Life in Thousand Oaks

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We've now been over a decade in our house in Newbury Park - it hardly seems as though that much time could have passed!  The xeriscape landscaping is fairly well established: the hillside behind the pool is covered with citrus and pomegranate trees and California native drought-tolerant wildflowers, and the front gardens are full of sages, monkeyflower, and other aromatic plants.  We buy the plants from the Theodore Payne Foundation or Matilija Gardens, and collect seed all around Southern California on our jaunts.  We've even included daylillies as a memento of our time in Southwest Michigan.

We've been exploring Southern California quite a bit.  Los Angeles is not the complete mystery it once was, we know our way to the Chinese grocery stores and Dim Sum restaurants in distant Monterey Park, and we've traversed virtually every freeway in the area on our trips around.  In addition, we've made our way to San Francisco, Monterey and Carmel, and extensively through the Central Valley and Eastern Sierra, and east to San Bernardino and Palm Springs. We know the fastest route to the least travelled parts of Los Angeles and Ventura County.

We're surrounded by desert, and have learned to really love the exotic beauty we find there, in all its forms.


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Carol travels as often as monthly to cat shows, and while she is meowfully occupied, I head out beyond the cat show location to explore and hike.  In San Diego, I've travelled eastward and southward towards the Mexican border, including hiking the southernmost segment of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Border radio is alive and well - megawatt FM stations perched just across the border fill the dial with melodious and rythmic sounds.

Beyond San Bernardino eastward is Joshua Tree National Park - spectacular!  It was pouring as I drove through the little towns on the northern border of the park, with water seething down the poorly drained streets.  After entering the park, I could see where the ideas for the Galaxy Quest rock monster came from; the landscape is covered with huge boulder piles that look like they'll dust themselves off and spring to life.  The cholla, joshua tree, and other wildflowers were breathtaking.  While I drove through the park, the skies cleared, and as I drove down the escarpment into the valley at the park's southern border, the setting sun illuminated square miles of wildflowers.

And Ridgecrest!  A day trip takes you to the Trona Pinnacles, to Panamint and Death Valley, and to the oldest beings on the face of the planet.

Mount Boney, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, from Potrero Road entrance, November 2006. Copyright (C) 2006, Steven F. JohnsonThe nearby Santa Monica National Recreation Area  continue to be a wonderful resource for my hikes and our weekly outings.  Carol typically birdwatches, Greg and Marianna head out (sometimes with me), and I do a lengthy hike around the trail systems.  Soon after we moved here, the kids and I walked about 4 miles (I'm guessing), walking from the area of the Satwiwa Cultural Center parking lot, down the Sycamore Canyon trail to the Sycamore Creek crossing, back up the Sycamore Creek trail to the falls, up and out of the canyon, across the meadow and back to the parking lot.  Some time later, Carol and I did the 8 mile walk from the parking lot (elevation ~900 feet) to the Pacific Ocean (by definition elevation 0).  The elevation drops 400 feet in the first mile, another 200 feet in the next 2 miles, and the last 200 feet in the last 5 miles.  While we walked leisurely downhill, we encountered numerous people biking, walking or running uphill.  Two cyclists were mauled and one was killed by a mountain lion in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains.At the beginning of the trail, this sign warns people to keep their children close.  Despite its proximity, this is still definitely a wild area; bears have been captured in the immediate vicinity of Amgen, having wandered out of the national park and into town.  Maybe they heard Amgen was hiring?

One afternoon I was waiting for Greg to pick me up at Amgen, and was sitting on a low stone wall near the entrance. I felt the wall jiggle, thought to myself "That's an earthquake," and a few days later, saw that it had been a 3.5 or so, centered about 10 miles north.  You can see the most recent seismic activity we're experiencing here.

Last Updated May 16, 2005

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