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A Natural Gift

JAUNTS: In and around the Valley | GOING NORTH

Exercise your options for Father's Day. Take a hike.

June 12, 1997|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're tired of fretting over what to do on Father's Day, this year just tell dear old dad to take a hike--literally--and then tell him you'll go along.

Breakfast in bed and the traditional giving of the gifts are dad pleasers. But maybe what he really wants is a little quality time out on the trail. Throw in a waterfall, a wildflower or two, and you'll make his day.

A couple of organized hikes scheduled Sunday--one near Agoura Hills, the other in Thousand Oaks--are billed as Father's Day outings, leisurely leg stretchers that won't exhaust young or old.

At the Peter Strauss Ranch near Agoura Hills, families can join a docent for a moderately easy, 1.5-mile hike and a glimpse into the history of this once-thriving resort with its colossal swimming pool.

"We've had such success with our Mother's Day [event] here that we decided we ought to be nice to Dad too," said Daphne Elliott, docent coordinator for the Topanga Canyon Docents, which sponsors the outing along with the Sierra Club.

The two-hour free program starts at 10 a.m., and Elliott said families can bring their lunch, picnic on the grounds next to Triunfo Creek, and make a day of it.

The well-groomed trail overlooking the ranch gently switchbacks up an oak-canopied hillside and loops back down. You might get lucky and see a peacock skitter through the brush.

The woolly blue curls--a flowering shrub with an unusual woolly look--are in bloom, a must-see plant, according to Elliott.

If cactus is more to your liking, you'll appreciate the big cactus garden in the driveway to the ranch house. Former ranch owner Peter Strauss planted it, collecting cactuses from Central and South America.

Strauss restored the old white-trimmed stone ranch house and spruced up the neglected grounds. But he was too busy with his career to keep the property, so he sold it to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1983. The National Park Service picked it up in 1987 and opened it as a park.

Today the ranch is a shady, peaceful spot in the Santa Monica Mountains that gets little traffic during the week. The trail is a good one for novice hikers.

If you want a little more of a walk, you can join others for a Father's Day amble into Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. The Conejo Recreation and Park District's outdoor unit is offering this one from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $5 per carload.

Naturalists will take families on a two- to three-mile walk down into the deep, shady canyon that gives this 1,700-acre park such a secluded feel, despite its suburban location.

BE THERE

Father's Day hikes: Sun., at Peter Strauss Ranch, 3000 Mulholland Highway, near Agoura Hills; 10 a.m.-noon, free. (818) 707-8540. Also at Wildwood Park, at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles; 2-4:30 p.m., $5 per carload. (818) 495-2163.

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