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Wildwood Park Hike | Thousand Oaks, CA

As a wedding photographer, I spend many a day in front of the computer editing, emailing… blogging. Probably far more than I spend shooting ironically. That being said, spending time occasionally outside and away from my studio is always welcome relief. Sometimes it means going on a little walk or simply chipping golf balls on my front lawn (and sometimes off my car’s fender). To that end, I’ve always enjoyed hiking and have been really wanting to connect with my sons for a little bonding time lately. There are times when we head up to our family cabin in Kernville for exactly this very reason. But given the constraints of school and life, we typically stay closer to home. For this hike, we made the breezy 25 minute drive out to Thousand Oaks, CA to Wildwood Park. I recently had purchased a hiking book on Amazon called “101 Hikes in Southern California.” The very first hike listed in the book was a hike called “Paradise Falls” in Wildwood Park, which seemed like a perfect fit in regards to difficulty and location.

I’d heard of Paradise Falls before, but never taken the time to explore the area, which seems kind of silly since it’s really not that far from where we live. So on a beautiful SoCal day this week, my sons and I made our way down the Wildwood Park trails. And of course capturing the beautiful scenery with my trusty Fuji X100 was an important part of the journey. In addition to photographing weddings and other events that I’m well known for, I truly do enjoy nature photography. There is something about the peace, tranquility and solitude in capturing such wonderful imagery. I think part of the appeal is the lack of control. It’s really just allowing things to be what they are and waiting for the right light and conditions. On that note and not surprisingly, this swath of land was the setting for many older Hollywood movies and TV shows featuring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Paul Newman among others. It’s easy to see the appeal of course…with rolling hills, twisted trails and giant California oaks greeting the hiker at every turn.

The boys and I started our roughly 2 hr hike at the main trailhead and I was immediately impressed by the outstretched landscape of green meadows and native vegetation. The boys LOVE adventuring, so this was a perfect way to expend some energy, take in the beautiful God-painted scenery and have a few laughs along the way. We were pretty excited to make our way down to the falls… with as few falls as possible! We took the Moonridge Trail which seemed to be the most widely traveled. After about 20 minutes of walking, we passed a giant teepee and veered right down to the Arroyo Conejo gorge which flows swiftly into Paradise Falls. Along the way, and among other things, we observed the prickly Pear Cactus, native succulents, coast live oaks, butterflies, bees and lizards. After we finished taking in the falls, we journeyed on a different route back via Indian Creek Trail. This path took us along the tranquil creek and under the generous shade provided by a grove of California live oaks. A slight detour to the Indian Cave on the way back was definitely one of the highlights for my boys.  After a steep climb back up the hill, the boys were sufficiently exhausted and ready for the next adventure.

As nice as it is to be immersed in nature; it’s really about making lifelong connections with my sons. I’m starting to feel a sense of urgency to press in and really invest in their character, growth and faith. (I can’t believe that Jaden, my oldest, is turning 10 tomorrow. Yikes!) I’m also looking forward to creating more future opportunities for these types of moments. I truly enjoy and strive for a relationship where as a father, I can have real conversations about life, love etc…which I’m realizing rarely happens during the daily and sometimes mundane day to day routine.

Until next time! Danny Baker

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