California: never been there and going

California 000

On the week of October 7th, my family is traveling out to the Ojai Valley area of California for a week. My wife Maria is partaking in seminars all week long, leaving me and my three boys to explore the local area. I’m asking if anybody is familiar with the area and has any advice for entertainment. I’m looking for hiking and nature trails, historic land marks and any place that you would think boys  10, 13 and, 14 years of age might be interested in. Also any potential hazards that an east coast person would not be aware of. Thank you for your help, Michael.

  1. Redneck Garage said:

    President Ronald Reagan’s Library is just north of “LA” and has the last version of Air Force One on display. You are able to walk through from just behind the cockpit to the rear of Air Force One. Places to avoid? All of the freeways. Traffic in LA is really bad.

    • talain45 said:

      I like the idea of visiting that version of Air Force One. I’ll look it up, Thank you very much.

      • Julia said:

        The Reagan Library is absolutely beautiful, with gorgeous views of the surrounding country. I have a couple of photos on my blog that were taken there. You can search “Reagan Library” and see them. I highly recommend it.

  2. I live in Northern CA but I love the Ojai area. It’s a rural area in comparison with other CA cities but it’s an area that draws some of the stars from the LA area when they want some R&R so because of that, the area has some really good restaurants. You will be able to find some nice hiking and bike trails in the area. I hope you’re staying at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, it’s wonderful. Also, a fun day trip would be to go up to Santa Barbara – a 45 minute ride from Ojai. SB is a fun area to visit. Have fun!

  3. I’m not familiar with the area, but my brother-in-law grew up there. I’ve sent a request that he visit the blog if he has any suggestions.

  4. My brother-in-law said:
    There used to be trails up to Nordoff Peak overlooking Ojai, its north and overlooks Ojai. Also the Sesape Creek area used to be quite beautiful, I found a web site ( Then there is Topa Topa a mountain area east of Ojai but visible from / to Ojai very rugged and difficult trails but may have been greatly improved since I was last there in the 50’s.

    • talain45 said:

      OK, That sounds great. I’ll take a look at the site, it sounds like something up my alley. Thank you Nina 🙂

  5. hi Michael, i am so looking forward to your beautiful captures when you go west … keep safe and have a great adventure with the boys.

  6. talain45 said:

    Hopefully I can come away with some nice images to share. I’m getting some good ideas for an adventure or two, it should be fun except for the flying. Thank you for your encouragement, Michael 🙂

  7. Julia said:

    We lived for 3.5 years near Lompoc, and loved it. I highly recommend a day in Santa Barbara, a beautiful city. If you are up for a longer drive, the little town of Solvang used to be fun to visit. I haven’t been there for years, but driving up the coast from Santa Barbara is a nice drive anyway. Have fun – it’s wonderful!

    • The coastal drive sounds great. If the boys don’t like, hopefully I can steal Maria away from the seminar and I think we would both enjoy that. I like the idea about the Reagan library, I am a little timid of going south towards LA. Of course, I am timid of going downtown Binghamton in my area, a city of 60,000, or is that the whole Broome county, I don’t know. I guess sometimes I’ll have to take some risks. Thank you Julia.

    • Thank you. Everything is helpful, seeing that I did not find this site on my own. 🙂

  8. Ojai is really more an “adults go to have a spa weekend” type of town. There are some beautiful hiking trails there and your sure to see some great wildlife (supposedly Matt Moneymaker saw his very first Bigfoot in Ojai). Be sure to stay aware of the fact that we have transverse mountains, which mean they run east to west, not north to south.

    Things to keep in mind about Ojai . . . it will be very hot and dry and maybe incredibly windy (due to the Santa Ana winds are coming this week) when you arrive. I’m talking temps near 90. Ojai is a valley and it’s inland. It’s typically much hotter than the coastal plain. But at night it’s much cooler. Hike with lots of water, lots of sunscreen, and wearing layers. The winds typically slack off after a few days, but keep aware if you hike out during the windy period that these are Red Flag conditions. There is a very really possibility of a wildfire.

    Red Flag warnings are usually announced on the evening news. It means no fire of any kind is permitted. Also, stay away from hiking off trails or in really remote areas. People grow marijuana in the national parks out here. They won’t have a problem shooting you. Most of these fields are run by Mexican drug cartels. Seriously. If you’re out in the dawn/ twilight, you’ll probably see deer, coyotes, hawks, condors, lots of bunnies. Rarely does anyone see mountain lions or bears. On hot days, watch for snakes in the road. They won’t attack you unless you bug them. But rattlesnakes are a problem.

    Most trails are well marked. Although you can hike anywhere, you’re better off staying near water. Sespe Creek, Matilija Creek (West Falls), Vickers Hot Springs. All in Ojai. (Also Wheeler Gorge nearer to Ventura is popular with local people.) Topa Topa is a challenging 15+ mile hike. It’s likely too difficult for your boys. It’s best avoided. Lake Casitas is nearby Ojai. It’s another great recreational area. It has a snack bar, boat rentals, bike rentals, and a grocery store. It’s next to the Los Padres National Forest, so another place to hike. If you can lay hand on rods, there’s bass fishing. (Swimming is forbidden.)

    In Ojai (as in most California cities), there’s biking, horseback riding, golf, tennis, boating, fishing, bird watching, kayaking. You can usually rent whatever you need. Everyone goes to Meditation Mountain at least once. And of course the iconic Bart’s Books. Libbey Bowl might be worth visiting too, the Ojai World Music Festival is the 12th. Ojai is sort of an art’s colony so there are lots of galleries to visit. But the Ojai Studio Artists 30th Tour is October 12 and 13, 2013. Basically you drive to people’s homes and look at their art. It’s interesting.

    The person who recommended the Reagan Museum had a good idea. It would be a drive. On the order of 1 or more. But it is worth it. If your boys like airplanes and your heading south anyway, stop in Camarillo, about half way to the presidential library, and see the museum of war planes too. It’s very interesting.
    It’d be a nice full day trip. There’s also the Camarillo Ranch house. A really nice Queen Anne house, if you’re looking for something picture worth.

    There are a few nearby cities that are worth the bother. Carpenteria is on the coast. It’s known for its endless beach. It’s a shelf about a half mile wide, where you can walk out and never been in more than 3 feet of water. It also has an avocado festival, but it ends Oct 6.

    Buellton isn’t much, it’s near Solvang, but there’s an Ostrich/Emu farm you can visit. One of the nice things about a trip to Solvang is that you can travel inland over the winding San Marcos Pass through beautiful countyside to get there or along the coast highway hitting the Nojoqui Falls as a nice stop — about a 15min hike in from the highway. Needless to say, the falls are better looking when we’ve had some rain. Sept starts our rainy season, but we haven’t had any yet. Still, a nice stop. Then maybe some Pea Soup at Anderson’s (no relation) in Buellton and on to Solvang.

    I like Solvang, but some people don’t. Solvang has a Vintage Motor Cycle museum, which the boys might enjoy — be sure to call ahead. There’s also the Mission Santa Ines. The Flying V Llama Ranch. The nature cruise at Cachuma Lake. (There’s a Cachuma Casino as well, but I don’t go there.) They offer glider rides in the Santa Ynez, but they can be pricey. Cold Spring Tavern is also out that way and can be fun for a meal.

    Ventura has some great architecture, a lot of houses were built in the Victorian era till the 1920s. Walk down from the courthouse to the Victorian Rose and pop in. It used to be a church now it’s an inn. Just amazing. If you want landmarks, stop and see the San Buenaventura Mission, right on mainstreet. Visit the old courthouse on Main where the statue of Fr Serra stands. The courthouse is registered as California Historical Landmark #847 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Beautiful Beaux-arts building. Also in Ventura, is the old Olivas Adobe.

    Ventura has lots to do. You can go snorkling. There are several places you can race gokarts. You could go kayaking. The pier has fishing. Rent some bikes. Learn to surf. Your not that far from Malibu, just down the coast road. Some people like to say they’ve surfed Malibu. But Ventura has better waves. Island Packers is a ship service that takes people out to the Channel Islands (If you read Island of the Blue Dolphin, that’s the same island.). They can let you kayak around the sea caves and even hike on the island.

    For a unique experience, take in the panoramic view of Ventura from the “Top of the Harbor” Ballroom at the Crown Plaza. It’s just an elevator ride to the top floor. It’s 360 degrees of glass. It used to be rotating restaurant!

    If anyone likes trains, there’s the Fillmore & Western Railway. It’s south, in Santa Paula/Fillmore. The rides can be expensive. It’s one of the last steam trains. They do a halloween run in Oct. If you’re willing to drive, there are some great car museums in LA (though the tickets can be pricey). The Petersen, The Nethercut, The American Driving Museum. Some stuff people want to visit are based on personal interests. The Rock Store, in Malibu, or Neptune’s Net, is a biker mecca. Everyone goes there on weekends. But it’s the most nothing place. It’s so California though.

    Another nearby city is Santa Barbara. It has a beautiful mission. Santa Barbara has a few adobes as well, the Hastings, the Carrillo, Casa de la guerra, and the Covarrubias Adobes. And the Old Lobero Theater and Courthouse are also historic and beautiful. El Presidio is interesting. Is it beautiful? I don’t think so but it’s historic. Santa Barbara does have some great hiking, a botanical garden, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Ty Warner Sea Center, (on Stearn’s Wharf), and a zoo. For musical fun the Old Time Fiddlers Music Festival is in Goleta (just above SB) the 13th. Always fun.

    Most of all, relax, have fun and keep your eyes peeled for the Yellow Billed Magpie. It’s known to hang out at Lake Cachuma and in the Santa Barbara County area. It’s the only place in the USA you can see it!

    • Wow Ingrid, I sent you a picture, you sent me a book 🙂 outstanding, a lot of good ideas here. Lot of the stuff you mentioned I haven’t stumbled across on any of my forays glancing through the internet, especially the coastal areas you’ve mentioned, and I’m interested in seeing some of the adobes architecture as well. I think my boys are really going to go nuts over the War Plane museum. I do have to say thank you, thank you very much, a lot of good stuff here, I was not aware of the winds, a lot of good pointers I hadn’t considered. With much thanks and appreciation, Michael

      • You might also try contacting the local Boy Scout group. They meet weekly and the scout master will certainly have some ideas of hikes and activities that will appeal to your boys. Meetings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ojai United Methodist Church, 120 Church Road. or call Bill O’Brien at 646-1542.

        And check the calendar on Friday for general upcoming events in ojai next week.

  9. It’s no problem. I live in the area and I know all the places. For the most part Ventura Co is the safest place in the country. The people are friendly and diverse. Really, even the marijuana growers aren’t a horrible problem as they tend to stay deep in the national parks. And too, since we approved pot usage for medical conditions, there’s less to fight about.

    Here are a few more I remembered talking with friends last night. If you take the drive from Solvang out to the coast, and down to Ventura (which you sort of have to do to get back to Ojai), keep a look out to the coast, there are many beautiful train tressels that rise high above the sea. They can be spectacular when the Coast Starlight is flying over them. Might be some good snaps.

    Rincon and McGrath are two of our best beaches. You’ll see that along the 101 there are places it’s ok to just pull over and walk the beach. If you drive down as far as Point Mugu, it’s a naval base, you’ll come across the missile testing range. Not sure if they’ll be testing or not. It’s also a bird reserve.

    Anyway, at Pt Mugu State Park there’s a huge The Great Sand Dune (400ft vertical) that’s a must for locals to sandboard. Great for climbing up and taking pics too.

    And there’s Point Mugu rock, famous locally. People often try to climb it — but it’s dangerous! It’s actually and important Chumash Indian site. It’s where the souls of the dead depart into eternity.

    If you head to the Reagan Museum, you’ll pass through a town called Newbury Park. Right off the freeway is the Stagecoach Inn. It’s a landmark and might be worth a 10 min detour and a snap.

    The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is the gateway to Ellwood Main Monarch Grove, one of the largest Monarch butterfly over-wintering groves in California. The Monarchs are coming in starting in October and there in full by Feb, but it’s worth going to just to see the grove. It’s maybe a 2 mile hike along the coast of Santa Barbara. Beautiful!

    In Ventura, there’s Things From Heaven. It’s a shop on Main Go in and take a snap of the back corner. It’s full of post-it notes locals leave with prayer requests. It’s something only locals know about and do. Be sure to leave some requests! You can read an article about the shop here

    If your sons are thinking of college out of state, you might take the guided visitors’ tour of UC Santa Barbara. Sometimes teenagers need to know there’s a world beyond high school. You can also do a self-guided tour There’s also a couple of lagoon walks. One at UCSB and another called the Devereux Lagoon/Coal Point walk — lots of interesting stuff on that hike, if you like history. You can see more

    Your sons might also like the Port Hueneme Seabee Museum. But because of the government shut down, it might be closed so call ahead. Point Hueneme also has a lighthouse you might like.

    You asked about places to avoid, Oxnard can be rough in parts. Even though there are a lot of military families in these areas, there are a lot of gangs too. Oxnard is a farming community. Lots of migrant workers and undocumented immigrants. Every weekend there’s some shooting or stabbing because “friends” got drunk and had a fight. Honestly, best avoided.

    I know I haven’t been much help with Ojai itself. Sorry. As for the other recommendations, I know some might seem far flung but Californians tend to drive great distances and think nothing of it. No one here tells you it’s 20 miles away. They say “It’s 10 minutes away.” It’s all about drive times here. Also people in giving directions will sometimes tell you go “UP” when they mean south and “Down” when they mean north. I have no idea why. So, ask for street names.

    • talain45 said:

      Thank you again, you continue to amaze us. Some great ideas here, the marshes are up my alley, Monarch Grove and coastal area sound wonderful. The Seabee Museum would definitely please my middle son “Nicholas”. Thanks for everything again, Michael 🙂

      • FYI Because of the Federal Shutdown, the Reagan Library is closed, but Airforce One and its pavillion are still open to the public because a private group owns that. So, your boys don’t have to miss out.

  10. There are quite a few places on my blog as I am also in the L.A. area. Have been here since Sept 3 and will be here till Oct 20. I have pictures and commentary – go to category Travel Photography. The beaches, the piers, the desert areas, Knotts Berry Farm – all stuff the kids would love!

    • Thank you, I’ll do that. Any help has got to help. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll get back to you after I visit your blog. 🙂

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