The "Scary Dairy" at CSU Channel Islands University Park in Camarillo

CSU Channel Islands University Park is a 367 acre parcel located adjacent to CSU Channel Islands off of S. Lewis Road in Camarillo. It is a regional educational and recreation area owned and operated by California State University Channel Islands.

In 1932, the State of California purchased 1,760 acres of the Lewis Ranch and built the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, which operated from 1936 to 1997 and at one point treated as many as 7,000 patients in the mid 1950s.

Located on the parcel was a dairy farm that produced crops and housed livestock that fed the hospital community. The farm was disbanded in the 1960s and has been left in a state of disrepair, falling prey over the decades to vandals and coined "Scary Dairy."

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After closure of the hospital, the land was conveyed to the County of Ventura, which had considered developing a golf course and amphitheater there but later abandoned its plans. The land was acquired by the University in 2009.

Fences and "No Trespassing" signs now surround what's left of the structures. but you can still get pretty close to check out Scary Dairy.

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CSU Channel Islands University Park is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset. From Camarillo, take Lewis Road south to Camarillo Street and turn left (east).  Cross the bridge over Calleguas Creek and the entrance is on the left. Parking is $6 per vehicle (as of August 2017). Do note that there are no facilities at this park, like restrooms and drinking fountains. Visit www.csuci.edu/cipark for more information.

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Five Notable Historical Sites and Places to See in and Around Ventura County

In the mid 1850s, the area that we call Ventura County was the southern part of Santa Barbara County.  By 1873, Ventura County officially split off from Santa Barbara County and by the turn of the century the cities of San Buenaventura (or Ventura as we know it), Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Nordhoff (now Ojai), Simi, Somis, Moorpark and Oxnard came on board. Camarillo and Thousand Oaks were late bloomers, incorporating in 1964.

There are hundreds of historical things to see around Ventura County, dozens of which are covered here on Conejo Valley Guide. Let's take a look at five neat places to see Ventura County history to additional information.

Strathearn Historical Park and Museum in Simi Valley has a notable collection of structures and artifacts from Simi's early days. The park is jointly operated by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and Simi Valley Historical Society.

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The Museum of Ventura County opened its Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula in September 2011. The museum is housed in the historic 1888 restored Mill building. In its 12,000 sq ft, you'll find an extensive collection of vintage farm equipment, tools, machines, clothing, photos and artifacts.

Probably my personal favorite local historical venue, just ouside the Ventura County border, is the Leonis Adobe Museum in Calabasas, adjacent to Sagebrush Cantina. If you've never been there, do stop by and bring the kids, as you'll be amazed at how much there is to see in this somewhat hidden location. The kids will love visiting with the collection of farmyard animals, there are lots of historical artifacts, including quite an impressive collection of vintages wagons/carriages and much more.

 Bull-ying can be a good thing...at the Leonis Adobe in Calabasas.

Bull-ying can be a good thing...at the Leonis Adobe in Calabasas.

Bull-ying can be a good thing...at the Leonis Adobe in Calabasas. Fun to watch.

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The Camarillo Ranch House is a 6,000 sq ft Victorian home built by Adolfo Camarillo, son of city namesake Juan Camarillo, in 1892. The house is owned by the City of Camarillo and the nonprofit Camarillo Ranch Foundation maintains the property, which has been restored to look how it looked in the 1904 to 1930 time frame. Take a docent-led tour of the house and enjoy one of the most beautiful venues for outdoor weddings and events in Ventura County...immaculate grounds and stunning, mature trees at this peaceful location that is right off the 101 Freeway.

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Last but not least is the Stagecoach Inn Museum in Newbury Park, home to a replica of the 1876 Grand Union Hotel. Take a docent-led tour, check out the quaint gift shop and tour the grounds, which includes a Chumash Indian village, rose garden, nature trails and more. The site is home to a historic Sycamore Tree that is over 250 years old. Adjacent to the museum is a park with some uniquely designed playground equipment.

For hundreds and hundreds of things to do, check out the Do Something section of CVG!

Aviation Museum of Santa Paula is Open to the Public the First Sunday of Each Month

The Santa Paula Airport was dedicated in August 1930. Today it is a non-towered facility with nearly 300 aircraft, handling approximately 97,000 arrivals/departures a year. Much of the original 1930’s-era facilities still exist and are used today, giving the airport a very authentic representation of the Golden Age of Aviation.

Located at the Santa Paula Airport, the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula is open the first Sunday of each month, with a array of hangars open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Each of the privately owned hangars houses a variety of vintage aircraft and collections of various types, as well as other memorabilia, such as antique radios, model aircraft and race cars. Some hangars celebrate highlights of fascinating aviation careers, while others contain antique aircraft undergoing the process of restoration. Hangar owners or docents are available to answer questions. 

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You've got to take the time to stop by. It is fun, low key and quite interesting. The hangars are directly adjacent to the airfield, so you are guaranteed to see aircraft taking and landing up close. The range of items on display at the various hangars is quite diverse. In fact, one of the most extensive, well organized collections of vintage radios I've ever seen is located in one of the hangars.

 A look at just a few of the vintage radios currently on display in one hangar.

A look at just a few of the vintage radios currently on display in one hangar.

 Obviously an aviation aficionado in this hangar!

Obviously an aviation aficionado in this hangar!

The participating hangars are fairly well spread out at the 51 acre airport but if you're not up for walking, there's a complimentary tram that will take you around. These are some very nice people who have obvious passion for what they do and enjoy sharing it with the general public. I struck up several conversations with hangar owners and they were full of great stories and information.

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There is no charge for visiting the Aviation Museum, though donations are welcomed. Visit www.aviationmuseumofsantapaula.org or call 805.525.1109 for more information.

The Museum is not open on rainy days.

Directions: Arriving by car from the east, exit the Santa Paula Freeway (SR 126) at 10th street, turn right off the ramp, and then a quick left onto Harvard Boulevard. Turn left at the next signal at Eighth Street, under the freeway, left onto Santa Maria Street and park in the lot. Arriving from the west, exit the freeway at Palm Avenue, turn right and then a quick left onto Santa Maria Street, about a half mile to the end at the parking lot.

 Lots to see, both inside and outside of the hangars.

Lots to see, both inside and outside of the hangars.

Ventura County Historical Landmarks at Strathearn Historical Park in Simi Valley

Located at 137 Strathearn Place, Simi Valley, the six acre Strathearn Historical Park and Museum site contains no less than six designated Ventura County Historical Landmarks.

Originally from Scotland, the Strathearn Family purchased 15,000 acres of old Spanish Rancho from Simi Land and Water Co. around 1890.

The Simi Adobe/Strathearn House is Ventura County Historical Landmark No. 6, State Landmark No. 979 and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Simi Adobe was originally built by Santiago Pico, original grantee of El Rancho Simi, in 1810. The Adobe was considered an important link between the San Fernando and Ventura missions.

The Strathearn House (built in 1892-3) includes the Simi Adobe (built in 1810)

After buying the property, the Strathearns built their nine-room Victorian-style farmhouse and kept two usable rooms of the adobe that were used as a dining room and kitchen. The Strathearn family occupied the house until 1968.

Built in 1930, the original Simi Library was located on Third Street near Los Angeles Avenue. Members of the community raised funds to purchase land and asked the Ventura County Library System to build this first purpose-built branch library in the county. It operated until 1962, when a new library opened on Church Street in the Community Center. The Simi Library briefly served as the first Simi Valley Museum until Strathearn Historical Park opened in 1969. The Library was designated Ventura County Historical Landmark No. 40 in May 1978. (More recently, in the Simi Valley Public Library became a separate municipal public library on July 1, 2013.)

The Haigh/Talley Colony House was designated Ventura County Historical Landmark No. 41 in May 1978 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places that same year. It is one of 12 pre-cut, partially assembled two-story homes shipped by rail in 1888 to the townsite of "Simiopolis" (this was just for six months; it was later

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El Parque de la Paz "The Peace Park" in Thousand Oaks

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El Parque de la Paz "The Peace Park" is located at 2580 Pleasant Way in Thousand Oaks, tucked south of Thousand Oaks Boulevard behind Mouthful Eatery, Allen Motors, Harold's House of Omelettes and other businesses.

This five acre park dotted with oak trees was dedicated in 1990 by Thousand Oaks City Council.  Amenities include a Jungleland themed playground area, horseshoe pits, basketball court, picnic tables and restrooms. Learn more at www.crpd.org/parkfac/parks/lapaz.asp.

 Jungleland themed drinking fountain.

Jungleland themed drinking fountain.

Adjacent to the park is Ventura County Historical Landmark No. 109, the Crowley House.

 Who has horseshoes to use at these horseshoe pits!? Looks fun!

Who has horseshoes to use at these horseshoe pits!? Looks fun!

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Over 40 Things to Do in Malibu

 This "27 Miles of Scenic Beauty" sign was swapped out for "21 Miles of Scenic Beauty" sign in April 2017 in order to correct the actual length of City of Malibu coastline.

This "27 Miles of Scenic Beauty" sign was swapped out for "21 Miles of Scenic Beauty" sign in April 2017 in order to correct the actual length of City of Malibu coastline.

 The new sign updated in 2017.

The new sign updated in 2017.

Malibu was incorporated as a separate city in Los Angeles County on March 28, 1991, with 84% of Malibu voters supporting incorporation in a 1990 election.

The Conejo Valley lies just 8 to 10 miles away from the Malibu beachfront, making Malibu a natural choice to beat the heat and enjoy to its south-facing beaches. Here's a compilation of over 40 things to do in and around Malibu.

Beaches (East to West)

 Surfrider Beach from the Malibu Pier

Surfrider Beach from the Malibu Pier

 Adamson House

Adamson House

Rattlesnake Do's and Don'ts in the Trails of the Conejo Valley and Neighboring Areas

I've seen more snakes in the trails of the Conejo Valley in recent years than I can ever recall, some, but not all of which are rattlesnakes.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive but can strike when they feel threatened or provoked. If you come across one on the trail, just back off and give them room to retreat. They don't want to mess with you!

 Rattler crossing the Rosewood Trail on a sunset hike.

Rattler crossing the Rosewood Trail on a sunset hike.

It is rare that rattlesnakes cause serious injury to humans. According to the California Poison Control Center, rattlesnakes account for 800 bites each year, with only one or two deaths. Most bites occur during the months of April through October, when both humans and snakes are active outdoors. About 25% of bites are dry (i.e. no venom), but still require medical treatment.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Wear shoes when out hiking in the trails.
  • Stay ON the trails...don't venture out into the underbrush, where snakes may be hiding.
  • Watch what you touch with your hands too...especially if it's dark and hard to see.
  • Leave them alone. They are fun to watch, but do so from a distance. Don't try to pick them up.

Is it a Rattler or a Gopher Snake?

On the trails of the Conejo Valley I've come across rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, king snakes, garter snakes and perhaps a few others I wasn't able to identify. The rattlesnakes are the ones to be particularly wary of because of their venom, so be aware of the following distinctions:

Rattlesnakes are wider/heavier than most of the other local snakes and have a triangular-shaped head, broader at the back than at the front, with a distinct "neck." They have openings between the nostrils and the eyes. There are a series of dark and light bands near the tail, near the rattles, which look different from the markings on the rest of the body.  DO NOTE that rattles may not always be present as they may have fallen off are are not always developed on a young rattler.

For some great information on identifying California snakes, visit www.californiaherps.com/identification/snakesid/common.html.

 Notice the stocky size of this rattlesnake, the clear rattle, and the different series of dark and lights bands leading down towards the rattle.

Notice the stocky size of this rattlesnake, the clear rattle, and the different series of dark and lights bands leading down towards the rattle.

 Beautiful King Snake (known for lunching on rattlesnakes)

Beautiful King Snake (known for lunching on rattlesnakes)

 Gopher snake crossing the trail in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa.

Gopher snake crossing the trail in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa.