It totally amazes me when I discover new, virgin, territory located near the area that I lived for most of my life. Today’s hike takes place at Ahmanson Ranch, twenty minutes from home. In the vast Los Angeles area, you’ll find this secluded haven where the far most eastern edge of Ventura County meets the far most western edge of the San Fernando Valley. One would never know that this unaltered land in the Simi Hills is snuggled between the beautiful cities of Calabasas, Woodland Hills, Agoura, and Simi Valley.
A Brief History
Long ago this open space parkland was inhabited by the Chumash Native Americans for thousands of years. Then in 1769 the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition passed through the area in exploration for land along the El Camino Real. It became a prime movie location in the 1920’s through the 1950’s filming epics such as Gone with the Wind. More recently, a major bank bought the property focusing on this unspoiled wilderness for developing large suburban homes. Thankfully their plans fell through and in 2003 Ahmanson Ranch became the property of the State of California, thus becoming a corridor for wildlife, a reserve for endangered species, and a natural park for everyone to enjoy.
It’s 6:30pm and the weather is a comfortable 80 degrees on this late June evening. The sky is blue, the hills are golden, and the foliage a lush green. Twenty-nine hikers are in my group, led by Dave, the coolest exploratory leader of the pack. Our special guest hikers today are Gretchen the goat (yes, we have a goat in our pack), Penny the pug, and Buster the lab. A handful of hikers began early while the rest of us waited for last minute stragglers to arrive. After a few stretching exercises we commence into the parkland, beginning at the Victory Head Trail. As far as the eye can see are miles of rolling hills blanketed with golden wild oat dotted with oak trees. This is a place where the soul can thrive.
The 4.2 mile hike with a 400 foot gain, stretching along hillsides and canyons, is suitable for a advanced beginner. For an intermediate hiker such as myself, I had the opportunity to slow down and listen to nature at work, observe the sights and smells, breathe in the clean air, and focus on the good things in life. The gentle breeze and subtle sounds of the wild oat brushing against one another gave a calming sensation as the air cooled in the evening sun.
Around the bend I didn’t notice right away until I looked up only to catch sight of a lone oak tree standing tall on the hill above me. Just being what it is, and not much different than other trees resting above the trails, there was something special about its element of surprise. Its purpose, I suppose, is to remind hikers passing by to know that the truth of love is not found on the outside but on the inside. Life is too short to carry the burden of worries on our shoulders, release them and observe the beauty that surrounds all of us, everyday and always.
One step in front of the other, we move on to what seems like an endless, bountiful, field of dreams. We remain on the trails but I imagine myself averting from the group, walking through the fields, alone, sweeping the palms of my hands along the tops of the wild oat. Then I stop. I feel myself becoming the lone oak tree, just being who I am and remembering the truth of love in this vast space in time.
As the Sun Sets
The golden hour is approaching, the air is cooler, and our shadows grow longer as the sun begins its descent past the hilltops. This is the time when magic takes place, when the land and sky alters itself into a new work of art: purples, pinks, oranges, reds, and yellows inhabit the sky; shadowy red hues replace the fields of the golden wild oat; the lush green foliage become unmarked objects; the tall oak trees darken against the evening sky.
The hike comes to an end as the darkness of night begins to replace the light of day. A dancing oak tree with night birds perched atop of its branches silhouettes the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset. The sounds of the birds fade out as the crickets, frogs, and other nocturnal wildlife, awaken to the beauty of the night.
For more information on the Ahmanson Ranch Open Space Reserve please visit the following websites:
- Ahmanson Ranch – Santa Monica Mountains
- Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch)
- From the City of Calabases: Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve