The Punch Bowls in Santa Paula

Temporary Note: The Punch Bowl Trail / Santa Paula Canyon has been temporarily closed due to the "Canyon Fire" as of July 21, 2017. For updates, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5394.

The Santa Paula Canyon Trail takes you to the "The Punch Bowls" in the Los Padres National Forest. This is a fairly challenging hike that is definitely not for everyone. But for many, it is quite an interesting, roughly 7 mile round trip exploration. Plan on at least a 4 to 6 hour excursion.

The trail begins in the hills behind Thomas Aquinas College at 10000 Ojai Road, Santa Paula. This is a private college and thus the public is not allowed access to parking on the campus. There is a small amount of street parking and several dirt lots nearby. Make sure though not to not leave any valuables in your car.

Access to the trail takes a bit of a walk on the paved road that swings to the right of the college. There are signs that point the way to the trailhead and that asks hikers to stay on the paved roadway.

The winding road to the trailhead

The winding road to the trailhead

You will be entering private property (continue following the signs), so be mindful of that as you veer left, then past an oil rig through an avocado farm. You will be walking past a large red gate, then continue on, until you reach another oil pumping rig. Go left along the path around the rig to the trailhead, where you will be greeted by the sounds of the Santa Paula Creek.

You will be veering left after walking through this gate,  into private property. You will be walking past an oil pump then into an avocado orchard, then past another oil rig (veer left) to the trailhead

You will be veering left after walking through this gate,  into private property. You will be walking past an oil pump then into an avocado orchard, then past another oil rig (veer left) to the trailhead

Cross the creek (there are strategically placed stones) and you are on your way.

Veer right around this., which would seem obvious but to me it wasn't. 

Veer right around this., which would seem obvious but to me it wasn't. 

From here, there are no signs that clearly say "trail this way." Perhaps the main thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, you will be following the creek to the area known as the Punch Bowls. But the exact path is not always clear, especially when you are like me and have a tendency of picking the wrong path at each fork.

Some sections of the trail are perfectly flat and scenic. Most of the trail you will hear  Santa Paula Creek

Some sections of the trail are perfectly flat and scenic. Most of the trail you will hear  Santa Paula Creek

But one thing we generally found is that someone has sprayed orange arrows in the direction you need to go. That said, it is still not always clear. Unfortunately, there is graffiti and markings of various sorts much of the way up the trail. In fact this is probably the worst example of defacing of a public trail that I've ever seen. I will not post the images here.

In any case, we didn't let the graffiti bother us too much as the trails were so beautiful, interesting and challenging. In fact, aside from hiking up Boney Mountain, this is the probably the most challenging trail I've tried in the local area. There are some "perfectly flat" sections but many sections of the trail are quite rocky, narrow, sections of poison oak and challenging.

Also, be prepared to cross the creek in various sections. It wasn't always clear if we should be on the left or right side of the creek. But make sure to wear good hiking shoes as you will be making some creek crossings, which can be slippery.

I don't usually hike with a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy on this trail. The higher up we got, the rockier and more "bouldery" the trail became. 

The boulders get larger and there are more areas with loose rocks the higher you get up the trail. I don't usually use a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy for this hike.

The boulders get larger and there are more areas with loose rocks the higher you get up the trail. I don't usually use a walking stick, but it definitely came in handy for this hike.

In any case, after some crazy sections of rocks that, when we went (mid-June 2016), included sections of significant piles of rocks (including some fairly recently looking rock slide areas), you will reach the first of the Punch Bowls. This was our final destination, but there are additional pools of water higher up, on trails that appear increasingly challenging.

This punch bowl was our final destination before heading back down. Beautiful to see, though the water was not particularly deep (blame it on the drought) or clean looking. But quite a great destination to hike to nonetheless and enjoyable to relax and take it in.

This punch bowl was our final destination before heading back down. Beautiful to see, though the water was not particularly deep (blame it on the drought) or clean looking. But quite a great destination to hike to nonetheless and enjoyable to relax and take it in.

I took 4th and 7th graders with me and they did fine. It was a lot of fun. Definitely not stroller friendly. Dogs are ok on leash, though I wouldn't bring my dog due to the proliferation of rocks.

My biggest "beef" about this beautiful trail is that there is quite

Learn more about the Santa Paula Canyon Trail at www.hikelospadres.com/santa-paula-canyon-trail.html.

California Oil Museum in Santa Paula

CalifOilMuseum_logo.jpg

The California Oil Museum at 1001 E. Main Street, Santa Paula (corner of Main and 10th) is the birthplace of Union Oil Company (aka Unocal and more recently acquired by Chevron in 2005). The building was completed on October 17, 1890. The museum was established in 1950, and the building was restored to its original appearance for its centennial celebration in 1990. Click here for an early picture of the building. The building is also a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum has one of the largest displays of vintage gas pumps in California. There is a turn of the century (20th century, that is) drilling rig, various displays, videos, working models and gas station memorabilia as well as rotating exhibits about science, technology and transportation as well as other more local exhibits on hand.

As of July 2017, admission is free; but suggested donation is $4. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm.

More information at www.oilmuseum.net or 805.933.0076.

CalifOilMuseum.jpg
Left side of California Oil Museum on 10th Street

Left side of California Oil Museum on 10th Street

Display in the rig building

Display in the rig building

Beaches Spanning From Carpinteria Through Ventura County to Malibu

My kids and I love going to the beach but for many years we seemed to go to the same ones all the time. So I stopped by the Automobile Club and asked them if they had a brochure on all the local area beaches open to the public. They shrugged their shoulders and said no such guidebook existed. They handed me a fold out map, which was of no use to me as I wanted to know exactly how to get to these beaches, if they have restrooms, parking, etc.

MalibuBeach.jpg

Then I started searching around for information and found bits and pieces in various locations that were marginally useful. So I decided to consolidate this information into one place where I could find out about where to go to the beach around Ventura County on up the coast to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara and down to Malibu. So I hope you find the following links helpful in finding local area beaches in Ventura County and surrounding areas!

Carpinteria to Ventura

Oxnard to Malibu

Santa Barbara Area Beaches

This took a lot of time to compile over 60 local area beach areas, so I truly hope you benefit from these lists! So enjoy and provide feedback if you have comments and/or additional information.

If you have a great photo you'd like to share, perhaps post it to the Conejo Valley Guide Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ConejoValleyGuide!

MuguFisherman.jpg
At Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu

At Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu

Windsurfers at Surfers' Point in Ventura

Windsurfers at Surfers' Point in Ventura

El Matador State Beach in Malibu

Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach is made up of a number of cove or cliff-foot strands known as "pocket beaches" along the west end of Malibu, including El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. Let's take a closer look at El Matador Beach.

El Matador Beach is located at 32350 Pacific Coast Highway, just east of where Encinal Canyon Road intersects with PCH. A dirt path, then several sets of steps, leads to 18 acres of narrow, sandy beach with beautiful rock formations and caves. Because of the unique nature of these formations, undoubtedly you will encounter many folks taking photos.

Of particular interest at El Matador State Beach are the rock formations, sea stacks and caves 

Of particular interest at El Matador State Beach are the rock formations, sea stacks and caves 

A view east towards Point Dume from the bluffs above the beach.

A view east towards Point Dume from the bluffs above the beach.

There is a parking lot with limited room for 25 or so cars where you can pay $3/hour or $10 for all day (as of July 2017).  You can also park on PCH, but on the north side...for whatever reason parking is prohibited on the south side of PCH. This means you have to cross PCH, which can be a challenge.

Porta-johns are available. Dog are not allowed on California state beaches.

More information at www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=145.

CLICK HERE FOR OTHER PUBLIC BEACHES STRETCHING FROM OXNARD TO MALIBU

Not a lot of beach available when the tide rises in the evening, so do be careful.

Not a lot of beach available when the tide rises in the evening, so do be careful.

Gardens of the World - Thousand Oaks

Gardens of the World at 2001 Thousand Oaks Boulevard is a 4 1/2 acre garden across from the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.  It is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Gardens of the World is a gift from the Hogan Family Foundation.

GOTW_front2.JPG

GOTW is a stunning oasis of beauty, smack dab in the middle of Thousand Oaks. There is a large bandstand in the center of the Gardens that is a perfect venue for outdoor music.  And the array of plants, flowers, waterfalls (including a stunning fountain that looks out toward the Civic Arts Plaza) and a serene koi pond next to an authentic Japanese Pagoda.

GOTW_WaterFountain.JPG

There is a Japanese garden, a French garden and waterfall (shown above), a Mission Courtyard, an English perennial and rose garden and an Italian garden.  A beautiful place to visit and relax for a bit, right in the heart of Thousand Oaks.  Also a great place for a picnic lunch, with plenty of tables, benches and grassy areas. More info at www.gardensoftheworld.info or 805.557.1135.

I never promised you a rose garden...but here's a beautiful one to check out!

I never promised you a rose garden...but here's a beautiful one to check out!

Koi pond in the Japanese Garden

Koi pond in the Japanese Garden

Shaded picnic area

Shaded picnic area

Since 2003, Gardens of the World has hosted a great Jazz Series on Sunday afternoons in August in this traditional American Bandstand area.

Since 2003, Gardens of the World has hosted a great Jazz Series on Sunday afternoons in August in this traditional American Bandstand area.

Sandstone Peak Hike in Malibu

Views from Sandstone Peak trail towards Lake Sherwood.

Views from Sandstone Peak trail towards Lake Sherwood.

Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at an elevation of 3,111 feet. It is beautiful, with sweeping views out to the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands and inland to the Conejo/Simi Valleys.

From the Conejo Valley, take Westlake Boulevard south until it becomes Decker Canyon, make a right on Mulholland, then right on Little Sycamore Road, which becomes Yerba Buena Road, with an endpoint of Sandstone Peak Trailhead. Before you see this sign on the right, you will be passing a parking lot at the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead. Another .6 miles and you'll see the sign below.

The hike is only about 3 miles round trip. Depending on how fast you go, the 1.5 mile climb to the top can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. The trail is well maintained but has quite a bit of loose stones, so be sure to wear good shoes so you don't twist an ankle. The starting elevation at the Sandstone Peak trailhead is 2,030 feet, so you'll be climbing over 1,000 vertical feet over 1.5 miles.

Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/circlexranch.htm for more information about the Circle X Ranch area and a printable pdf map of the trails that will get you to Sandstone Peak, including the Mishe Mokwa Trail, Grotto Trail and the Backbone Trail.

To extend the hike, check out Sandstone Peak to Inspiration Point and Tri Peaks.

There are several ways of getting to Sandstone Peak. The most direct way is the trailhead directly up to Sandstone Peak (takes about an hour) and the other is via the Mishe Mokwa Trail, which takes you to Split Rock, through a loop that connects you to the Backbone Trail to Sandstone Peak. This trail will give you views of "Balanced Rock" that you'll see pictured below. Once you reach Sandstone, you'll find a steep staircase that will take you to the peak.

Sandstone0.1.jpg
Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock from another angle

Balanced Rock from another angle

Sandstone7.jpg
Sandstone10.jpg
Destination almost reached when you see this sign and the adjacent staircase. The stairs take you to a trail that veers left, where you're left to scramble up the rocky ascent to the top.

Destination almost reached when you see this sign and the adjacent staircase. The stairs take you to a trail that veers left, where you're left to scramble up the rocky ascent to the top.

The unofficial name bestowed on Sandstone Peak by the Boy Scouts is "Mt Allen," named in honor of W. Herbert Allen to commemorate his gift of this mountain to the Boys Scouts of America in 1965.

The unofficial name bestowed on Sandstone Peak by the Boy Scouts is "Mt Allen," named in honor of W. Herbert Allen to commemorate his gift of this mountain to the Boys Scouts of America in 1965.

Sandstone2.jpg

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden - Thousand Oaks

CVBG_logo3.gif

The Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is a 33 acre retreat of hiking trails and natural habitat adjacent to Conejo Community Park off of Lynn Road and Gainsborough. 

CVBG now offers plant sales (weather permitting) every Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. featuring California native and drought tolerant plants. Reasonable prices! Enter at the Kids' Adventure Garden entrance (400 W. Gainsborough Road).

This is really a special place to bring the kids for low key hike.  There are numerous trails and a short walk/hike to the top of the mountain rewards you with sweeping views of the entire Conejo Valley, from Westlake Village to Thousand Oaks to Newbury Park.

CVBotanicGarden.jpg
CVBotanic_Sign.jpg

Here is what you'll find at the CVBG:

  • The Nature Trail is 3/4 of a mile long and meanders above the creek through oaks and willows.  This is a moderate trail.
  • The Little Loop Trail leads you above the creek, through chaparral and around a meadow.
  • The Native Plant Section and Lower Meadow feature southern and northern California plants.
  • Lillian's Meadow showcases perennials, shrubs and trees that thrive with minimal water.
  • The Salvia Garden delights hummingbirds and butterflies. 
  • The Butterfly Garden is a safe haven that provides nectar and food sources for butterflies and caterpillars.
  • The Nursery houses workspace for the plant propagation team and hosts plant sales.
  • The Herb Garden exhibits an extensive and unusual collection of medicinal, kitchen and aromatic herbs.
  • The Bird Habitat has a fresh water source and is planted with native plants that provide year-round food source for birds.
  • The Australian Section features collection of plants from down under.
  • The Desert Garden hilltop landscape features cacti, succulents and desert trees and provides a panoramic view of the Conejo Valley.
  • The Rare Fruit Orchard holds an extensive collection of trees.
  • The Tranquility Garden is planted in the Japanese style featuring California native plants.
  • The Oak Tree Grove has many species of North American and other oak trees.
  • The Trail of Trees exhibits 50 trees with a variety of genera.

If you have small kids, they will love the Kids' Adventure Garden and treehouse, open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  They'll enjoy hiking through the trails and exploring the streams and bridges.

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is located at 400 West Gainsborough Road, Thousand Oaks.  For more information visit www.conejogarden.org.

Desert Garden at the top of the hill, featuring cacti, succulents, etc.

Desert Garden at the top of the hill, featuring cacti, succulents, etc.

Japanese style Tranquility Garden featuring native California plants

Japanese style Tranquility Garden featuring native California plants

CVBG_bench.JPG
CVBG_cactus.JPG
CVBG_stones.JPG

Prickly Pear Trail in Newbury Park

The Prickly Pear Trail is located in the Dos Vientos section of Newbury Park. The entry point is at Del Prado Playfields, 402 Calle Del Prado, Newbury Park.

This is a short, roughly one mile in total, family-friendly hike at the east end of the Dos Vientos community. 

The entry point is on the south side of the parking lot in front of the park. It is quite clearly marked, as shown below. The first straightaway is about 1/4 mile, at which point you have the decision of which direction you'd like to take the loop. If you go left (clockwise loop), at the first fork in the trail take the left trail (if you take a right you'll be going back to where you came from). Then continue the remainder of the loop veering right until you're back at the straightway you came from.

This is a convenient little family hike as there is plenty of parking at the park, restrooms, a newer playground for the kids, pickleball and tennis at the park.

About 1/4 mile into the hike, looking back towards Del Prado Playfields.

About 1/4 mile into the hike, looking back towards Del Prado Playfields.

Views toward the protected pond behind Cypress Elementary, along Via Rio.

Views toward the protected pond behind Cypress Elementary, along Via Rio.

Surfer's Knoll Beach in Ventura

Surfer's Knoll Beach is located in Ventura adjacent from Ventura Harbor Village and as its name implies, is geared towards surfers, as well as others looking to relax and explore. Riptides are common here so be careful if you're a novice swimmer. There are restrooms and showers but no lifeguards on hand. There is a relatively small parking lot available at 1596 Spinnaker Drive; parking is free.

One great thing about this beach is that it is one of the few almost completely westbound facing beaches throughout the area, meaning...it is a great place to catch the sunset! And several of the Channel Islands - Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

Though this is a nice, sandy beach, a better beach for kids/families is just north up the road at Harbor Cove Beach, which is calmer water, protected by jetties. 

Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard

EliteTheatreCIHarbor.JPG

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) has been entertaining, educating and enriching its audience since 1994. After 19 seasons, ETC relocated to the Fisherman's Wharf at Channel Islands Harbor at 2731 S. Victoria Avenue, Oxnard.

ETC brings together the local talents of amateurs and professionals who share a passion for theater and who generously volunteer their time on the stage and behind the scenes. This collaboration creates a variety of quality live theatrical productions showcased in ETC's unique setting.

ETC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization as well as a proud member of the Four Star Theater Awards Committee and the alliance of Ventura County Theaters.

Learn more at www.elitetheatre.org.

Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village

Owned and maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, 600-acre Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village/Agoura provides deep oak woodland, native grasslands and blankets of wildflowers in the springtime. The main feature of the park, the Pentachaeta Trail, is named after the Pentachaeta lyonii, a federally-listed endangered flower found in the park. The yellow, daisy-like flower is found only in Southern California, and blooms between April and June.

PentachaetaTrail.JPG

An informational kiosk at the trailhead interprets the Pentachaeta lyonii, as well as other unusual wildflowers found on the site such as the Chocolate Lily, and the White Globe Lily. The site also provides access to hiking trails on the Westlake Vista parcel, also owned and managed by the Conservancy.

PentachaetaTrail1.JPG
PentachaetaTrail2.JPG
Pentachaeta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pentachaeta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

Directions: The main trailhead with kiosk is on Triunfo Canyon Road east of the southern terminus of Lindero Canyon Road. There are a small number of off-pavement parking spots there. The other end of the trail is at the west end of Triunfo Canyon Road about 1.5 miles west of Kanan Road.

Directions: From the 101 Freeway in Westlake Village exit Lindero Canyon Road. Take Lindero south to Triunfo Canyon Road. Turn left. The trailhead is located opposite Oak Forest Mobile Home.

Visit www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=62 for more information.

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy at THIS LINK. (Note that Truinfo is a typo on map; actual spelling is Triunfo.)

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy at THIS LINK. (Note that Truinfo is a typo on map; actual spelling is Triunfo.)

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum

The Channel Islands Maritime Museum (formerly known as Ventura County Maritime Museum) is a cultural and scenic haven in the Channel Islands Harbor complete with world class maritime art, ship models and ocean breezes. It opened in 1991 as an independent, not-for-profit public benefit corporation funded by members, friends, charitable foundations and businesses.

In Summer 2012, the museum moved across the harbor to 3900 Bluefin Circle, Oxnard (off of 3900 Harbor Boulevard).

The museum is open Thursday to Monday from 11 AM to 5 PM except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62+) and $3 for children ages 6 to 17, as of January 2017. Admission is free the 3rd Thursday of each month.

The Channel Islands Maritime Museum is home to a permanent collection of extensive marine art, featuring works by the Dutch and Flemish painters, 17th century 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 also houses one of the two largest collections of antique Napoleonic prisoner of war sailing ship models in the US. 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, the history of the Channel Islands Harbor and Port of Hueneme round out the collection.

CIMM_pic.jpg

In my many visits to the museum, I have been very impressed by how knowledgeable the docents were about the contents of the museum! I learned a lot and was amazed at the collection of nearly 100 intricate ship models on display going back hundreds of years. I was also pleased to see docents take the time to engage my kids in some of the exhibits.

CIMM_ship.JPG

The Museum welcomes about 25,000 visitors annually. The Elementary Education Program, staffed entirely by volunteers, conducts in-house tours for thousands of elementary school students each year. The At Sea Education program supports three day youth sailing expeditions on board working tall ships.

For more information, including current exhibits and upcoming museum events, visit www.channelislandsmaritimemuseum.org or call 805.984.6260.

Grant Park / Serra Cross Park in Ventura

SerraCrossPark1.JPG

For some of the most spectacular views of Ventura you can ask for, stop by Grant Park / Serra Cross Park off of Ferro Drive in Ventura. Grant Park is a 107 acre park of mostly open space. Serra Cross Park is located at Grant Park. It is a one acre parcel that contains the wooden cross shown below.

The land and cross were sold to San Buenaventura Heritage, Inc. in 2003 in order to maintain the historic cross, which was placed on this spot in 1941 to replace the previous cross that was erected in 1912.

Visit www.serracrosspark.org to learn more about Serra Cross Park.

Get there via Brakey Road to the left side of Ventura City Hall or Ferro Drive off of Cedar Street. There are no restrooms, playground, drinking fountains, etc. at this park.

SerraCrossPark2.JPG
SerraCrossPark3.JPG
SerraCrossPark4.JPG
SerraCrossPark5.JPG
SerraCrossPark8.JPG