Trail Etiquette Tips in the Conejo Valley and Surrounding Areas

The trails that surround us here in the Conejo Valley, including the Santa Monica Mountains maintained by the National Park Service, State Parks and other organizations, as well as the Conejo Open Space, is year-round wonderland for hikers, biker, runners and equestrians. As such, it’s always good to remember the rules for trail etiquette.

Here is a summary of tips summarized in a brochure posted at trailetiquette.org:

Hikers, runners and mountain bikers must always yield to equestrians. Do so by immediately stopping and waiting on the downhill side of the trail. Greet the rider, as your voice also signals to the horse that you’re human and not a potential threat. Communicate with the rider and ask how to proceed. As beautiful as the horses are, do not approach or pet them without asking for permission first. If you are a cyclist, after communicating with the horse rider, pass slowly and steadily, without sudden movements or noises.

Hikers should always listen for cyclists, runners and equestrians approaching from behind. Listen for “on your left” so that you can stay to the right and let them by. Hike single-file on narrow trails and try to stay to the right on wider trails. Keep your dogs on short (6 feet maximum) leashes and of course, clean up after them. If you wear headphones, consider wearing only one earpiece or turning the volume down so you can hear your surroundings.

Bikers should slow down and yield to hikers and horses. Consider using a bell to alert others you are behind them. On a single track trail, downhill cyclists should yield to uphill cyclists.

And some other reminders…stay on the trails, don’t litter, don’t block the trail if you need to stop and don’t use the trails when the are wet.

And of course, be nice, smile at and greet your fellow trail users! We love our local trails!

GREAT TRAILS AND HIKES IN AND AROUND VENTURA COUNTY

California's Statewide Smoke-Free Air Laws

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The state of California has a number of smoke-free laws in place that include traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes as well as electronic smoking devices. Let's have a look at these laws below, keeping in mind that local laws may be more stringent. Learn more about smoke-free air laws at www.cdph.ca.gov/Tobacco.

Child/Day Care Centers: Smoking is prohibited within all licensed day care center, including private residences licensed as family day care homes.

Farmers' Markets: Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of farmers' markets.

Foster and Group Homes: Smoking is prohibited within and outside these homes when children are present.

Government Buildings: Smoking is prohibited in all state, county and city government buildings and within 20 feet from their main exits, entrances or operable windows and in any passenger vehicle owned by the state.

Multi-Unit Housing: Smoking is prohibited in apartment and condo indoor commons spaces (e.g. hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms and recreation rooms).

Personal Vehicles: Smoking prohibited when children under age 18 is present in a motor vehicle, whether it is moving or stopped.

Public Transportation: Smoking prohibited.

Workplaces: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants, offices, factories and warehouses. 

Youth Buses: Smoking is prohibited by operators of youth buses at all times.

Correctional Facilities: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all state correctional facilities. Tobacco products may be possessed in residential staff housing where inmates are not present.

Playgrounds and Youth Sports Events: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited within 25 feet of playgrounds, tot lot sandboxes and children's recreational areas, as well as within 250 feet of a youth sports event (including practices, games or related activities where kids up to age 18 are present).

Schools: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all school districts, charter schools and county offices of education, while students are under supervision. 

Looking to quit smoking? Find help at the California Smokers' Helpline, 1-800-NO-BUTTS or by visiting www.nobutts.org.

California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2019 from the California Department of Health

  • Adult tobacco use in California decline from 57.4% in 1988 to 10.1%, or 2.8 million adults, in 2017. The rest of the U.S. is at 17..1%.

  • There is a clear correlation between education and cigarette smoking. Just 6.7% of residents with a bachelor’s degree smoke, vs 16% for those without a high school degree.

  • Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have a cigarette smoking rate of 9.6% in 2015-2017.

  • Youth cigarette use has dropped from 16% in 2002 to 2% in 2018, while the U.S. rate has dropped from 22.5% to 8.1%.

The Number of Registered Voters in Ventura County Has Increased Nearly 10% Over the Last Seven Years

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The Ventura County Registrar of Voters website has up to date counts of the number of registered voters in Ventura County. We like to track the totals from time to time to see the trends.

On May 12, 2012, there were 406,644 registered voters in Ventura County, consisting of:

  • 157,539 Democrats

  • 150,919 Republicans

  • 77,994 Nonpartisans

  • 20,192 Other

Approximately seven years later, in May 2019, there are 445,217 registered voters, a 9.5% increase, including:

  • 176,712 Democrats, a 12% increase

  • 130,228 Republicans, a 14% decrease

  • 110,225 Nonpartisans, a whopping 41% increase

  • 28,052 Other, also a large 39% increase

Can’t remember if you are eligible to vote? Look it up at THIS LINK. What I’ve found with this Voter Eligibility Search function is that, unlike a search engine, your search terms have to be precise. If you are registered as Richard King, if you type Rich King into the search, it will not find you.

Register to vote online at registertovote.ca.gov.

My Recent Experience Renewing my Driver’s License and Getting a REAL ID Card

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Recently I received a driver’s license renewal notice from the California DMV. I received the renewal notice four months prior to the expiration date. The notice indicated that my last two renewals have been by mail and that the coming renewal required me to renew at a DMV office.

I wondered why they were requiring me to go into a DMV office to renew the license this time. According to the DMV, in order to renew by mail, you must provide your Social Security number and be under 70 years old when your current license expires, and answer “no” to all of the following questions:

  1. Have your last two licenses been renewed by mail?

  2. Has your license been expired for over one year?

  3. Does your license expire more than 60 days from today?

  4. Are you currently on any type of driving probation?

  5. Are you changing or correcting your name?

  6. Do you have a driver’s license from more than one state or jurisdiction?

  7. Within the past two years, were you convicted of any vehicle code moving violations, did you fail to appear in court for any vehicle code moving violation, were you suspended for DUI or refuse or fail to complete an alcohol screening test or have you been at fault in one or more collisions?

OK, no problem, it is what it is.

The renewal notice first required me to complete an application online at www.dmv.ca.gov.

To complete the application, you must create an Online Service account on the DMV website. They require a two-factor authentication to prove your digital identity, which means you’ll need an email address as well as a way to receive a text message or phone call for a six-digit confirmation code. If you do not want to do this at your phone or computer, you can do it on a terminal at a DMV office.

After you create the account, you will need to confirm your name, address, Social Security number (if applicable) and the type of card you are applying for. They will also ask if you want to register to vote and if you want to be a registered organ and tissue donor; however these will not be completed until you visit a field office to complete the registration process.

So after after completing the application, which was actually quite painless and quick, you will receive a confirmation code. Bring the code to the DMV office to continue the license renewal process.

The next stop is scheduling an appointment. For me, this was the broken step. There’s a link provided to make an appointment. You select an office and look for a time. I searched five different DMV offices and there were absolutely no times available. But as one might expect it to do, the appointment system did not give any hints as to other DMV offices with available openings, nor did it show the “next available” day and time available. For me, this was an exercise in futility. Truly a glitch in the system when you have to spend hours attempting to schedule an appointment online…to save time.

So instead, I drove to the Thousand Oaks DMV office at 8am on a Tuesday morning.

This was a great move. No line! No hassle!

Awaiting my turn at the Thousand Oaks DMV.

Awaiting my turn at the Thousand Oaks DMV.

I had all the documentation with me, including the renewal form and $36 renewal fee.

But I decided to up the ante and upgrade my license to the REAL ID card. The REAL ID card is a federally-mandated card that, unless you prefer to carry your passport with you, will be required to board domestic airline flights or access some federal facilities beginning October 1, 2020. So for example, on October 1, 2020 you have a flight from Burbank to Vegas. If all you have is your standard driver’s license, they won’t let you fly; you’ll need either the REAL ID or a U.S. passport even for a domestic flight. MORE ON REAL ID

The key is being prepared. I was prepared for REAL ID. There’s an online checklist at www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/realid/checklist that includes the following:

  1. Proof of identity – such as U.S. passport or passport card, certified, copy of U.S. birth certificate, etc.

  2. Full name^ – if your true full name is not listed on the identity document, you will need to provide a document that shows that.

  3. SSN – you need to prove your SSN by showing a Social Security card, W-2 or other items.

  4. Where do you live – you will need two different documents showing your current address, such as utility bills, medical documents, mortgage bill, etc.

With all of the above in hand, plus a backup document. I showed the documentation at the front counter after waiting briefly in a line. The clerk was impressed with my organizational skills. On to the next step in the process.

^ As additional clarification, if your current name is different than your maiden name, bring documentation showing your name change(s) - e.g. marriage certificates or other original or certified documentation showing the name change.

They gave me a number. The line was extremely short on a Tuesday morning (though when I was done around 9:15am, there were quite a few more people waiting). After about 10 minutes, my number was called.

I went to the counter and told the clerk that I was there to renew my license and to migrate to the REAL ID. She asked for all my documents and reviewed them, taking photos of most of them as I recall. She also had me provide a thumbprint. All digital. No ink involved.

After just a few minutes’ wait, the next step was a vision test. I passed!

Next up, photo time. She sent me to the photo guy and told me to come back when done. There was no line. Just a quick “stand there behind the line” and a quick smile and I was on my way back to the counter.

The final step was my only “fumble.” The renewal fees paid at the DMV office currently cannot be paid via credit card – choices arer cash, check, money order or debit cards. Doh! Luckily, I had visited the ATM recently and gave her cash. Credit cards can actually be used for internet based transactions – but not for in person and by mail transactions. At least not at this time.

That was it. Done! She printed my receipt and a temporary license, should for some reason I not receive the new license prior to the expiration date of my current license. Fingers crossed!

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 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.

Gopher snake on the   Vista Del Mar Trail   in Newbury Park.

Gopher snake on the Vista Del Mar Trail in Newbury Park.

Facts About Getting Real ID Cards in the State of California

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Now that we are well into 2019, it’s time for people like me, and perhaps most of you,. to start thinking about getting a Real ID card.

WHAT IS REAL ID?

Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver’s license or ID card to be Real ID compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities that require identification. The California DMV now offers federally compliant REAL ID drivers’ licenses.

The Real ID is a requirement of the Real ID Act of 2005.

DO I HAVE TO GET A REAL ID CARD?

No, you don’t. But if you plan to board a domestic flight starting October 1, 2020, your existing California driver’s license or state-issued ID will not work with TSA if it is not Real ID compliant.

In lieu of a Real ID card, you will need to show a U.S. passport, passport card or other forms of identification noted at www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

HOW DO I GET A REAL ID CARD?

Plan your DMV visit by making an appointment to visit a field office. DMV offices closest to the Conejo Valley include Thousand Oaks (Avenida de los Arboles), Ventura, Simi Valley,. Oxnard and Santa Paula. San Fernando Valley DMV locations include Winnetka, Van Nuys and Granada Hills.

Prepare for your visit as follows:

  1. Bring proof of your identity (original or certified copies only). It should show your date of birth, true full name (sorry, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Cher, this goes for you too). Documentation can include a current, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card, U.S. birth certificate, Permanent Resident Card or other items.

    Note that the identify document must show your current true full name; multiple name change documents are required if your name has changed multiple times. So for example, you’ll need to bring a certified marriage certificate if your current legal name is different than on your birth certificate or other identifying document.

  2. Bring proof of your full Social Security number (SSN) in the form of either an original Social Security card, W-2 form, 1099 form, pay stub or other items.

  3. Bring two** printed documents showing proof of California residency which list your first and last name and residence listed on the ID card application. It must show a physical address, not a P. O. box. Items you can use include mortgage bill, signed rental agreement, home utility bills, employment documents, property tax bills, etc.

  4. You will also need to complete an ID card application. The California DMV strongly encourages residents to complete applications online at www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/forms/dl/dl44. It is available in 10 languages (sorry, no Pig Latin though). Register for and complete the form online and when you arrive for your appointment, DMV staff can access and process the form. Easy peasy.

  5. Application fee is $30 for the ID card ($35 for a non-compliant driver’s license).

    ** As of April 2019. Note that previously this was just one printed proof of residency, but Federal requirements changed this to two, according to the DMV.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET THE REAL ID CARD?

Usually within 60 days by mail.

Learn more at REALID.dmv.ca.gov.

Emergency Response Systems in Ventura County and Surrounding Areas

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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.

All 10 cities in Ventura County 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 www.vcalert.org or call 805.648.9283.

The City of Westlake Village uses Blackboard Connect for telephone emergency response recordings for hazards, warnings, evacuations, updates, etc. Land lines are already in the database but you may register additional lines. westlakevillage.bbcportal.com. More info at www.wlv.org/191/Emergency-Notifications.

The City of Agoura Hills also uses Blackboard Connect for emergency response services at cityofagourahills.bbcportal.com/Entry. More info at www.ci.agoura-hills.ca.us/i-want-to/sign-up/connect-cty. There’s also a call-in emergency information line available at 818.597.7301.

City of Calabasas residents are also encouraged to sign up for emergency updates through its Blackboard Connect system at calabasase911.bbcportal.com/Entry. There’s also a call-in emergency info line available at 818.224.1600.

The City of Malibu’s call-in emergency hotline is 310.456.9982. The city's radio station is WPTD AM 1620. The City of Malibu has its own emergency alerts system at member.everbridge.net/index/453003085613099

Los Angeles County residents in Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, etc. can sign up for Alert LA County. a free mass notification system for Los Angeles County residents at www.lacounty.gov/emergency/alert-la.

Ready Ventura County is a local emergency response planning and information reporting site that is used extensively during local emergencies. www.readyventuracounty.org

Ventura County emergency alert radio stations: KVTA 1590 AM, KHAY 100.7 FM, KMLA 103.7 FM (SPANISH)