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Hike to Sandstone Peak, the Highest Point in the Santa Monica Mountains

 Sunset views from Sandstone Peak toward the Conejo Valley

At an elevation of 3,111 feet, Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. It should be on everyone's "bucket list" of local hikes, with its sweeping views to the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands and inland to the Conejo/Simi Valleys.

There are some steps, then some trekking, to reach the top from this sign. You've made it!The final ascent involves some rock climbing; not for everyone, but not too bad.

Sandstone Peak is also known at Mount Allen, dedicated by the Boy Scouts of America to W. Herbert Allen, who donated nearby land at Circle X Ranch used for campouts.

Plaque dedicated to W. Herbert Allen, along with logbook, is at the peak of the mountain

The hike itself is a challenge, about a 30 minute to 1 hour, 1 1/2 mile trek from the trailhead at a dirt parking lot off of Yerba Buena Road. For me, an even bigger challenge is the winding drive up Decker Canyon to Little Sycamore Canyon Road, about 14 miles from the heart of Thousand Oaks but about a 30 to 40 minute trip. If your kids get motion sickness, be careful!

After the tight curves of the 23 (Decker Canyon) you turn right on Mulholland Drive West to Little Sycamore Canyon Road, which connects to Yerba Buena. Get ready for some tight twists and turns. Drive carefully!

The trailhead is just west of Circle X Ranch, 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu. More information and photos at this link. There are some other amazing things to see up here, including "Balance Rock," "Split Rock" and "Echo Cliffs' from the Mishe Mokwa Trail up there. Read more about this trail at this link.

Views from the peak towards the Channel Islands, floating in cloud cover.


Emergency Response Systems in Ventura County and Surrounding Areas

VC Alert is a free service provided by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services and participating cities.  It launched in January 2012 and replaced the Reverse 911® system deployed in 2008.

All 10 cities in Ventura County now utilize the VC Alert system - Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Simi Valley as well as unincorporated areas of Ventura County.

The VC Alert database includes all listed and unlisted landline telephone numbers serviced by AT&T and Verizon.  If you would like to ensure that you will be contacted on your home phone, cellular phone, work phone, TTY device, email, fax or text messaging, you must register that information using the opt in VC Alert portal. All information you provide will be kept strictly confidential.

VC Alert alerts residents about emergencies and other important community news.  The system enables officials to provide essential information quickly when there is a threat to the health or safety of Ventura County residents. To learn more and to register online, visit or call 805.648.9283. If you were previously enrolled in Reverse 911 or one of the participating cities' systems, you can log in and update your information in the VC Alert system.

The City of Westlake Village has Connect-CTY for telephone emergency response recordings for hazards, warnings, evacuations, updates, etc. Land lines are included in their database but you may place an additional phone in the database.

Ventura County emergency alert radio stations: KVEN 1450 AM, KHAY 100.7 FM, KMLA 103.7 FM (SPANISH)

The City of Agoura Hills also uses the Connect-CTY system. Residents can sign up and register cell phones in addition to land lines.  Click here to register. The city's call-in emergency number 818.597.7301 is also still available.

The City of Malibu also uses the Connect-CTY system for emergency notifications by phone, email or text message.  The city's emergency hotline is 310.456.9982. The city's radio station is WPTD AM 1620.

Other Emergency Numbers

Ventura County Sheriff's Department 805.654.2380

Ventura County Fire Department 805.389.9710

Ventura County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office 805.981.5331

Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services 805.654.2551

Department of Homeland Security Disaster Response 202.282.8000

California Office of Emergency Services 916.845.8510

And of course, there's 9-1-1 for immediate help.


Assurance Wireless Offers Free Cell Phone Service to Low Income Residents

Assurance Wireless, powered by Virgin Mobile, offers a free cell phone with monthly service that includes 250 minutes and unlimited texts to low-income individuals who qualify through the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program.

The Lifeline Assistance Program is funded by the federal Universal Service Fund, which is funded by wireless carriers, who in turn generally tag on a fee to consumers in their monthly bills.

The Lifeline Assistance program is available for only one account per household. Separate households that live at the same address are eligible, such as residents of homeless shelters and nursing homes. Residents with temporary addresses are also eligible.

As a California resident, you can qualify if you participate in certain public assistance programs or if you below certain income levels:

  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • CalFresh
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka Food Stamps)
  • National School Lunch Program
  • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Various other public assistance programs
  • Income levels falling within the following Federal poverty level guidelines (as of January 2015):
    • $25,500 for a household of 1-2
    • $29,700 for a household of 3
    • $35,900 for a household of 4
    • Add another $6,200 for each additional household member above 4

The program also allows individuals to purchase additional minutes; $5/month for each additional 250 minutes. To learn more, visit

To learn more about the Federal Lifeline Assistance Program at


"Service Above Self" - Rotary Clubs in the Ventura County Area

Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

The Rotary motto is "Service Above Self" and this shows in the local community...fundraisers, community events, supporting local charities year round.  Here are some local Rotary clubs in the vicinity of Ventura County.

Rotary Club of Calabasas

Rotary Club of Camarillo

Rotary Club of Camarillo - Sunrise

Rotary Club of Conejo Valley

Rotary Club of Fillmore

Rotary Club of Fillmore - Sun Risers

Rotary Club of Malibu

Rotary Club of Moorpark

Rotary Club of Moorpark - Morning

Click to read more ...


Join a Local Ventura County Moms Club

If you're looking for local Ventura County groups to meet up with other moms for playgroups, activities and socializing, look no further than this list (includes only organizations with websites...Contact Us for additions).

(Last update January 2015...subject to change.)

Calvary Community Church MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)

Camarillo Moms Club

Conejo Families Meetup Group

Conejo Valley Homeschoolers

Conejo Valley Mothers of Multiples

MOMS Club of Calabasas

MOMS Club of Camarillo - East

MOMS Club of Camarillo - West

MOMS of Conejo Valley

Click to read more ...


CSU Channel Islands is Ventura County's Only Four-Year Public University

Aerial view of the campus (Photo courtesy CSU Channel Islands)

California State University Channel Islands (or CI) opened in 2002 as the 23rd campus in the California State University system and is the only four-year public university in Ventura County. It is located in Camarillo at the juncture of the Oxnard Plain and northern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains. The 1,187 acre campus is accessible via Lewis Road in Camarillo and Potrero Road from Newbury Park.

As of Fall 2013, CI had enrollment of 5,140 students. CI offers over 30 academic programs, with a focus on business, sciences, liberal studies and teaching credentials, among others.

In late 2014, CI broke ground on the new four-story, 120,000 sq ft Santa Rosa Village campus residence hall to help alleviate current overcrowding in student housing. It is scheduled for completion by summer 2016. The $58 million project is funded through the CSU system’s Revenue Bond Program and will be repaid with income generated from student housing fees. CI anticipates doubling its overall student enrollment capacity to 10,000 students by 2025.

Learn more about CI at

CI is located in the former Camarillo State Hospital, which operated from 1936 to 1997 and at its peak in the 1950s served over 7,000 patients. On the north side of the campus is the 367 acre University Park, where a dairy farm that served the hospital was disbanded and has been coined the "Scary Dairy." West of the campus is the prominent, 538 foot elevation Round Mountain.

Aerial of the former Camarillo State Hospital (Photo Courtesy Pleasant Valley Historical Society)


Live Music and Other Nightlife Options In and Around Ventura County

Are you a night owl that is looking for something to do around town? Here's a list of places in and around Ventura County that have things to do during nighttime hours, including live music, concerts, dancing, darts, comedy, trivia and other activities scheduled on a regular basis.

This compilation includes restaurants as well as some bars. TVs are great, but don't count as "something to do" for the purposes of this compilation.

Are we missing something? Let us know!

For other nighttime fun, check out these compilations of Ventura County area movie theaters, comedy shows and entertainment venues. Or how about bowling. Or how about these inexpensive local area dating options.

(Information is subject to change at any time, so be sure to contact the business to confirm.) 


Conejo Valley (Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake Village)

Click to read more ...


History on Display at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard

Located in the Channel Islands Harbor next to The Whales Tail Bar & Grill, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum houses an outstanding collection of maritime art, objects and unique ship models.

The Museum is home to a permanent collection of extensive marine art, featuring works by 17th century Dutch and Flemish artists Willem van de Velde and Bonaventura Peeters. Noted modern artists in the collection include John Stobart, Montague Dawson, David Thimgan, Roy Cross and Christopher Blossom.

The museum houses one of the two largest collections of antique Napoleonic prisoner of war sailing ship models in the country. Three thousand years of maritime history are illustrated by historic ship models, including the life's work of renowned builder Edward Marple. Exhibits on whaling, sailors' arts and the history of the Channel Islands Harbor and Port of Hueneme round out the collection.

The Museum also hosts lectures. temporary exhibits, open houses and more.

The museum is open daily from 11 AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 for Adults, $4 for Seniors (62+) and $2 for children ages 6 to 17 (as of January 2015). Admission is free the 3rd Thursday of each month. For more infomation, visit or call 805.984.6260.


U.S. National Park Service Free Entrance Days

As of November 2014, there are 401 national parks covering over 84 million acres throughout the United States and its territories.  The majority of these parks do not charge entrance fees (though parking fees often apply). As for 133 national parks that do have entrance fees, there are a number of designated "fee free" days each year.

Here are the National Park Service Free Entrance Days in 2015:

  • January 19 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
  • February 14-16 (Presidents Day Weekend)
  • April 18-19 (National Park Week opening weekend)
  • August 25 (National Park Service Birthday)
  • September 26 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 11 (Veterans Day)

The parks that normally charge a fee that are free on the above dates are listed at California parks in this category include:

Plenty of other amazing national treasures are on this list, like Grand Canyon National Park.

And of course there are two national parks in Ventura County that are always worth exploring:

For more information about the National Park Service, visit


Views From Angel Vista Peak on This Sunny Winter Day in the Conejo Valley

Today is January 17, 2015 and we are not quite one third of the way into the winter season. But winter weather has taken a break for a bit. Skies are blue and visibility is outstanding today, as can be seen here from Angel Vista Peak in Newbury Park. Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands can clearly be seen past the Oxnard Plain on the beautiful day.

Angel Vista Peak can be accessed via the Rosewood Trail off of Lynn Road (just west of Regal Oak Ct) or the Los Robles Trail (either the Thousand Oaks side accessible at South Moorpark Road and Greenmeadow Ave or Newbury Park side off of Potrero Road).


Volunteer Opportunities in Ventura County

Looking for a job? Why not help yourself by filling in the gaps in your resume with new experiences while helping others!? There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer in Ventura County. Here's where to find volunteer opportunities:

The United Way of Ventura County hosts, which lists numerous upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Ventura County RSVP is an organization that connects volunteers ages 55 and over with service opportunities that match their skills, interests and availability. There are hundreds of opportunities in the Ojai Valley, Oxnard and Thousand Oaks listed HERE.

Since 1998, has helped volunteers find over 4 million volunteer matches at over 60,000 non-profits across the country. You type in your zip code and in my case today it identified over 300 volunteer opportunities within a 20 mile radius of Newbury Park.

Or go directly to the source. Visit the Local Charities section of Conejo Valley Guide and you'll find roughly 100 Ventura County area non-profit organizations, most of which could use your help. I clicked a few and found plenty of volunteer needs publicized on each entity's website, like MANNA Food Bank, L.I.F.E. Animal Rescue in Agoura, Hospice of the Conejo, Friends of the Thousand Oaks Library, and CareGivers - Volunteers Assisting the Elderly.

You could also join one of over 80 service organizations in the Service Clubs section of CVG. The Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, Assistance League, Lions Club and other organizations provide nee

Click to read more ...


Guide to Finding Family Friendly Bike Paths In and Around Ventura County

As a casual cyclist with young kids I usually steer clear of riding on busy streets, particularly those that don't have any type of bike lane on them. Thankfully there are nearly 80 miles of bikeways in Thousand Oaks, including 3 miles of bike paths, 20 miles of bike lanes and 54 miles of marked bike routes. In fact, the City of Thousand Oaks made Bicycling Magazine's 2012 Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities list.

Bike Routes are shared with vehiclesClass I Bike Paths are separate from auto traffic and thus are great for family friendly cycling. Class II Bike Lanes are striped, painted and shared lanes adjacent to automobile lanes. Class III Bike Routes are marked by green signs that signify sharing with autos.

We also love taking our bikes to other places in and around Ventura County to enjoy other sights and surroundings. So how about if we highlight Class I Bike Paths throughout Ventura County, stretching from Thousand Oaks to Ventura.

Conejo Valley

The Conejo Creek Bike Path is a 1.2 mile path in the heart of Thousand Oaks that connects Gainsborough Road on the south to Conejo Creek Park and the Thousand Oaks Library. This is a nice, flat path, good for kids.

There is another Thousand Oaks bike path, the .5 mile Greenmeadow Drive connector bike path accessible on the west at Greenmeadow and Yellowstone, on the south side of Los Robles Greens. This is not a particularly interesting path but it does enable cyclists and walkers a path around the golf course to the Los Robles trailhead and Moorpark Road from Newbury Park. A bit hilly, too.

Entrance to Greenmeadow Avenue connector bike path in Thousand Oaks

There is also the .8 mile bike path on the north side of The Oaks mall as well as t

Click to read more ...


Join the Audience at a TV Show Taping

Hollywood is only 40 minutes from Thousand Oaks (depending on traffic). How many of you have ever been to a TV show taping?  It is free and can be a lot of fun! Out of town guests? They'll love the experience of sitting in a live audience! Talk shows, game shows, sitcoms, you name it!  Here are some websites to visit to track down free seats in the Los Angeles area, along with currently available shows as of August 2010:

On-Camera Audiences - Currently available shows include Teh Price is Right, @Midnight, Mr. Robinson and Art You Smarter Than a 5th Grader. They have other shows with waitlists, like Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, etc.

Audiences Unlimited - Currently available shows include Dr. Phil, Mike & Molly, Mom, America's Funniest Videos and more. - Currently available shows include Mike and Molly, @Midnight, Sports Jeopardy with Dan Patrick, Wheel of Fortune, The Exes and more. - Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Late Late Show with Drew Carey, ESPN SportsNation, Ridiculousness and The Voice, as well as special events.

Or you can go directly to a show's website to request tickets...though usually there is a long wait. Here are a few:

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:

The Ellen Show:


Note: Each show has different age minimums, locations, timing and rules, so make sure to read the fine print. For example, if you want to be on The Price is Right, you must be 18 years of age or older and arrive 4 hours in advance of the 2 hour taping. That could be a long day!  Wheel of Fortune, filmed at the Sony Studios in Culver City, however, allows audience participants to be as young as 8.


Check Out Tarantula Hill Trail in Thousand Oaks for Views of the Conejo Valley

Tarantula Hill is located off of West Gainsborough Road in Thousand Oaks, between Grand Oak Lane and Camino Manzanas. Over the years we've visited this conspicuous 1,057 foot tall hills dozens of times. A bit of steep climb up the fire road (not really a trail) to the top, where you'll find a bench facing towards the west and panoramic views of the entire Conejo Valley and beyond.

In the summer 2014 time frame, we noticed a new sign at the bottom of the hill, plus something fun on the sign. I don't know if this tarantula is a permanent addition to the sign, but it was amusing.

It takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to walk up the paved hill to the top. If you're looking for some exercise but are lacking time, Tarantula Hill is a nice alternative to a stair stepper machine!

Views towards the south (The Oak Mall down below)The bench looking out towards the Conejo Grade



Art of Bugatti Exhibit at Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard through March

For a number of months, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard has displayed a one of a kind collection of Bugatti family creations in "The Art of Bugatti" exhibit. The display has been extended through March 2015 but the Museum is open to the public only a few days each month.

1908 Bugatti Type 10 - a prototype from the early years of Ettore BugattiThe Bugattis - Carlo, Rembrandt, Ettore and Jean - were three generations of artists with a wide range of disciplines. Stonemason and artisan Giovanni Bugatti was born in 1823. His son Carlo was a widely admired decorative artist. Carlo's son Rembrandt was a renowned sculptor. Rembrandt's brother Ettore was a designer/engineer who founded the Bugatti marque automobile. Ettore's son Jean was a masterful automotive designer. Jean's sisters became painters and authors. And Ettore's youngest son Roland took over the Bugatti marque after the passing of his father and brother.

Visit and reserve a visit to see this tribute to the artistic genius of the Bugatti family.

1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic - 2003 Pebble Beach "Best in Show" Winner1994 Bugatti EB110 Supersport "Le Mans" - sticker price was $456,000 (only 3 were built)