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.

The Conejo Valley Audubon Society Hosts Birding Activities Year-Round

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Founded in 1968, the Conejo Valley Audubon Society (CVAS) is an active chapter of the National Audubon Society. CVAS's 500+ members are from southeastern Ventura County and northwestern Los Angeles County. The chapter's membership is primarily from the cities of Oak Park, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Simi Valley, Fillmore, Moorpark, Somis and Camarillo.

CVAS hosts monthly programs at the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology (aka Camarillo Bird Museum) and frequent birding field trips throughout the Conejo Valley and Ventura County. Recent trips include the Conejo Botanical Gardens, Santa Clara River Estuary, Hill Canyon, Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, Oakbrook Regional Park and others.

CVAS volunteers also consult with local residents interested in converting their yard into a native plant based oasis to help attract birds to your yard.

For more information about CVAS, visit www.conejovalleyaudubon.org.

Fields of Yellow: Invasive, Non-Native Black Mustard Plants Seen Throughout the Conejo Valley

It has been a beautiful ride this winter and spring, watching the hills turn from golden brown to lush green and now the deep yellow color of the invasive black mustard “weed” that has sprouted more than typically seen throughout the Conejo Valley.

I’ve walked through 8 foot tall mustard plants in the Hillcrest Open Space and seen the hillsides in Calabasas blanketed in yellow in the past several weeks. While stunning to see, these non-native plants prevent germination of native plants. Let’s hope our local agencies and organizations can clear out much of this growth before we reach peak fire season later this year.

Off the 101 in Calabasas

Off the 101 in Calabasas

Hillcrest Open Space

Hillcrest Open Space

Hillcrest Open Space

Hillcrest Open Space

A Compilation of Automotive Relics in the Open Space of the Conejo Valley

As a resident of the Conejo Valley for over 20 years, a long distance runner and a father with active kids, I've run, walked, hiked and rolled over thousands of miles of trails within and surrounding the Conejo Valley.

Over the years I've noticed interesting, old items on the sides of the trails. These relics from the past always make me wonder how they got there and why they remain. I've attempted here to document these automotive blasts to the past on the trails of the Conejo Valley.

Read More

Seven Flat, Stroller and Family Friendly Hikes in the Conejo Valley

There is a ring of about 15,000 acres of open space with 140 miles of trails for public use surrounding the Conejo Valley. All too often on the Conejo Valley Guide Facebook Page we hear requests for which trails are "stroller friendly" and/or suitable for young children. Here is a sampling of some of the more popular ones in the area.

Wildwood Park to many is the single greatest spot for family hikes and stroller-friendly trails. With 14 trails covering 17 miles, including the popular hike to Paradise Falls and the teepee as well as some wide, relatively flat sections along the Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock.

It takes a bit of driving via the Norwegian Grade and Santa Rosa Road to get there, but the Conejo Canyons Bridge in the Western Plateau area of the Conejo Open Space leads to several miles of nice, flat, well-maintained family-friendly trails leading to tree-canopied picnic areas. NOTE: THE BRIDGE WAS SEVERELY DAMAGED IN THE HILL FIRE OF NOVEMBER 2018: The COSCA site at www.conejo-openspace.org will provide updates regarding when the bridge is re-opened.

Shaded picnic area off the Hawk Canyon Trail from the Conejo Canyons Bridge

Shaded picnic area off the Hawk Canyon Trail from the Conejo Canyons Bridge

The 1 mile Spring Canyon Trail is a mostly flat trail that runs from Lynn Oaks Park in Newbury Park to the Los Robles Trail.  There are some moderately hills but with a park nearby, makes for a fun little excursion with the little ones.

Speaking of the Los Robles Trail, another great little hike to take with the kids is the Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail. The first 4/10th of a mile of the trail, accessible off of Greenmeadow Avenue in Thousand Oaks, is the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretive Trail. This is a nice, shady, flat trail picnic benches along the path. The remainder of the loop is not quite as stroller friendly, with a couple moderately steep sections that can be navigated on foot.

Picnic trails and shade abound at the Oak Creek Canyon Interpretative Trail.

Picnic trails and shade abound at the Oak Creek Canyon Interpretative Trail.

The Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area managed by the National Park Service in Newbury Park has over several miles of trails to explore, most of which are flat and stroller-friendly. The Satwiwa Loop Trail takes you around the area and the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center makes for a fun stop with the family when open on weekends. 

Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons offer great family hiking opportunities. While there's definitely hills surrounding these canyons, try the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, the 4 to 5 mile main artery into the park. Flat and kid/stroller friendly it is. Also try the Doubletree Trailhead connector to the Palo Comado Trail. Flat, fun and scenic.

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Although you will encounter pretty significant hills in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks, it is worth checking out with the kids for its wide open trails and interesting sandstone rock formations. If you are really strong, strollers are possible here, but do know that you will encounter some hills like the hill shown in the image below.

This hill in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space at the Autumn Ridge Trail is a bit daunting but worth the climb.

This hill in the Lang Ranch/Woodridge Open Space at the Autumn Ridge Trail is a bit daunting but worth the climb.

NOTE: THE GROUNDS OF OAKBROOK REGIONAL PARK WERE SEVERELY DAMAGED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE OF NOVEMBER 2018. AS A RESULT, THE GROUNDS HAVE BEEN CLOSED. A GOFUNDME FUNDRAISER HAS BEEN ESTABILISHED AT www.gofundme.com/chumash-indian-museum-wildfire-fund TO HELP RAISE FUNDS TO REBUILD.

We're going to throw a bonus trail into the mix. The several miles of hiking trails in the Oakbrook Regional Park Archaeological Area in Thousand Oaks is an outstanding place for a flat, picturesque and oak-tree canopied place for a short hike with the kids. The Chumash village reproduction is an interesting place to explore with the kids. SEE NOTE ABOVE REGARDING IMPACT OF WOOLSEY FIRE.

For a more comprehensive compilation of trails in the Conejo Valley and throughout Ventura County, visit THIS LINK.

Hiking to the Waterfall in Pt Mugu State Park from Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa

One of the most popular hikes in the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa open space in Newbury Park is to a small waterfall in the adjacent Boney Mountain Wilderness. The hike is about 3 1/2 miles round-trip from the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center and is a moderate hike that can be done by all ages.

Mind you, in recent drought years, there has been not much more than a trickle coming down this waterfall, but it still makes for a good hiking destination.

You have two primary options for where to start the hike. You can drive into the Rancho Sierra Vista park entrance on Via Goleta in Newbury Park and park in a lot that is a brief walk to the Culture Center, or you can park at the Wendy Drive and Potrero Road trailhead and add an another two round trip miles to your adventure.

The entrance to Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa at Via Goleta, 1 mile west of Reino Road.

The entrance to Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa at Via Goleta, 1 mile west of Reino Road.

The trailhead where Wendy Road ends at Potrero Road in Newbury Park

The trailhead where Wendy Road ends at Potrero Road in Newbury Park

The   Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center   is a small building open from 9am to 5pm on weekends where you can learn about native Chumash items and local wildlife.

The Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center is a small building open from 9am to 5pm on weekends where you can learn about native Chumash items and local wildlife.

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Next to the Culture Center, you'll see multiple paths, all of which can get you to your destination, but the most direct path is the Satwiwa Loop Trail seen on the left, which crosses through a meadow that can be quite green and beautiful in late Winter/early Spring and dry and brown the rest of the year. An alternate route is on the right of the picture above - the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail (paved road) to the Boney Mountain Trail, where you'll take a left.

Satwiwa Loop Trail section that takes you diagonally through the meadow. Seen here when it is nice an green.

Satwiwa Loop Trail section that takes you diagonally through the meadow. Seen here when it is nice an green.

At the end of the meadow, continue straight up a fairly steep hill, where on the right hand side you'll see the Sycamore Canyon Overlook bench shown below.

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Hike up the moderately steep and rocky path up the hill behind the bench and you'll reach another fork in the road. If you veer left at this juncture you'll be on the Hidden Valley Overlook Trail within Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. Stay to the right and you'll be entering the Boney Mountain Wilderness area within Point Mugu State Park.

Sign that shows you the Hidden Valley Overlook Trail is on the left.

Sign that shows you the Hidden Valley Overlook Trail is on the left.

Veering right into the State of California managed Pt Mugu State Park; as you can see, dogs are not allowed in the back country area of the park.

Veering right into the State of California managed Pt Mugu State Park; as you can see, dogs are not allowed in the back country area of the park.

This trail is referred to as Danielson Road, named after the last private owner of these lands. The path down into the canyon is seen below (taken from a higher point en route to Danielson Monument).

View of the initial section of Danielson Road trail down into the canyon; this is the path you will be taking towards the waterfall.

View of the initial section of Danielson Road trail down into the canyon; this is the path you will be taking towards the waterfall.

Danielson Road is a bit on the steep side but I see folks young and old walking up and down this section all the time. Seen here in very dry conditions.

Danielson Road is a bit on the steep side but I see folks young and old walking up and down this section all the time. Seen here in very dry conditions.

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After .4 mile, you will reach the bottom of the canyon and see the sign above, the final sign indicating you are on your way to the Waterfall Trail. Then you will cross a creek bed, which can have water in it after the rains. The photo taken below in January 2015 shows minimal moisture, making it easy to cross. Some years you may have to rock hop your way a bit over the creek.

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After you cross the creek, the remainder of the trail to the waterfall is single track. Be careful not to come in contact with poison oak often seen on the sides of the trails. For this reason, I would generally not recommend strollers be taken up here.

Soon you will reach the final fork in the road. Go straight and soon you will be at the waterfall. To the right, the Danielson Trail continues upward.

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The waterfall came back in February 2017 after solid winter rains. Let's hope it continues to flow, as it was pretty darn dry over the previous four to five years1

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Bicycle Safety Tips From the Ventura County Sheriff's Office

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Each year, hundreds of bicyclists in California are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Here are some important facts bicyclists and motorists should know.

California vehicle code section 21202(a): Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at the same time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

A bicycle ridden at night must be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light. There must also be a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle that must be visible from 500 feet when directly in front of a motor vehicle whose headlights are on.

Riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet at all times. All riders, regardless of age, should wear a helmet at all times to reduce injuries.

No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway except to park where parking is permitted, to enter or leave the roadway, or to prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic, except when passing, making a legal left turn, riding on a one-way street, riding on a road that is too narrow, or when the right side of the road is closed due to road construction. (CVC 21650.)

Handlebars must not be higher than the rider's shoulders. (CVC 21201(b))

A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. (CVC 21760(c))

Bicyclists must obey the rules of the road because they travel along the roadway with other motorists. It is important to note drivers and bicyclists must share the road. When making turning movements in a car or on a bike, use caution, be seen (appropriate lighting after dark) and be predictable.

The Thousand Oaks Traffic Bureau urges citizens to drive their cars and ride their bicycles responsibly. Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike (at night, or when visibility is poor). Plan your route if driving as a vehicle on the road; choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.

For more information on bicycle safety, visit:

www.safekids.org/bike

www.ots.ca.gov/grants/pedestrian-and-bicycle-safety

www.calbike.org/go_for_a_ride/california_bicycle_laws

You also avert motorists when you ride on some of these class I (protected) bike paths around Ventura County.