I am one of those rare individuals who was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley when it was still in large part agrarian. Our home was surrounded by acres of farmland, orange and walnut orchards. A ten-minute bike ride would get a strong rider to rolling hills that had cattle and horses grazing. If you were a little sneaky you could climb through the barbed wire fence and go skinny dipping with your buddies in a green, somewhat slimy reservoir. That was until my parents actually went to look at the cause of the slime and the strange smell I often came home with in the summer heat. There were several stands of trees with low limbs that were easy to climb and made perfect foundations for building forts. I loved the outdoors and the adventures my friends and I created in those hills with the help of our vivid imaginations.
I also remember fondly my family’s regular trips up into the San Gabriel Mountains. Only an hour away from our home, we went for day picnics and weekend stays in a cabin with a wood burning stove. Almost every summer my parents and aunts and uncles rented a large cabin with my grandparents. The five families took turns sharing the space often overlapping with each other. The kids, including my cousins and occasional friends, usually ended up sleeping on the porch surrounded by the thick pine tree forest.