At my favorite camping spot I was confronted with this scene.
To paint the picture a bit I should mention that it is a National Park heavily frequented by motor boats; a popular destination for day trips or overnight camping; in other words a busy place, not remote at all.
I did not know how to react and experience has taught me not to engage too much with somebody possibly not doing the right thing. My initial reaction was disbelief soon followed by anger: somebody was cutting down trees that offered shelter from the sun and wind, in a natural place pleasant enough that I often call home for a night or two.
But the best I could do was to keep my distance somehow and just take photographs.
Even though the youngster did not look too menacing, my camera is no match for an axe; if not used by the youth, certainly by the parent not too far away.
There were a dozen trees that have been freshly cut, some a bit too large that seem to have deterred the short attention span of the kid that found attacking smaller ones more rewarding.
The child was still hacking away when I got near him but then he stopped and watched me for a while.
I am not sure what went through his head and if he felt that a camera on the scene might have prompted to review his actions.
It was not long before the adults arrived to see why the chopping stopped.
I was asked what I was doing and I explained that I was photographing.
Again the older man wanted to know what for and I revealed that it was for documentation.
Hammer in hand he stepped closer to me and asked: What for?
I explained that somebody might be interested in my images, suggesting the ranger.
At this point the vibe changed and I could sense a shift in emotions.
The hammer holding man tried to convince me in a loud voice that his kid was just having fun and that I was not allowed to take pictures.
Soon a little group gathered (friends of the man) and started to shout rather insulting remarks.
It was clear to me that it would not be wise to try to explain my view, after all I was quickly labelled pedophile and pervert and police was going to be called in.
I thanked them for their decision to actually call the police as maybe a few things could be cleared but I never saw the arrival of any law enforcement.
I also knew that it was time to retreat, clearly outnumbered by menacing little crowd.
I walked away happy that despite my rage I was able to remain calm and not engage: it was not my place to prevent trees getting cut down.
Somehow maybe my presence and the fact of me taking images deterred the kid from continuing and the ax was put away: damage was done but at least not continued.
I feel sad that the child lives in ignorance and cuts trees down in a National Park, right where so many others try to enjoy the place. It makes me wonder what messages has he learned at school, or is the influence of his father stronger than what I hope the educational system has given him?
The other part in me also acknowledges that it could have been intended as innocent fun to build a cubby house (his father's words), just maybe in the wrong environment?
Later in the afternoon I suddenly heard a chain saw fired up and the shrieking sound of trees getting cut down at the other side of the camp.
This time, I was not going trying to document the event.
A kid with and axe is one thing, somebody waving a chainsaw at me is a bit different, especially if alcohol is involved...