When you grow up next to a national park, as I did, it is easy to feel like you own it, and in a very real sense you do. National parks are the property of the American people as a whole. However that doesn’t mean you can do as you like with them, as I have personally been reminded on a few occasions.
I am an inveterate flower picker. I can manage to find flowers to pick in even the most unlikely of places, not unlike the way our family’s daffy but determined golden retriever Ropher could find water to jump into pretty much anywhere that we let him out of the car. I have picked flowers on five continents, in wild places and in cities; legally, unknowingly illegally, and on occasion with a willful disregard for the law (I’m looking at you, flowering Brooklyn magnolia trees with low-hanging branches: sorry). When I’m in New York I live in one of Brooklyn’s more industrial neighborhoods, but still I have picked flowers there, too. I have picked flowering weeds poking out through the chain-link fences of vacant lots, and on one very late and slightly tipsy spring night, I plucked a sprig of lilac from a sidewalk garden near the Gowanus Canal. Again, my sincere apologies. When I was younger and living in bucolic Northern California, it was a rare hike that I went on that did not result in some wild bouquet—yellow acacia or plum blossoms in February, daffodils and narcissus in March, forget-me-nots and roses and foxgloves and honeysuckle and nearly everything else from April through June. There was flowering coyote bush in July, Pink Lady lilies in August, colorful leaves in the fall, and evergreen and red berry branches in winter. I didn’t know it at the time, but even in the county-protected open spaces near my childhood home, this is actually illegal. In Point Reyes National Seashore just a short drive away, it definitely is, too.