If autumn has stirred your spirit of exploration but you don't want to follow the call of the wild too far, there's a huge and exciting wilderness that's almost next door.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a giant patchwork of city, state and national parks, in addition to conservancy and private holdings. It stretches from Franklin Canyon Ranch, within the city limits, to Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County.
Numerous activities and programs, designed for a wide range of ages and interests, are offered by 24 agencies and organizations.
Included are nature walks for children, adventures in remote mountains for experienced climbers and outings for the physically disadvantaged. In addition, rangers lead programs to identify bird, plant and tidal life, experts explain the cultures of the indigenous Chumash and Gabrieleno Indians and naturalists teach ways to preserve the area's ecology.
The recreation area is managed by a team of state and federal rangers, specialists, docents and volunteers. "This is a cooperative effort between (the National Park Service) and nonprofit groups to produce educational and recreational opportunities for the public," says Jean Bray, the park service's public relations director.
For a free calendar of events, write to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, National Park Service, 22900 Ventura Blvd., Suite 140, Woodland Hills, Calif. 91364.
For information on programs given by the National Park Service and directions to sites, call (818) 888-3770.
To participate in Wilderness Institute programs, reservations must be made. Directions and a map will be sent on request. Call (818) 887-7831.
Many of the organized events are repeated at various locations throughout the year. If you miss an activity listed in this sampler (these events are scheduled through November), check to see when and if it will be given again.
Monster-movie making. "Let's Make a Creature Feature," Paramount Ranch, Agoura, 10:30 a.m. Saturday. In this Halloween treat, Alice Allen--park service ranger and film coordinator at Paramount Ranch, the site of early movie making in the Los Angeles area--will show youngsters 10 and over how monster movies are made. Stop-action equipment, a movable model of a dinosaur and slides will be used. Free. Limited enrollment: (818) 888-3770.
Paramount Ranch, open daily from dawn to dusk, also offers equestrian and hiking trails, picnicking, a self-guided tour of the Coyote Canyon Nature Trail and a Western movie set.
Ecological exploration. "Chaparral Life Styles," Lake Enchanto, Peter Strauss Ranch, near Westlake Village, 10 a.m. Saturday. The ecology of the area will be explored in a two-hour walk led by ranger Chris Jefferson, who will teach the identification of native plants such as scrub and coastal live oaks, sycamore, buckwheat, sage and poison oak. Free. Reservations: (818) 888-3770.
Wheelchair outing. "Wheel to the Sea," Point Mugu State Park, Ventura County, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. This four-mile "roll," to start at Danielson Ranch in the park, is sponsored by IDENTITY, a support group for the physically challenged. Participants and volunteers will meet at the parking lot of Gibraltar Savings, 22960 Victory Blvd., Woodland Hills. Los Angeles Councilwoman Joy Picus' office will provide transportation, and McDonald's Corp. will serve breakfast.
At mid-afternoon, a catered barbecue lunch will be held for participants and volunteers at Sycamore Cove, the trail's end. Free. For reservations, call the Wilderness Institute, (818) 887-7831.
Tyke treks. "Babes in the Woods," Franklin Canyon Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains, 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday. The walk, which is a frequently scheduled event, is conducted by docents of the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom for children from 3 months to 3 years old. Parents are urged to bring strollers for a one-mile walk around the ranch's lake. Docents using hand puppets will lead the youngsters in exploring the environment. The group will view waterfowl on the lake and the habitats of rabbits, coyotes and deer. Reservations: (213) 858-3834.
Franklin Canyon's docents also offer a "Tykes on Hikes" walk for children 4 to 6, as well as programs for older children and the physically disadvantaged.
Preservation seminar. "Wildlife Corridors," Diamond X Ranch (near intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Road), Agoura, 7 p.m. Wednesday. This seminar on development and changing landscape in the Santa Monica Mountains will be conducted by Tim Thomas, resource manager of the National Park Service. He will discuss preservation programs that, rather than try to save a single series, maintain animal populations by linking wilderness areas or "corridors." Thomas says the seminar is designed to provide data so citizens can more effectively discuss wildlife conservation with their legislators. Fee, $17. Call (818) 887-7831.