A very nice review from my brother, which naturally leads to one for my brother:
Cam has the benefit of a) the memory of a younger sibling, especially where sins of the elder sibling are concerned, and b) not being quite as close to 50 as I am. So it shouldn't really surprise me that he remembers my taking him for driving practice to Moorpark College. For those unfamiliar with the Simi Valley/Moorpark area, it's hilly country. In fact, one of Moorpark's more endearing nicknames is "Harvard on the Hill." Along the eastern border of the campus is an overflow parking area that was (note: past tense) perfect for kids with learner's permits. Especially kids with Volkswagens who were trying desperately to learn how to operate a clutch without rolling the car over in a turn.
It was only natural that I would take Cam out there for a couple of reasons. First, it was traditional. That's where Dad had taken me when I was learning how to drive. But Dad had maxed out on such fun the moment I got my actual license, so the job of training my siblings fell to me and Mom. And I usually wheedled Mom to let me do it because I was still enjoying being able to drive anywhere I wanted to go, so long as Mom or Dad would let me borrow a vehicle. So, I took my sister up there when it was her turn, and Cam was next in line. Then Moorpark College hired their own rent-a-cop agency and the tradition died on the vine.
Of course, I also remember letting Cam drive Box Canyon one day, and I do believe that was the first time my life actually flashed before me. Story for another day, perhaps.
It's also important to note (getting back to Cam's post) that, although I lived in that area for more than twenty years of my life, I never once hiked some of these trails that Cam has been trying out. It's a sad statement, I suppose, and the truth is that I now regret not having taken advantage of the opportunity when I had it. Simi Valley used to be a beautiful town. Back in the day it wasn't hard to find groves and orchards mingled in with the neat suburban tracts, and just to the west of our house were miles of trackless expanse, filled with enough tumble weeds to keep any young boy busy for days on end. And I don't mean clearing them. I mean making forts and clubhouses out of them. There was a wash running behind our tract that yielded more than a few attempts to turn pollywogs into frogs. (Far more failures than successes, I'm afraid.)
Those days are, of course, gone forever. Now Simi Valley is just another over-developed bedroom community. It has a "mall" now, along with its usual collection of strip malls and shopping centers. It has two or three primary industrial centers. What used to be a tiny, grass-covered air field has long since given way to several vanilla box-like warehouses.
Thus Cam has to head south to find trails that are still worth the effort. I would guess - in part from the photos he links - that once you're clear of the more civilized climes it's easier to imagine what Simi was like in its heyday, before the tracts that stretch literally from one end of the valley to the other, and before the freeway introduced us to the noisier, less refined elements of neighboring society.
So I applaud my little brother, and hope he continues to find peace in his travels. I certainly can't argue with his method. The time I spent in Guatemala, hiking up and down mountains that would swallow Simi Valley several times over actually gave me that kind of peace in my own life. I needed it, since I had companions that ranged from (literally) professional Boy Scouts, to KISS fans, to anti-Gringo Salvadorans. Peace did not always come easy, but a good hike was always sure to clear both head and heart.