The Wild: Considering camping? Read this first

Welcome to the first-ever edition of The Wild, our brand-new outdoors newsletter.

I’m your guide, Mary Forgione. I’ve been exploring the outdoors in California for four decades and am excited to share this space with you.

Every edition of this newsletter will include three things you can do outside this week in Southern California. I’ll fill you in on what animals are up to, the coolest gear to get, the best places to go, new ways to experience nature, and insider tips.


Here we go:

I’m bursting to go camping right now, to find a cozy spot for my tent and forget about the world for a while. Luckily, more campgrounds in California are opening now.

Many early-bird campers had vacation plans upended and reservations canceled because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Camping in Joshua Tree.
(Photo by Chris Reynolds and illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times)

Now it’s like starting all over again on those vacation plans. Don’t be discouraged. Shake out your gear and hop on to and Reserve California to see what’s available at state parks, national forests and elsewhere. Still shut out? Try HipCamp, where you can pitch your tent at a llama camp or winery. Or think about a more rustic experience with a backpacking trip to wilderness areas. You’ll be ready to go once California lifts its stay-home order.

When you finally get out, make sure you know the new rules of camping and hiking. Social distancing and avoiding crowded trails are two of the common-sense rules put out by, a coalition of outdoor retailers and organizations aiming to keep all of us safe and healthy during the pandemic.

Woman doing yoga on a standup paddle board
(SUP photo YogAqua)

3 ways to get outside this week

Southern California trails, beaches and parks are open, so what are you waiting for? Amid the pandemic, the CDC and public health officials reminded Americans about the extraordinary mental health and physical benefits of going outside.

Here are three things you can do:

1. Hike to a waterfall: We had a long rainy season, and spring waterfalls are still going strong. Here are places that offer a refreshing respite, with one massive caveat: Go during the week when sites are less likely to be crowded. Some sites, such as Monrovia Falls and Chantry Flat, are temporarily closed right now because of overcrowding. On other trails, spread out, and cover your mouth and face when you are closer than six feet.

San Antonio Falls at the base of Mt. Baldy.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

2. Try SUP yoga: If you can balance on a board, you can do stand-up paddle yoga with YogAqua. The ocean becomes your yoga mat at these classes in Marina del Rey and Ventura. Start with 30 minutes of paddling before diving into an hour of vinyasa yoga where you can try “anything from kneeling warrior to a head stand or tree pose,” owner Sarah Tiefenthaler says.

3. Do a bird sit: Audubon’s digital campaigns manager Molly Tsongas recently introduced me to a mindfulness activity called a bird sit. Live-streamed webinars (here’s the first one) explain how to quietly observe birds and their behaviors, no binoculars needed. “You’ll get to know birds in a deeper way,” she says. It’s about experiencing the bigger story playing out on any given landscape, “an unfolding story we get to be a part of.” Check out more gentle outdoors ideas, like sound baths and jasmine trails.

Quote of the week

"Many of us have almost always been the only black person in all of our spaces," graduate student Corina Newsome says.
— Corina Newsome, graduate biology student at Georgia Southern University
(Katherine Arntzen / Georgia Southern University)

In case you missed it, #BlackBirdersWeek (May 31-June 5) brought together Black bird-watchers, naturalists, biologists and nature lovers on Twitter and Instagram to highlight diversity in the birding community. Graduate biology student Corina Newsome helped organize the week to connect Black people who may feel isolated in their outdoor pursuits. It also was partly created in response to the racism Black bird-watcher Christian Cooper encountered in New York’s Central Park in May.


Cool gear alert

REI camping chair and mug

During the stay-at-home days that turned into months, REI quietly launched a cross-brand line of outdoor goodies with West Elm. The stylish collection is a departure from the simple and sturdy gear REI is known for. Salmon-colored lawn chairs, printed shade shelters, melamine plates and a branded-metal “staring into the sun” camp mug work on the beach or in your backyard. By the way, REI is slowly reopening stores as stay-at-home rules have eased around the country.

Wild things

Mountain lion kittens
(Jeff Sikich / National Park Service)

Yes, these mountain lion kittens are adorable, but they’re also very important to genetic diversity. The blue-eyed babies born in the Santa Monica Mountains — males P-82 and P-83, and sister P-84 — were discovered, tagged and returned to their den. Biologist Jeff Sikich says their mom bred with a lion outside of her circle in a population of lions where greater genetic diversity exists. By the way, lions are tracked and numbered, starting with “P” for puma.

A social moment

Looney Tunes trailer for HBO Max
Screenshot from the trailer for Looney Tunes on HBO Max.

Yosemite Sam was having a moment. I was searching Twitter for “Yosemite” after the park reopened last week and was puzzled to instead find chatter about the cartoon character. What I didn’t know was that Looney Tunes had just announced that Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam would no longer carry guns in the cartoons’ new reboot — and reactions were swift. Oh, but “cartoony violence” with dynamite and anvils will continue. Watch the HBO Max Looney Tunes trailer here.


Insider tip

Mask with a hawk soaring in a blue sky.
(Friends of Griffith Park)

Still looking for the perfect mask? Think about one with a hawk soaring in a blue sky. Friends of Griffith Park is giving a limited number of hand-made masks to anyone who signs up to become a member (starting at $25). Aside from getting a cool face covering, your membership helps the organization that takes care of L.A.’s beloved park.

Send us your thoughts

What do you think? Tell me about anything you want to share or see more of in future newsletters. The Wild is written for you and delivered to your inbox for free. Drop us a line at

Mary Forgione