It’s been unseasonably cool over the past few weeks in Los Angeles – perfect hiking weather – so I finally decided to wander out to Thousand Oaks and explore Wildwood Park, once a popular filming location for westerns. This is where John Wayne taught Jimmy Stewart how to use a gun in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962). It’s also where Paul Newman tackled one of his earliest roles, as Billy the Kid in Arthur Penn’s debut film THE LEFT HANDED GUN (1958). Even Elvis carried a gun here, in Don Siegel’s FLAMING STAR (1960).
The landscape has changed a bit since those films were shot. As at Iverson Ranch, the hills are now overgrown with houses. The steep and winding Santa Rosa trail to the north follows Mountclef Ridge, weaving in and out of a small subdivision. On a clear day, I’m told, you can see ocean from the top of the trail. Unfortunately, I didn’t go on a clear day. My only view was of the Santa Rosa Valley to the north – which, until a few decades ago, was so packed with citrus groves that it was used as the location of a pivotal scene in Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN (1974). Much of the valley is still farm land.
Wildwood Park also has a “low road” to the south and, in the heat of summer, this is the way to go. Moonridge Trail leads down into a surprisingly lush canyon at the base of a waterfall. Along the way, you’ll pass an “Indian cave” and a giant teepee – reminders that this was originally the home of the Conejo Indians. Paradise Falls sits almost directly below the teepee. For the truly restless, the trail continues along the creek to a campground / picnic area, where a mysterious stairway leads up the hills to the south. Another trail for another time…
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE:
THE LEFT-HANDED GUN:
view to the south:
view to the north:
The Way Out...?