Now that we're getting used to living in southern California, we've discovered the true appeal of the area: the vast diversity of southwestern geology, flora, fauna, and climate. It's quite possible to get out of the urban sprawl in an hour or so, and find places where you don't see another person for hours at a stretch!
We've been to all of the California national parks in the last couple of years, and many of the national parks in the southwest. In addition, the eastern Sierra and Mojave have given us many weekends of driving fun as we poke around. Here are some of our favorite places.
I now lead hikes through three Meetup groups: Hike to Health (weekly), The Weekday Trailblazers (occasionally), and Calabasas Day Hikers (rarely). In addition, I regularly attend hikes hosted by these and other groups, providing me with the opportunity to thoroughly explore the area on foot.
Just moments away from our home, the Satwiwa area of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area provides miles of trails. Parking is located at the south end of Wendy Drive, or just across Potrero Road from the Dos Vientos neighborhood of Thousand Oaks. A mile and a half walk will take you to a spectacular waterfall, and twice that will get you to the ruins of a ranch house on the flanks of Mount Boney.
Sycamore Canyon runs from the Satwiwa area down to the Pacific Ocean along eight miles of shaded paths interspersed by mountain vistas, geological fault zones, and multiple creek crossings. Make your arrangements appropriately, be picked up at the bottom, and have lunch at the nearby Neptune's Net restaurant.
Simi Peak and the Chumash Interpretive Center in northeastern Thousand Oaks provide docent-led access to a petroglyph site, or a view of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Simi Valley.
Relatively close at hand, the Pacific Crest Trail travels from the Mexican to the Canadian border, passing within 45 miles of Thousand Oaks. I've now done a handful of day hike segments, all south of the Sierras themselves. Soon!
There's a very active gem and mineral club in our area, as well as numerous other clubs in Southern California. We've taken the opportunity to attend a number of pleasant outings. We've also taken friends and relatives to the Pala / Oceanview Mine, near Temecula, to screen mine tailings for tourmaline and other semi-precious stones. Fun!
We've worked hard to reduce our landscape water consumption by planting California native drought-tolerant wildflowers in our yard. These plants, uniquely adapted to the local climate, use a tiny fraction of the water of European or Midwestern flowers, grass, and shrubs. The main challenge in using these is that many are not cultivated, requiring us to collect seeds and try to get them to germinate. Typical germination rates are about 1%, requiring patience. Fortunately, the payoff is great.
Wildflower Nurseries in the area do some propagation, so we can buy seedlings of some types. The nurseries include Matilija Nursery in Moorpark, Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, and Sperling Nursery in Calabasas.
Last Updated September 13, 2006