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Santa Barbara’s “Wild World of Orchids”

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the  Santa Barbara International Orchid Show  might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Orchid enthusiasts from around the world will be in Santa Barbara this weekend for the 71st Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“This is the biggest show in the United States,” said George Hatfield, president of this year’s show.

“This is an opportunity for the community to see orchids that they would have to travel around the world and pay thousands of dollars in airline tickets to see.”

“We have people from all continents except from Antarctica that are going to be displaying orchids.” Said Hatfield.

Many of the orchids being showcased feature details so intricate, it’s hard to believe they come from nature. They look more like precious works of art.

Hatfield explains exhibitors spend thousands of dollars on the orchids going into their displays.

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

“Wild World of Orchids” is the theme of this year’s show, which also features orchid art, photography, floral arrangement and corsage competitions.

In addition to the floral displays, an entire exhibit hall is devoted to orchid sales. Many attendees take advantage of the chance to bring potted orchids and arrangements home.

 

Listen: Click to listen to my podcast with George Hatfield, president of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“60 vendors from around the world will bring a lot of exotic orchids that you don’t normally see at our local nurseries,” said Hatfield.

The International Cymbidium Conference takes place in tandem with the show, so there’s the chance to sign up for workshops and other events.

“Santa Barbara is kind of ground zero of cymbidium orchids, said Hatfield. “Cymbidiums started here in Santa Barbara and they’ve been a very big part of this show for many years.”

Exotic orchids on display at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Exotic orchids will be on display this weekend at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The annual event brings in attendees by the busload to Earl Warren Showgrounds.  It’s a favorite stop for photographers, too.

“The orchid show is HUGE!” said photographer Ken Pfeiffer, who often attends to capture photos of the exotic orchids and extravagant botanical arrangements.

“It’s a visual feast of a seemingly unlimited variety of orchids from around the world. Some are exhibited individually as priceless solitary jewels, and some in massive artistic arrangements. The incredible colors and natural majesty are not to be missed!”

For the best photo-ops, Hatfield suggests arriving early, while the flowers are at their peak and the crowds are the thinnest.

The show runs from 9am-5pm Friday-Sunday (March 4-6, 2016) at Earl Warren Showgrounds. General admission is $14; seniors and students with ID are $12. Children 12 and under are free with an adult. For more information go to SBOrchidShow.com

 

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Santa Barbara Bird Watching

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

A group of Santa Barbara bird enthusiasts had their eyes to the skies (and seas) over New Year’s weekend.  Beginning at 12:01 AM on January 2nd, they spent 24 hours tallying up the many varieties of birds spotted in the area as part of the 116th Audubon Society Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count. In recent years, Santa Barbara has ranked high in both diversity of species as well as the total number of birds. And, numbers from this year’s CBC indicate that the “American Riviera” is still a popular stop for feathered fliers.

Final numbers will continue to be crunched for the next few weeks. But, preliminary results show counters spotted 210 different species in the Santa Barbara CBC circle, which is 15 miles in diameter, centered at the intersection of Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road.

Organizers are confident this number should be enough to put Santa Barbara in second place, behind San Diego (where 220 species were counted).

“Our total of 210 will most likely go to 211, but that will not be confirmed until after this weekend,” said Rebecca Coulter, with the Santa Barbara CBC circle (there were separate counting circles in Carpinteria, Cachuma, Lompoc and other parts of the county). “Either way, that puts us in second place statewide, behind San Diego’s amazing total of 220.”

“But remember, we are counting more than species. We are counting all the individual birds observed by the counters during that 24 hour period,” added Coulter. “The big picture is that it’s a census that gives us information about relative abundance or scarcity, in addition to species diversity. And because it’s the longest running citizen science project out there, there’s a lot of data to compare it to.”

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

This year’s highlights include the Tufted Duck, returning for a third winter, on a private reservoir in north Goleta. And, a bald eagle was spotted soaring over South La Cumbre Peak. Organizers say notable misses include the Ross’s Goose, Snow Goose and Yellow-Billed Magpie.

“It should be noted that we were second in the state this year but 5th in the country. The first 3 spots were all Texas. Last year we were 2nd in the country, ahead of San Diego and behind only Mad Marsh/Matagorda Texas, which had 234 species last year to our 214 and had 239 this year,” added an EdHat reader who posted this comment on my story at the Santa Barbara community news website.

Bird Watching in Santa Barbara

It’s easy to spot a variety of different bird species while walking in Santa Barbara. Long-legged Great blue Heron and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in waterways from the Coal Oil Point Reserve next to UC Santa Barbara to Carpinteria’s Salt Marsh Reserve.  I love seeing the array of shorebird species walking on the beach. And, it’s not unusual to spot rare hawks or other raptors from hiking trails, or perched on a telephone line.

Last weekend, photographer Ken Pfeiffer and I walked from the now-defunct Ocean Meadows Golf Course in Goleta to the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Here are some of the bird species we spotted along the way.

Other good places for bird watching in Santa Barbara include the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Click here to find more Santa Barbara birding hot spots.

Click here for a more comprehensive guide to Santa Barbara bird watching.

Check out ebird for more details on Santa Barbara’s Christmas Bird Count. And, for a guide (including photos) to some local urban birds, check out this Birds of Santa Barbara Guide for Kids and Grown Ups. 

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Gaviota Side Trip: Nojoqui Falls Park

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

Here’s a fun little side trip the next time you drive Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County between the Gaviota Coast and Solvang:  Nojoqui Falls Park & The Farm-Stead.

The Farm-Stead is a cute little store that sells fresh organic produce, and offers the opportunity to pick your own.

Families were gathering raspberries and strawberries in their roadside garden during my recent Sunday visit. I bought some heirloom cantaloupes which were sweet and delicious!  There are goats, mules and pigs in a pen out back, with a bucket of veggies that customers can feed the animals. The Farm-Stead is located along Old Coast Highway Road in Gaviota, although the ocean is nowhere in sight.

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls Park (pronounced no-HO-wee) is just up the road from The Farm-Stead. Shaded by rustic oaks dripping with moss. There are picnic tables for day visits, so pack a lunch or pick up fresh snacks at The Farm-Stead. It’s typically an easy hike to Nojoqui Falls (although chances are you won’t see much water because of the drought), but the trail was closed on the day I visited (July 2016) because of a mudslide.

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

These spots are located above the Gaviota tunnel off Highway 101, heading north you’ll make a right just off the highway. You’ll come to the Farm-Stead first, and then make a left on Alisol (easy signage) to get to Nojoqui Park.  This route is also a scenic short cut into Solvang.

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Traffic411 Insider Tip: There’s a free electric vehicle (EV) charging station outside the Farm-Stead. Pick some berries while you’re charging your EV battery!

Distance from LAX: 139 miles

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“Stand in the Sand” Santa Barbara

Hundreds of  concerned citizens come together for the "Stand in the Sand" rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of concerned citizens come together for the “Stand in the Sand” rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of citizens concerned about the environmental damage caused by the Refugio Oil Spill peacefully gathered in De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday to show their support for a fossil-fuel free future.

'Panzumo' drummers keep the beat at "Stand in the Sand" Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

‘Panzumo’ drummers keep the beat at “Stand in the Sand” Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Organizers of the “Stand in the Sand” community rally urged speakers and attendees to keep the messages positive. The vibe among the 500 attendees of all ages was cool and calm throughout the afternoon.  There were many families with young kids carrying signs decorated with fishes urging ‘save my ocean friends.’

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider kicked off the speeches. On stage with some city council member colleagues, Schneider described the distressing situation at the Refugio Oil Spill off the Gaviota coast.  “It’s still a shocking site. There’s black covered rocks, saturated soil, a strong smell still permeates the air.”  Schneider warned the crowd, “under the status quo we will see more spills in the future… but we’re here because we want to see another alternative.” She called for supporting efforts toward a clean energy future.

(Click the player below to listen to Mayor Helene Schneider’s speech)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf took the stage next.  “These past two weeks have not been a happy time,” said Wolf. “The pictures of extreme oil production and the impacts it’s had on our coast have been horrible.”

Sign carrying "Stand in the Sand" ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Sign carrying “Stand in the Sand” ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Angry over being denied early access to the spill site to survey damage, Wolf has spoken out about restricted access for reporters and others trying to get a first hand glimpse of the destruction the broken Refugio pipeline has caused.  She described her frustration when she keeps hearing that the tarred beaches are due to oil seeps (natural, or coming from offshore drilling platforms), “this is not a seep, this is an oil spill that’s affected our wildlife, our coastline.”

Ralliers "Stand in the Sand" on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Ralliers “Stand in the Sand” on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Katie Davis, head of the Santa Barbara area chapter of The Sierra Club, passionately said the environmental non-profit provided funds to help cover the costs of the “Stand in the Sand” rally “because the message coming out of Santa Barbara right now matters, not just to us, but to the planet” as lawmakers consider a proposal to drill off the California coastline and in other parts of the world.

(Click player below to listen to The Sierra Club message at Stand in the Sand)


After the speeches, the crowd marched peacefully down State Street to the beach. Lining up along the water’s edge of West Beach they held hands to form a human boom ‘to symbolically stem the rising black tide’ of oil.

Officers from the Santa Barbara Police Department made sure the crowd safely made it to the beach. Following the rally, officers blocked traffic as chanters carried a giant black inflatable pipeline back up State Street to De la Guerra Plaza following the beachfront demonstration.

Special thanks to Carpinteria-based photographer Ken Pfeiffer for sharing his wonderful photos with Traffic411 readers!

"Clean Energy" chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the "Stand in the Sand" rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

“Clean Energy” chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the “Stand in the Sand” rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he's seeing on sea life all around the world.  (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he’s seeing on sea life all around the world. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Members of Santa Barbara's 'Save the Mermaids" gather at the "Stand in the Sand" rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Members of Santa Barbara’s ‘Save the Mermaids” gather at the “Stand in the Sand” rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

 

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn's Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn’s Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

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Santa Monica Daycations

A great thing about living in Southern California is you don’t have to travel far to at least FEEL like you are on vacation, even if it’s only for a few hours.

Palisades Park Santa Monica

Palisades Park is a beautiful place to talk or relax, taking in gorgeous views of the Santa Monica Bay.

Santa Monica is a favorite quick getaway for me.   Walking in Palisades Park with it’s beautiful green grass, palm trees and well-manicured rose garden is a gorgeous sight to take in plus it’s atop a bluff that overlooks the beautiful Santa Monica coastline.  And, with temperatures rarely getting out of the 70s, Santa Monica comfortable place to relax and cool off year-round.

From Palisades Park, you can see the Santa Monica Pier with its solar powered Ferris wheel.  This is the spot where a Los Angeles police detective recently broke the Guinness World Record for the longest Ferris Wheel ride (he went round and round for 25.5 hours!  At least he had a close up ocean view from the pier).

Related: Carnival By the Sea Pacific Park, Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel, Guinness World Record Location

From Palisades Park, you can see the Santa Monica Pier, where a man recently broke the record for longest Ferris wheel ride.

The Third Street Promenade is only two short blocks away.  There are several blocks of unique of boutiques and restaurants for browsing, shopping and dining, including a Barnes & Noble book store.  Cupcake lovers will want to visit Yummy Cupcakes, one of my guilty pleasures :), across the street from the Promenade on Wilshire at Third Street.

Also See: Parking in Santa Monica

If you’re looking for a more car-accessible shopping district, Montana Avenue is only a short drive away (Montana Avenue crosses Ocean at Palisades Park).  So, hop in your car or catch the Big Blue Bus up Montana to 14th Street.  Coffee & tea lovers have their choice of  Starbucks, Peets or  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf all within two blocks.  Pick up some groceries or takeout deli dishes at Whole Foods Market.  Blue Plate offers fresh & healthy comfort food in a casual atmosphere. For something a little more upscale, try R+D Kitchen.  For a little pampering at a bargain price, drop by Montana Nails for a pedicure.

Pacific Coast Highway is just down the California Incline from Santa Monica’s Palisades Park.

Related:  Malibu Drive: PCH Oxnard – Santa Monica

So, hit the road to celebrate summer.  And check in often, Traffic411 is updated regularly with all kinds of vacation and staycation ideas to inspire you to hit the road to explore the beauty of Southern California.  Be sure to bookmark these real time traffic maps, and check in from your smartphone.  Traffic411’s real time traffic maps will route you around traffic tie ups in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Ventura County 24/7.


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Cliffside Respite: Wayfarers Chapel

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church’s gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

You might feel as if you are in Big Sur along the Northern California coast when you visit Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. The glass church perched atop a seaside cliff is surrounded by tall pine trees and other trees, lush plants and colorful flowers while offering gorgeous views of the Los Angeles coastline with Catalina Island in the distance.

Designed to blend in with nature, the architecture of Wayfarers Chapel makes the most of this pristine setting.

The glass church is a popular wedding location, and it seems to be welcoming to everyone, although the ‘official’ religion that worships here is the Swedenborgian Church. According to it’s website, the Chapel also serves as a memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg, 18th century scientist, philosopher and theologian.

Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, Wayfarers Chapel (5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) is located across the road near the lavish Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles (see related Traffic411 post “So Cal Resortist“). Stop in for a quick visit to experience the serenity and peace of this very special place.

Wayfarers Chapel: Cliffside Retreat Rancho Palos Verdes

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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The beach at Rancho Palos Verdes near Wayfarers Chapel. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

Distance from LAX: 26 miles (35 minutes)

Traffic411 Insiders Tip:  While you’re here, explore the walking trails near Trump National Golf Club, experience the ‘California Casual’ vibe of the world-class Terranea Resort. The Port of Los Angeles and San Pedro lighthouses are also nearby.

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L.A.’s Spiritual Oasis

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

A short walk from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the peaceful grounds of the Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades.

An oasis in the city, this is a beautiful place to come to relax and unwind. Take a leisurely walk around the lake, or sit quietly on one of the many stone benches nestled next to foliage and fountains.

The Self Realization Fellowship is a non-profit spiritual organization  founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It offers meditation classes, retreats and worship services.  People of all faiths are welcome to visit the grounds. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.

The first time you visit, you might be surprised to see this beautiful, peaceful oasis so close to busy Pacific Coast Highway.  The grounds are not visible from Sunset Boulevard, so you could drive right by without knowing it’s here.  Once you find it, you might want to visit regularly to relax and recharge.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Park on Palisades Drive, and walk to the beach (near Gladstone’s Malibu) before or after you visit. There are also good restaurants in the shopping center on Palisades Drive.

Distance from LAX: 16 miles


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Seal Cub Viewing

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Harbor seals lounge on a beach in Carpinteria. The seals migrate to the beach every year to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Whale watching is a popular activity this time of year, but you never know if or when you’ll spot the migrating animals along the California coast.  If you want a sure bet for viewing sea mammals, there are beaches along the Central California coast where seals migrate each year to give birth to their cubs.

The Harbor Seal Preserve in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) is one such spot. The beach is closed to humans during birthing season, December – May, however there’s a viewing spot on a cliff above the beach. Spectators can watch about 100 harbor seals waiting to give birth. As the season progresses, you’ll see cubs resting near their moms.  The Carpinteria city website calls this one of the city’s best kept secrets!

California Seal Preserves

See mother seals give birth to their young along California's central coast, in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) and San Simeon (near Cambria, Hearst Castle, Big Sur). Photos by KenPfeiffer/Traffic411

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This beach in Carpinteria, CA is off limits to humans from December-May. Harbor seals migrate here to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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There were several mama seals with their babies on an Elephant Seal preserve beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A herd of elephant seals rest on the beach near the Piedras Blancas point near Cambria CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

About three hours up the coast (on Highway 1) from Santa Barbara, near Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is a seal preserve on steroids!  Giant elephant seals, preparing to give birth,  gather along beaches near the Piedras Blancas point in San Simeon.

On a New Year’s visit to Cambria, I saw hundreds of elephant seals, and many babies, lounging up and down the coast. There is a large viewing area at this preserve (12 miles north of Cambria), and you can get within 20 feet of the creatures. Some seals were quite active in the late afternoon, slinking to the water for a swim, some males sparring, or letting out a noisy scream, perhaps a cheer welcoming in the New Year!

It’s amazing to see, nature at its finest and, perhaps best of all, it’s free!

Note:  Click here for turn-by-turn directions to the Carpinteria seal rookery.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Visit in the late afternoon, when seals may be more active.

Distance from LAX: 86 miles to Carpinteria


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Haunted Hikes

Hiking trails that  burned in the Springs Fire provide a spooky backdrop for a 'haunted hike.' (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Hiking trails burned in the Springs Fire provide a spooky backdrop for a ‘haunted hike.’ (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a spooky hike! Trails in the Newbury Park-Thousand Oaks area (just north of Los Angeles County) burned last spring in the 8,000 acre Springs Fire as flames spread across the hills from Camarillo to Pacific Coast Highway.

Dark and blackened, the trails now are very quiet. It’s so eerie and still, you might feel as if you’re on Mars or another planet! But, foliage is starting to grow back, the trails are clearly marked and the hills are not too steep, so it’s a fun trek for hikers of all fitness levels.

I’m not sure if there really are ghosts, but the occasional high pitched screech of an old water tank windmill provides a Halloween-themed soundtrack to your Haunted Hike.

An old windmill powered by the breeze makes a scary screeching sound (photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

An old windmill powered by the breeze makes a scary screech (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

Located off the 101 (Ventura) Freeway at Wendy Drive (head west toward the ocean to the end of Wendy Drive) There is plenty of free parking near the trail head, where you can see a map offering several hike options ranging from one mile (each way). The most ambitious hike (8 miles each way) leads to Malibu. Even the easier trails offer an ocean view to the west, and the Camarillo Airport and farmlands to the north.

My hiking partner and I explored these trails on a warm day, so we chose a shorter (two mile round trip) hike. It was an easy uphill walk.  With so many trails to explore, you can come back more than once and explore different areas. You might even find waterfalls if it’s been a rainy Winter and Spring.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Plan to hike these trails in the Spring, when colorful spring flowers will be blooming in the burn area.

Distance from LAX: 50 miles

 


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Free L.A.: Griffith Observatory

The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

 

Did you know that California’s atmosphere is perfect for star watching? That’s just one of the fascinating facts you’ll learn when you visit Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Before blast off, Apollo Astronauts came to this L.A. landmark to learn about the stars and space. Griffith Observatory is a fun place to spend a few hours, or the day. Bring a blanket and lounge on the front lawn.

The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Admission to the exhibits is free and, for a few bucks, you can see a show at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Public star parties are held each month, so check the calendar. You’ll learn a lot about the Observatory and it’s history by viewing the (free) movie in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater.

Parking is limited at Griffith Observatory. It was a beautiful clear day in Los Angeles when I visited, so we literally parked one mile away! It’s a nice walk if you’re up for it, just wear comfortable shoes.  If you don’t want to walk, visit on a weekday, or take a bus – click this link – and scroll down to ‘other transportation’ for details. It’s closed Mondays.

Griffith Observatory, which opened in 1935, underwent a massive renovation in 2002. It reopened in 2006 and is truly one of LA’s most spectacular landmarks. If you grew up in So Cal, you probably visited the Observatory on a school field trip, but it’s well worth the trip to see it today.  Visit on a clear day and enjoy views of Los Angeles from Mount Wilson to the Pacific Ocean.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Griffith Observatory is located in Griffith Park, which is massive. Bring the address so you can find the observatory, if you enter the park off of the Ventura (134) freeway, it’s not easy to find.

Distance from LAX: 27 miles

Free Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is among the most recognizable Los Angeles landmarks. With free admission, it's a great way to learn about the planets,our solar system and beyond. Bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon or sunset on the front lawn. The public is invited to free 'star parties,' held each month for stargazing through telescopes.

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The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, gorgeous architecture - and, because of it's sturdy construction, it's one of the safest places to be during an earthquake! (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The iconic Hollywood Sign can be seen in the distance through the arch at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Astronomers Monument pays homage to six of the greatest astronomers, at Griffith Observatory Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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"Rebel Without a Cause" starring James Dean is one of many movies filmed at Griffith Observatory Los Angeles. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Griffith Observatory is a fun place to learn about the moon, planets, our solar system and beyond! (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Foucault amazes visitors to Griffith Observatory Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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There are many new exhibits to see since the Griffith Observatory was remodeled in 2002. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The roof at Griffith Observatory offers a great photo op for you and the iconic Hollywood Sign (photo of Lisa Osborne by Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Visit Griffith Observatory on a clear day to enjoy stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles and (looking in another direction) the Pacific Ocean. (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The copper dome roof at the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)


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