The camera was rolling and I was hiking—along a spectacular length of the California Coastal Trail near San Simeon. Wildflowers lined the cliff-edge pathway that led around a hidden cove where a few boisterous elephant seals bobbed in the water and many more snoozed on the sandy beach.

I was walking the coastal trail and talking about it at the request of Sally Kaplan and David Vassar, producers of “California Forever,” a documentary film that celebrates the Golden State’s park system.

On Location for “California Forever” L-R Trailmaster John McKinney, DP Chris Tufty, Director David Vassar

The first hour of the two-hour television special, produced by Backcountry Pictures, gives the fascinating history of the nation’s largest and most diverse state park system that represents every region in the state—from Southern California beaches to the Redwood Coast, from the Anza-Borrego Desert to Lake Tahoe and the High Sierra Gold Country. The second hour tells compelling stories about innovative conservation and recreation programs and offers a glimpse into the future of California State Parks.

The California Coastal Trail is one of those intriguing stories and I began telling it in a sit-down interview along a lovely section of trail near Cayucos, California. I explained what motivated me to pioneer a coastal trail and recounted some of the amazing beauties and memorable people I encountered when I walked the length of the coast.

(Read the whole story of my long journey in A Walk Along Land’s End: Dispatches from the California Coast on a 1,600-mile hike from Mexico to Oregon.)

After interviewing me, director David Vassar sent his intrepid crew and their considerable camera equipment down to the shoreline. The veteran filmmaker handed me a walkie-talkie and told me to take a hike—under his direction, of course.

And what a wonderful day of hiking for the camera it was: across bold headlands, rocky shores and dark sand beaches, and along cliff edges high over the water. The day was overcast, typical June Gloom on the California Coast, but there was nothing dark about the stirring images recorded or the spirits of the crew.

When I literally walked into the sunset for the last shot of the day, I felt positively blessed by the opportunity to share the beauty and meaning of the California Coastal Trail and the allure of this shore to hikers from across the nation and around the world.

(The first hour of “California Forever: The Story of California State Parks” recently won awards for Cinematography and Best Educational Value at the International Wildlife Film Festival. Stay tuned for more film festival screenings and a nationwide TV air date for the full two-hour documentary.)