After an embarrassingly long time trying to discern the difference between Wildwood Canyon Park in Burbank and Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, we elected to make the hour drive into Ventura County to check this little trail out. How could you say no to a hike that features “Paradise Falls”?
The afternoon was exquisite. The temperature rested in the low 60’s. The sky was tattooed with whiskery clouds.
A Cat’s Cradle of trails led us from the parking lot and up over the bluff. I was a bit discombobulated as to where to go, which trail was which. Instead of worrying about it, I checked out the cacti, the lovely bluff in the distance and kept a watchful eye for rattlesnakes.
I’m not a fan of the rattlesnake.
The Wild West (AKA Thousand Oaks)
We followed the signs for Paradise Falls and on the way happened upon the surprising tepee lookout you see below. A cement bench area was provided underneath the shade and we stopped to eat some mango and soak up the beautiful scene.
No Indians were hurt in the taking of this picture
After that brief, pleasant respite we headed out, descending down into the canyon at a rapid clip. The hills shone with a luminescent green brought by the winter rains . A lone hawk circled just over our heads, but occupied a different universe than our own; our universes overlapped for a few minutes, sharing space and time, before the hawk floated away from sight. Was it ever really there?
People say colors don’t really exist. They’re just the deception of wavelengths and energies and their intensity; it’s our eye’s machinery translating physics. I don’t know. I see color everywhere. I believe it exists. I fell in love with a pair of blue eyes underneath the yellow California sun and I believe in that, and I heard her calling me just then, snapping my Junior College science class flashback, encouraging me to catch up.
We reach the sign pointing to the Falls and could hear the people gathered around it. We seemed to reach this point a lot of faster than we expected. This was supposed to be a three-mile hike?
This way to see a teenage boy chicken out
Not that I expected to be alone once I reached the falls, however, I didn’t expect a teenage boy lodged for twenty minutes on the edge of the waterfall. His girlfriend, his buddy and his buddy’s girlfriend all watched from below, hooting at him and prodding him to jump. Even some random kids and their mom watched and waited, taunting. Other hikers recorded him with their iPhones.
But the kid wouldn’t jump.
Jump or get out of the picture
There was a sign that said NO CLIMBING ON THE ROCKS and another one that said NO SWIMMING. I’m sure diving off the waterfall violated both of them.
His buddy swam out and assured the zit-filled daredevil that it was deep enough to jump. Our would-be jumper edged out on the rock, looked down at the water, then wiggled back up the rock; then he did it again, edged out on the rock, looked down, wiggled back; in that order, over and over.
The little kids chanted, ‘Jump. Jump. Jump.’ Then they tried to coax him to leap by counting down, ‘Three. Two. One.’ The tentative cliff diver wouldn’t budge. His ass was glued to that rock, spoiling any decent photograph one should attempt.
Eventually his buddy climbed up and, without fanfare, dove bravely into the water, making a gentle splash and quietly assuming Alpha status in a graceful show of courage. (And stupidity if you ask me — I wouldn’t jump into that shitty, cold, bacteria-filled puddle if you paid me gold bullion.)
The girlfriend called her boyfriend, ‘a pussy,’ and told him to either jump or come down, she was leaving and was starting to get mad. She barked at him to come now! Like both dog and master. She looked cold, and angry. I don’t think he was going to get lucky tonight.
The teenage boy then sheepishly chickened out and crept back down the rock to catch up with the others.
Finally I could take some real pictures.
Forget your life
Change your perspective
Not too long, we grew tired of staring at the falls. Maybe it’s just me, but I get bored rather quickly by waterfalls. All you do is watch water drop in the exact same location and speed, a predictable, steady sophomoric hum that lulls you into the house of nod. Don’t the Chinese have some similar torture method?
After witnessing the Japanese Tsunami on TV I am unimpressed by such simple displays. It’s perverse in a way, how media and the proliferation of video cameras capturing everything — the video taping of disasters like the Japanese Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of ’04 and even 9-11 — have desensitized us to cataclysmic events, has affected our perception of the natural world and our relatively benevolent place in it.
How am I supposed to appreciate a simple stream of water spilling over a 50 foot sandstone cliff in the suburbs? That’ s Atari stuff. We’re in a 3-D, X-Box world now. You have to do better than that, Paradise Falls, to get my attention!
Or maybe I do… a better job… at appreciating the small blessings in life. The bunny rabbit blessings. The pine cone blessings.
We set off again, following a family of ducks upstream through the pie wedge canyon.
Row. Row. Row your boat.
This next portion of the trail was more interesting. It was small as a pool pocket and hug the side of the hill tenderly, like a mother holding a newborn baby. There was more of that cacti landscaping and a hole in the clay they call “Indian Cave”. This wasn’t as egregious as the “tepee”, but I’m curious if the Chumas Tribe ever used it as shelter or if it’s just Thousand Oaks City Council pizzazz.
Part of our local history, the Chumash, lived on this land in a vastly different way than our swimming pools and SUVs, McDonalds and cable TV. I pictured them fishing in their canoes, walking the canyon, five hundred years ago, running from bears, not one headshot in the group.
We popped through the top of Indian Cave and scrambled up a small deer path to catch up with Moonridge Trail for the final stretch back to the parking lot.
Along the way I tried to fake my girlfriend out, pretended I sprained my ankle by wincing in pain and hobbling. She didn’t buy the act and called me a dork, so I chased her up the trail. Once I finally caught her, I tickled her into submission.
It’s like a small nativity play of our relationship.
A pine cone blessing.
We enjoyed this last part of the trail immensely. The intimacy of the hills and the lushness of the spring foliage fed us some giddy, giddy-up-and-go spirit. The hike had a nice, mellow finish; yet, when we got back to the car I was still ready for more, like I had an appetizer and my appetite was whetted for the main course.
Don’t get me wrong, as far as neighborhood hikes go, this one is really special and anybody would be lucky to have this in their backyard. Overall, Wildwood is a beautiful, relaxing slice of nature, however, considering the distance from L.A., I was hoping for a longer, meatier hike… more removed, more challenging, and more eventful — especially when there’s a “Paradise Falls” and an “Indian Cave”.
In the end, I guess, I just wanted… more.
The waterfall wasn’t bad, an engaging and efficient spout, but it wasn’t amazing, awe-inspiring, ecclesiastical. Also, the fact that it was such a short hike to the falls made me appreciate it less. Weird. That’s just in my head, I know, but that’s how it is.
Which is not to say I disliked Wildwood. It was green and tranquil and I saw some ducks and I saw a chicken. It was a nice walk, in a nice part of the world. Definitely worth lacing up the hiking boots… Just maybe something to save for later in your Los Angeles hiking quest.