Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tales from the not-so-great outdoors


By Dashiell Young-Saver
A friend once asked me, “How many oaks are there in Thousand Oaks?”
To which I affectionately replied, “You are an idiot. It’s in the name.”
We placed a bet on the number, and it turns out that there are more than one thousand oaks in Thousand Oaks.
I may have lost 25 cents that day, but it was nice to be reassured that behind almost every house, SUV, community watch sign and golf course there is a preserve, a park or a family of “conejos.” For every thousand oaks, there are a thousand more.
To appreciate this natural beauty, I usually stay inside the air-conditioned house, curl up in bed and watch the Weather Channel to see what is going on outside.
But most, including my parents, say that I should do crazy things like “go outside” or “take a hike,” to which I respond, “Take a hike,” or give an excuse like, “But my skin, which hasn’t seen the light of day for 17 years, gets burned by the clip art picture of the sun on the seven-day outlook of the local news forecast. Imagi n e what the real sun will do.”

The thought of walking in the heat on a dirt path without any entert a i nme n t besides the hissing of rattlesnakes and the smell of recently stepped-in fecal matter never appealed to me. If I wanted to feel dirty, tired and bored I could just attend a Ke$ha concert.
But, since people in Thousand Oaks are so excited about hiking, I decided to try it.
I went to Wildwood Park. A friend and I started walking up trails to hills in the late afternoon.
The temperature was nice and cool, and healthy joggers dressed in their favorite color of Skittles were everywhere. Soon, I became so out of breath that I had none to give to the “ breathtaking” views of the Conejo Valley.
Then the atmosphere changed. A calm, quiet and beautiful sunset struck me as it stretched its rich violet colors over the soft hills of the Conejo Valley, muting the landscape in contrasting dark and bright colors. The trail became a space of solitude and refl ection.
At that point, I finally realized that I was really bored.
So I went home and played an equally beautiful video game: “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” As my game character ran past scores of virtual death, it came across a virtual sunset. I looked at it and remembered its real counterpart I had seen earlier. My character, looking away from the battle, was then shot by a sniper.
The sun has set on another summer, and school has snuck up too soon, like a sniper’s bullet. I want to scream at school, “Sniper, no sniping!” Dora the Explorer-style, but we have to leave the long summer nights in the nature of Thousand Oaks and the even longer summer nights in the virtual world of video games and Facebook.
Our freedom to have unlimited exploration and fun as kids is over.
Summer goes by so fast. We never fully appreciate it until after it has left, just as I, and many kids my age, may not appreciate the Conejo Valley’s beauty until after we go to some concrete jungle for a job or college.
So I’ll try to stop playing on my iPhone-pod-twit-tube and go take an i-hike once in a while because, before you know it, the sun may set on my time in the Conejo Valley.
I hope my peers do the same.
But don’t worry. There is a new sunrise for every sunset. A sun is rising for a new school year, but, like school, I will have to wake up early to see it.
Dang it, I hate school.
Dashiell Young-Saver is a senior at Westlake High School. He is the co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Arrow. This summer he’s contributed columns to the Acorn from the perspective of a teenager growing up in the Conejo Valley. This will be the final installment of “A Dash of Youth”—at least for the time being. Dashiell can be reached at


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