Tag: Children

Hike of the Week – Peter Strauss Ranch

Peter Strauss Ranch

Ranch House at Peter Strauss Ranch

Peter Strauss Ranch is a great place to explore, picnic and introduce kids to hiking. The 0.6 mile Peter Strauss Trail is one of the best places in the Santa Monica Mountains to hike with children who are at that awkward age – too big to lug in a backpack carrier but not quite ready for a march to Bataan. The trail is shady, well maintained and an easy hike. There is ample evidence of wildlife on the property but a peacock is the fiercest animal you’re likely to encounter. The grounds are peaceful but on a nice day you’ll have to put up with the constant thrum of motorcycles on Mulholland.

For more ambitious hikers and explorers there is a connector to Malibu Lake and from there you can head over to Paramount Ranch or to the Malibu Creek area.

One of the nice things about using Strauss ranch as your trailhead is that the parking lot is a mere stumble from The Old Place, a colorful and historic watering hole. Boutique prices but the food is good and the atmosphere is intriguing.


30000 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301

Take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Kanan Road exit. South on Kanan Road 2.8 miles. Turn left on Troutdale Drive to Mulholland Highway. Left on Mulholland Highway 400 feet then right into the parking lot.

More photos of the area at Geek Hiker.

Peter Strauss Trail

Peter Strauss Trail is shady, well-kept

50 Books Every Child (and Adult) Should Read

For my money Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of the most marvelous books ever written. Full of dry wit and dark humor, much of which is lost on children, the story is a developmental cautionary tale. For children the take-away is “see what happens when you don’t listen to your conscience” but for adults the story is a little more complex. With a little compassion even a dull boy can make good.

Pinocchio is one of 50 classic books that the Independent’s hand picked group of authors tap for must-reads. Other books on the list: Emil and the Detectives, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, Sherlock Holmes, and Beano Annual.

The 50 books every child should read via kottke

RIP Art Clokey, Gumby’s Dad

Sad Gumby

I had the pleasure of meeting Art Cloakey quite a few years ago. He denied that Gumby advocated LSD and he seemed genuinely hurt by Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live portrayal of the little clayboy.

“Gumby is an ambassador for all that is good and innocent in the world,” Cloakey said.

While Gumby himself brims with innocence, this innocence leads to some pretty terrifying places such as in the episode In the Dough where Gumby and Pokey are kidnapped and, for want of a better way to say it, violated by a couple of nasty jelly rolls. Because Clokey worked so closely to his subconscious there’s a surprisingly noir subtext to the show, typically brought out by Pokey. For instance, in the episode Santa Witch, some of the dialog could be straight out of a steamy detective novel – “wouldn’t you look cute with a ribbon wrapped around you.”

Just like the original Time for Beany show, Gumby works on deeper, and I think truer, levels than mass produced cartoons of today. It shows you what a little artistic genius can do.

Boing Boing has a touching little tribute to the man.

To Be a Good Parent, It Helps to Be a Slacker

Fitz Cahall of the most excellent Dirtbag Diaries, has a most excellent side project blog in connection with Steve Bohrer and Danny Maynor. Three dads working together to “keep the Stoke” through that long season we call parenthood. The Outdoor Parent is a different kind of blog…one that doesn’t tell you how to keep your kids safe. It tells you how to keep them alive.

(Note to fathers: if you’re setting a slackline for the first time, be sure and set it a little lower than the length of your inseam. Unless you’re quite sure that your family is the right size.)

The Diaries of a Suburban Frontiersman


I can’t say for certain that Y Indian Guides made me any closer to my father. It did give us some shared experiences. At age 7 I was able to see my father use his amazing creative abilities. For examle, he taught me how to use the drill press so that we could put an actual Indian-style arrow complete with flint arrowhead through the head of our eagle totem.


More than anything else, Y Indian Guides made me want to become a real Indian. I longed to roam the plains in search of buffalo. Unfortunately my territory was limited to 77th on the north, 80th street on the south, Cowan Avenue on the east and McConnell Avenue on the west. On school days there was a seven block march to school. On alternate weekends I rode my Huffy the same distance to get my hair cut (Regular Boy’s), read the latest issue of the Green Lantern and then sneak into Shopper’s Mart to buy a nickel’s worth of Monster Cards. I have a hazy memory of taking the bus alone down South Sepulvada but I can’t recall the destination.

My greatest adventure was when Stewie persuaded me to follow rabbit trails with him in the hills above Bluff Creek Drive, the back lot above Hughes Aircraft. Stewie convinced me that it would be a fine thing to throw rocks down the hill at the cars in the Hughes parking lot. 

We were captured by Hughes Security. Stewie was handed over to his parents and I, for whatever reason, was allowed to go free. Perhaps the security guard could sense that I would have been murdered if my father ever found out what I had done.

At the tender age of 7 I began learning the skills a man needs to survive the Suburban Frontier. Don’t talk to strangers. Look both ways before crossing the street. Stand up to bullies. Always tip the barber.

I don’t know if kids these days are being coddled or not. It’s stunning that a woman earns the title “America’s Worst Mom” because she let her 9 year old son (that’s 4th grade) ride the subway home from the mall. Personally I think you might want to reserve that title for a mother who drives her children off the levee. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way.