If you don’t find issues related to nudism or naturism interesting… don’t bother reading.
Yes Virginia, nudity is legal in the Angeles National Forest. I take advantage of it whenever I can.
But if you are hanging around roads, campgrounds with occupants or heavily trafficked trails, there are other ways to legally harass you. You may successfully fight it but the fight won’t be free. I am not telling you to stay clothed everywhere but always be aware of the risk to benefit ratio. Freedom always has a price.
Dear Friends of Being Natural,
For twelve years I have been hiking the same trail here in Los Angeles County above my rented home in Altadena. 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.
Monday, October 23, 2006, 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 F █████ with whom I had a friendship. He said the Deputy F█████ was his boss. I said, “Well then I suppose you should do whatever he tells you to do.” I was confident that the Deputy F█████ 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 called some politically active members of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), Alonzo and Debra █████. They told me they would contact an attorney friend of theirs and ask him to call me. Within an hour, Attorney Allen Baylis called me. 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 F█████. I received the information within a short time, studied every detail of it excitedly, and printed it out to present to the Deputy F█████ on Wednesday morning. Following what turned out to be a disappointing meeting with the Deputy F█████, I wrote the following letter to Allen.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 1:35 PM
I just got home from meeting with the Deputy F█████, Jose M█████, 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 technician’s 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 C█████, 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 F█████, Jose M█████ (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?
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 Altadena 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 Dr.
Altadena, CA 91001
Attn: Capt. Joe Gutierrez
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 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 F█████ Jose M█████ 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 M█████.
Deputy M█████ 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 Countï¿½] with indecent exposure. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. 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;
2. 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
CC: Jose M█████
After several days, I spoke with the Deputy F█████ 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 sheriff’s department of my city. Just when Allen was considering sending a second copy, he received a response from the Los Angeles County Sheriff, Leroy D. Baca, and the captain of the sheriffs department of my area. Leroy D. Baca is the head of the largest sheriff’s department in the world. Below is his letter:
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
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 (626) 798-1131.
LEROY D. BACA, SHERIFF
Joe L. Gutierrez, Captain
So that’s where we’re at today. I am grateful to AANR members, Alonzo and Debra █████, for putting me in touch with 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.