Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Point Mugu State Park

Until a few days ago, it seemed that many state parks would be closed to help ease the budget crisis in California. A public outcry and the realization that it might cost more to keep the parks closed than open apparently deep-sixed the closures. There is no good brought by a false economy during an economic recession.

Point Mugu State Park, along the coast and just north of the community of the Los Angeles - Ventura county line, is a beautiful enclave, a natural retreat from the nearby and ever-encroaching megalopolises. The park includes a beach tucked between a pair of ridges that run from the mountains to the sea, the reasonably-sized Sycamore Canyon campground, and the northern reaches of the rugged Santa Monica Mountains. There are miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, too, for those who would like to penetrate the park's backcountry.

Each year I conduct at least a few camping trips to Point Mugu on behalf a variety of family groups. This year the groups included families from public and private elementary schools, a synagogue, and a family reunion.

Usually I bring my mountain bike and my camera, too; I did last weekend. We snagged most of the tree-covered campsites in a cul de sac of the campground. In between setting up the commissary, feeding over 50 parents and kids, and organizing activities (all with the help of my loyal staff), I made a few photographs and in the company of my friend Carlos, I took a couple of rides on my mountain bike.

One of the rides was at night. For early autumn, the evening was unusually - and pleasantly - warm. With about half a moon unable to light our way, we resorted to bike lights as we made our way out of the campground, along a flat road that leads through Sycamore Canyon into the interior of the park. With the branches of giant sycamore trees silhouetted against the night sky, we were surrounded with the sounds of insects splitting the air with the cacophony of their chirping.

When we finished our short ride we sank into our sleeping bags. In the morning, we would nourish almost 60 people with breakfast. For now we were lulled to sleep by the repetitive slap of the waves echoing off those ridges that bookmark the beach.

Next year, it will apparently cost more to camp than it would to stay in a comfortable motel. The cost to just park a car and hike or bike in the park will probably double. Will that just be a sign of the times, or a false economy?

As usual, click on a photo for a larger-sized image.

Below: a snippet - and some sounds - of our night ride

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