in the unincorporated county area of the Angeles National Forest was prohibited. Their research revealed that simply being nude in the Angeles National Forest is not prohibited by law.
Therefore your client appears to be within his legal rights to hike in the forest in the nude.
Altadena Station Deputies will be briefed that simply hiking in the forest, in the nude, is not a violation of the law. They will also be briefed about section 314.1 of the California Penal Code to ensure that law is being properly enforced.
If you have questions regarding this matter, please contact me at [number withheld].
LEROY D. BACA, SHERIFF
cc: Joe L. Gutierrez, Captain
So that’s where we were as of the beginning of 2007.
I am grateful to my attorney, Allen Baylis. Allen is a Board Member of the Naturist Action Committee, the political arm of The Naturist Society. I am grateful for his friendship and professional services. I am grateful to Leroy D. Baca for his professional and supportive letter. I am grateful to God for putting within me a desire for living life authentically and naturally, the courage to do it, and surrounding me with like-minded and supportive people.
But that is not the end of the story. Read on...
Sunday, June 10, 2007, 9:14 PM
I just spent the last hour sitting in the back of a sheriff’s vehicle. This evening I was hiking my usual trail when I came upon an African American man and his daughter. Before I got close to them he shouted that he had a little girl with him and that I should cover up. I held my shorts in front of me as I approached him. He had instructed his little girl, perhaps seven or eight, to close her eyes and stand behind him. I said, “I’ll cover up because of your little girl, but it’s legal to hike up here nude.” He asked me how it could be legal. I explained about the letter from Sheriff Leroy Baca. He said a bit incredulously, “You’re telling me Leroy Baca wrote you a letter telling you it was legal to hike nude? I said, “Actually, he wrote the letter to my attorney.” He said, “I have friends who know Leroy Baca. What’s your name?” I said, “Brian.” He said, “What’s your last name?” I said, “Brian’s good enough.” He said, “What’s the attorney’s name?” I said, “Baylis.” “Is that his last name?” “Yes.”
We then went our separate ways. He was determined to check out this legality issue with Baca. I was determined to continue on my way living life as I enjoy living it. Observing this entire interaction was an older Caucasian man, perhaps in his fifties or early sixties. He had a camera in his hands, but it didn’t appear that he was taking any pictures. I passed him by and continued up the mountain to Henniger Flats.
On my way down the trail, I came across this same Caucasian man. He asked me at what point on the trail do I put my clothes back on. I explained about the borders of the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and the Eaton Canyon State Park. He actually seemed interested in a friendly sort of way. Then he commented, “That man back there didn’t want his daughter to see a naked man.” I said, “No, I guess not.” That was all we said and I continued on my hike. He seemed like a nice guy.
As I continued down the trail I could see that a couple sheriff’s cars were parked at the base of the trail where I was parked. I knew that it was likely that the day that I have anticipated for years had arrived. I only hoped that the sheriffs would get the information that it was legal for me to hike nude and convey it to the man and leave, but I also realized that they may want to confront me and find out more about what I’m doing and why.
As I neared the dirt parking lot, I prayed and asked God multiple times to surround me and give me calmness and peace. I could see the sheriffs standing ahead of me anticipating my arrival. I thought there might be two to four sheriffs. There were six. When I walked up to the cars, one of the sheriffs ordered me gruffly to put my hands on the top of the sheriff car. I was rather surprised since all I had on was a pair of running shorts and shoes and socks. I didn’t think I looked very dangerous. Still, I put my hands on the front of the car just like criminals do and I thought I would be frisked. Instead I was asked if I had any weapons on me. I said, “I don’t have anything but a key on my shoestring.”
The officers began firing questions at me, “Were you hiking nude in the mountains?” I paused to think of the accurate and specific answer, “I was hiking nude in the unincorporated Los Angeles County area and Angeles National Forest where it’s legal. I was not hiking nude in the Eaton Canyon State Park where it is an infraction to be nude.” An officer retorted, “It’s an automatic misdemeanor, not an infraction.” I didn’t argue with him, but was silent.
Another officer asked gruffly, “What kind of work do you do?” Although I knew that I didn’t have to answer these questions I also knew I was innocent and therefore didn’t need to fear answering questions. “I play piano and sing at retirement homes and I’m a private tutor/teacher.” He lit up at that point and said, “You have a credential?” I said, “Yes.” He happily responded, “Good. We’re going to have a [some code number that refers to the charge] here real soon.” He said it with such glee. He was obviously confident that I was on my way to being considered a sex offender and lose my teaching credential and he enjoyed the idea. I felt as if I were surrounded by a bunch of little boys, each trying to outdo the other in indignation and a show of power. They behaved as if I were a prize catch, a buck about to be shot with their arrows. Obviously, some of the older, more powerful sheriffs were taking extra glee in the opportunity to impress these younger sheriffs with their knowledge of the law. In their mind I was a done deal.
Then I mentioned the letter. Yes, the letter. I told them that I had a letter from Sheriff Leroy Baca stating that I was legal hiking in the forest in the nude in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and the National Forest. At first, they kind of scoffed at the idea. Then one of them asked me, “Do you have a copy of it with you?” I said, “Yes, it’s in my car in the glove compartment. May I give you a key to get it for yourself?” “Yes,” he said. I carefully removed my key from my shoestring and handed it to him. I told him, “There’s two letters there, one from my attorney to the captain of the Altadena Sheriff’s Department and the other from Sheriff Leroy Baca and the Altadena Captain to my attorney.”
He went over to my car and opened my passenger door and glove compartment. I explained to the officer standing next to me the exact sequence of events of one of the foresters trying to get me arrested, my attorney writing a letter to Captain Gutierrez of the Altadena Sheriff’s Department, Captain Gutierrez forwarding the letter to Sheriff Leroy Baca, and then both of them responding to my attorney. For a while he listened, but then decided he didn’t want me to hear what the sheriffs were saying as they looked over my two letters. He ordered me to get into the sheriff vehicle in the back seat. I was shocked that I was being put into the sheriff car as if I were going to be taken to jail. I thought, “Maybe they’re just trying to frighten me, intimidate me. Maybe they’re going to try to press charges in spite of the letter just to harass me. I could see the men all crowded around reading the two letters.
Inside the sheriff’s car I thought about whether anyone I know might be driving by on Altadena Drive and see me sitting there. I hoped that the windows were tinted sufficiently to block their view of me, but just in case I kept my gaze toward the mountains, the back of my head to the passing cars. For at least twenty-five to thirty minutes I sat in the back of that sheriff car while one or two officers interviewed the African American father and the rest tried to figure out what to do with this letter from Sheriff Baca.
Although I couldn’t hear them because of being detained inside the car, I’m sure they were trying to think of every possibility for charging me with something that would hold while debating the value and accuracy of Leroy Baca’s letter. It was a very uncomfortable thirty minutes. My heart was skipping beats although I didn’t feel overly frightened. My heart revealed a significant amount of anxiety in spite of my seeming calmness. I thought about how others have been put into the backs of police cars both rightly and wrongly, that even Jesus was crucified by a mob of unjust people and rulers. I thought about whether these men might actually feel compassion for me or empathize with my desire to hike nude, but had to go along with their buddies, each trying to outdo the other in indignance. Certainly they couldn’t all be as hard and brutish as they attempted to appear.
An officer asked me if they could search my car. Though I know they have no right to search my car, I also know that if they are like normal men they respect people who don’t appear to have anything to hide. I knew I had nothing to hide so I said, “Yes.” This also meant to me that they were feeling a bit desperate to find something with which to charge me. If not nudity, then perhaps possession of drugs, or who knows what.
When they asked me what kind of job I do, I also knew that they had no right to ask, but again, I answered their questions. I have to believe that being cooperative and showing no fear, but confidence and kindness will ultimately have a greater impact on these men than being argumentative or trying to impress them with my knowledge of the law.
An officer slid into the front passenger seat and did a search on their computer for my name. He asked me if I was still at the Mar Vista address. He actually sounded fairly kind at this point as if he trusted anything I would say. He could have asked, “What’s your address?” and seen if it matched his information. Instead, he spoke more casually to me. Another officer asked him after a few minutes, “Anything come up?” “No, everything’s clear,” he responded. I believe the other officer said something like, “Well, that’s good,” but I’m not sure. It just seemed like their attitudes were changing as they investigated the situation.
After what seemed like an extremely long time for these officers to come to a decision, one of the officers opened the door and said, “You must be getting cold in there.” I said, “No, actually it’s colder when the door is open.” He said, “You’re not being charged with anything, but we’re going to write up a complete report and submit it to the District Attorney for review.” I said okay and he closed the door again. I sat there for another five minutes when another officer opened the door. “I want to apologize for the way I treated you out there. We don’t often get people with letters from the Sheriff. Do you accept my apology?” “For what?” I asked. He didn’t say anything. I’m fairly confident that he was being sincere, but also a bit frightened because of the fact that I had a letter from the top sheriff of Los Angeles County and perhaps his treatment of me might come back to cause problems if I had some kind of tight relationship with Baca. Because he seemed sincere, and because I respect the terrible responsibility that officers carry, and also because I wanted to impress him with my kindness and confidence in this situation, I said, “You didn’t know me from Adam. You didn’t know what I would or wouldn’t do.” I felt a respect for him that I think he understood and I think he respected me as well and if he didn’t, well, that’s okay because I was beyond courteous to him and I hope he remembers that one naturist that he was determined to get into major trouble was still showing him kindness in the midst of unjust treatment. He closed the door and walked away.
After awhile, another officer came over and offered to let me out of the car. I said, “I would prefer to sit in here. The fewer people that see me standing out here with you officers the better.” He said, “Okay,” and we closed the door again. An officer asked me to switch cars as he and his buddy had to leave on another call. So I got out of the one car and into another. The police officer in that car asked me again for my home address and phone numbers. Then, seemingly quite sincerely, asked me, “So what is it about hiking nude that you like?” I said that I had been a naturist pretty much since I was a child and I just felt comfortable without clothes and that there are many people like me. He didn’t pursue his questioning any further.
The African American father was still being interviewed by an officer. I was hoping that he would leave before I got out of the sheriff car. I didn’t want to face him directly after all this. Fortunately, he finished up his interview before they finished with me. I had been sitting in sheriff’s cars for about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half by this time. At least it was warm inside the vehicles, warmer than the chilly night air outside. Finally, they said I could go. They returned my key and my driver’s license. I left and came home and called Allen Baylis, my attorney.
Allen Baylis is a private attorney, but he also works for the Naturist Action Committee, http://www.nac.oshkosh.net/ , the legal and political arm of The Naturist Society, http://www.naturistsociety.com/ . Allen assured me that everything would be fine, that there is no basis for a charge and that is why no charges were made. He said that an overly zealous district attorney might write me a letter saying that I’m being cited for something, but even if he did, again there would be no basis for such a charge, especially in light of the letter from both Sheriff Baca and Captain Gutierrez of the Altadena Sheriff’s department. He also said that it’s possible that the sheriffs may never submit the report to the district attorney. He is going to try to get a copy of the report if they do. He also intends to write a letter to Captain Gutierrez and complain that his client, me, is being harassed by these officers. Evidently, it was illegal for them to detain me in the back of the police vehicle if I wasn’t being charged with anything.
I’m sure this isn’t the end of the story, but it’s enough of an end for now. I will keep you informed as things progress. Everything that’s ever happened to me has always worked out in such a way that still better things came because of it. Quoting from Max Ehrmann’s famous Desiderata written in 1927, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
One final word: If you are looking to be supportive of an organization that works hard to secure your rights when it comes to social nudity issues, this is the one to support. They have been incredibly helpful in all of this and they intend to continue to be so. I strongly recommend you support them financially as well as join their organization to support their work. They produce a magazine called “Nude and NAtural" (called "N Magazine" for short). The Magazine of Naturist Living” that is a high quality glossy quarterly publication that comes with membership. An article in their summer 2007 edition includes a detailed reference to my hiking adventures on page 82. Several months ago I was asked if I would like to be a Naturist Action Committee representative for this area. I said yes and was subsequently approved. I look forward to keeping you up on how things develop.