On the nature of seeing… & the Arroyo Conejo Trail

IMG_4052-2I’ve been hiking almost daily since the first of June. And with that, a significant amount of time to spend quality time by myself which means more than enough time to listen to my own thoughts. Today I explored the Arroyo Conejo trail which is part of the Wildwood Regional Park trail system in Thousand Oaks. It is a pleasant trail that starts at the Rancho Conejo Playfields in Newbury Park, just off Ventu Park Road. Very easy to find and I did not encounter a single person during the two and a half hours on the trail.

Today’s thoughts wandered into those deeper places of meaning that I tend to venture in to occasionally. I noticed that over the years of exploring nature, I have always collected things. Rocks, feathers, bones, plants. When I was obsessed with collecting rocks, that was all I could see. Rocks everywhere of every different kind caught my eye. I would travel to different places and would return with handfuls, if not boxes full of rocks. They now decorate my yard nicely and I can remember the places that they came from, reminding me of the adventures I’ve been on. Then, it was feathers. It was rare that I would come back from a walk without a feather. I would see them everywhere and gained a nice collection… Raven, crow, great-horned owl, red tailed hawk, falcon, mockingbird, blue jay, dove, etc. I have a few displays of them around my house. After the Springs Fire here in Newbury Park a few years ago that devastated many of my hiking trails, I began to find bones. So, bones began to show up everywhere. My most treasured in my collection is a bobcat jaw and a pristine raven skull.

I don’t notice the rocks anymore. No more feathers, no more bones. All I see now are plants.

We can only see what we want to see. Is there suddenly no more feathers and bones on the trails? Of course there are rocks, but I don’t see them like I used to. They don’t look up at me and say “Hello there! Please take me home!” The trails are not suddenly devoid of feathers and bones. They are out there, I’m just too focused on seeing the plants. Seeing what I want to see. Searching for what I think I want.

Is this analogous to other things? Of course. It’s perspective and how we interpret the world around us. Maybe I’m taking it a bit too far, but these material items that I have been collecting and searching for seem to correlate to my relationship with myself and life. When I was searching for rocks, I desired stability and strength to keep the status quo. Not to change anything and just bear through it. I dreamed of a happier life but didn’t want to “rock the boat.” When feathers became a prominent focus, I was moving toward that “freedom” and independence that was so desperately needed. Bones—I was leaving the past behind, but still holding on, even though there was nothing left.

So where does that put me now? As I move through these cycles and seasons of life, I am now focused on seeing the plants. The life, growth and joy. Embracing the journey of growth from a small tightly bound seed to a flowering, sprawling plant, soaking up the energies and lifeforce of the sun and world around it.

So, with that, here is my journey today on the Arroyo Conejo trail.

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The first part of the trail is exposed chaparral with lots of the typical California sagebrush, purple sage and sumac species such as lemonade berry, laurel sumac and sugar bush.

Plenty of open meadows covered in wild oat and various grasses, all turned yellow now this late in the year. See top photo.

The trail itself hugs the edge of the neighborhood with some new construction towards the edge of the ridge. The trail connects to the Lynnmere trail which veers off towards the east or, going straight, heads down into the canyon. During the descent, there is a nice little trickle of water seeping out from the side of the mountain with a few trees to offer some shade.

Further down into the canyon, under the scrub oaks, you arrive at the first crossing of the river. This would be a nice place to break with kids and let them explore the riparian area.

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Arriving at the water, under the oaks
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The first river crossing

 

Through the canyon, the trail crosses the river a total of four times. With all this water and the heat, of course, brings out the bugs. I’ve made note to develop a bug repellent.

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A honey bee collecting pollen on a chaparral mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus)

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An abundance of Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)

This was a beautiful trail, full of wonderful and joyful plants and definitely a place to bring the kids. Just be mindful that it is about a 30-45 minutes to get to the first water crossing and it is uphill getting back.

Until next time on the trail…

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