On the Trail



Day and night

Like vampires, my dog and I come out to prowl at night on the plush suburban streets of Agoura Hills.

However, all we are seeking is a comfortable place to log a brisk walk after triple-digit temperatures at our home in the steamy Santa Monica Mountains have left us too wiped out to pursue any activity more vigorous than chewing on ice cubes.

It’s true that we’re hot and bothered on a breezeless day in a home lacking air conditioning. Yet if we rally the stamina to quit moping and take a stroll in our rural Agoura community’s lake-fringing willow wood, we’re rewarded for our panting and parched throats.

The willow wood is dense. Always there can be found at least a puff or two of air circulating. Fluttering leaves are nature’s efficient answer to electric fans. Wind-stirred greenery wafts relief our way.

Staunch in the face of high heat, mourning cloak and California sister butterflies skim the lake’s mucky shoreline. Envying them, the dog wades in to “cool his heels” via a gloppy mud pedicure.

I find it too hot to form words, yet the willow wood is full of the most animated bird voices: whistles, chirps, songs, trills and gossipy murmurs. The abundance and variety of birds is a promising sign that the drought and heat wave have not conspired to still their melodious voices.

In a cloistered cove, someone has most admirably constructed a wickiup of interwoven, pliant willow branches. This form of hut was used as a temporary shelter by Native Americans who roamed the Southwest. It is about the size for a yearling mule deer to curl up inside for a rest. Wild grasses bearing feathery plumes have added their own layer of texture to this little marvel of a structure.

Finally, a slew of avidly biting and stinging bugs chases us home. At 10 p.m. the house is still sweltering, so off we head for our “other world.”

This night we choose a new loop. We park in an Agoura Hills shopping center on Kanan Road then head up Laro Drive out to Grey Rock Road, with our return plotted via Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

Wow—what a difference from nature’s haphazard plantings. In the willow wood, weeds and vines run amok, knee-high grasses have gone to seed, tree trunks lean at crazy angles and brittle gray heaps of drought-desiccated foliage dot the landscape.

On these broad suburban streets there is formality, discipline and order. Gigantic swell homes crown posh perfect lots. The dog and I want to perform somersaults on the lawns. The rose displays boggle even a veteran gardener’s mind, and scent the night air along with jasmine.

It is a grandly elegant antithesis to the rough and tumble world of the willow wood. We get in our brisk night walk through palatial surroundings, grateful to be citizens of two very different, equally splendid worlds.

Glasser is a writer fascinated by all manner of natural phenomena surrounding her home in the Santa Monica Mountains. Reach her at ranchomulholla@gmail.com.

A MAGICAL SPOT—The writer and her dog visit the wickiup in the willow wood.

A MAGICAL SPOT—The writer and her dog visit the wickiup in the willow wood.

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