Easy Sierra Club hikes promote historical exploration and friendship

By Alex Wilson 08/18/2011

Many hikes organized by Sierra Club members involve long forest journeys with leg-pounding elevation gains, but others feature easy strolls to interesting cultural sites, like one to the Port Hueneme Lighthouse.

Members also lead a popular urban night hike in Ventura every Wednesday that includes the pier, the historic hillside cross and the Ventura River. Another series of relatively short Monday morning hikes covers local beaches, grassy parks and easy trails.

Ted Guenther is leading the Port Hueneme Lighthouse and Historical Beachfront Harbor Area hike on Saturday, Aug. 20. Other stops will include the popular Hueneme Beach Festival, the Hueneme Pier and the Sundial Memorial honoring victims of the 2000 Alaska Airlines disaster off the coast.

When Guenther led the hike for the first time he expected about a dozen people, and was surprised when it attracted closer to 80. He says it’s a great way to learn about the lighthouse, which is infrequently open to the public.

“There’s a Coast Guard reserve group and they go to different lighthouses on the days when they’re open, and they’re there to tell you the history of the lighthouse and any other facts you don’t know about lighthouses of the past and present,” says Guenther. “The prism that shines the lighthouse is from the 1890s. It’s the same prism that was used in the original lighthouse, so they explain all the stuff to you.”

He says people are fascinated by views from the top of the lighthouse, which include huge cargo ships in the nearby working port. They also enjoy learning about the importance of lighthouses. “Maybe it’s the idea that when you look at it you’re looking back into history, and you’re thinking about the shipwrecks and how many lives have been saved by lighthouses,” says Guenther. “It’s a way of dreaming into the past.”

Participants for that hike will meet at 10 a.m. at the corner of Ventura Road and Seaview Street. The hike will be followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

Guenther leads another popular shoreline hike every year from Bates Beach to The Palms restaurant in Carpenteria, where people enjoy cooking their own steaks. This year it’s set for Sunday, Sept. 25.

The urban night hike in Ventura sometimes draws more than 50 people as well as a few dogs. It’s been happening like clockwork for more than a decade, and some hardy people even hike when it rains.

It’s currently led by Kurt Preissler, who says many people do it for the exercise. “That hill is a little bit of a workout, going to the top of the cross. We extend that a little farther with two more hills up. Not everybody does that; it depends on your ability,” says Preissler. “It’s not like going up in the mountains, but it’s a start.”

He says first-timers are often surprised by the variety of the terrain they cover, which includes hillside and ocean views as well as historic downtown Ventura. “It’s kind of like surf and turf. When you get out on the pier you might see dolphins or sailboats racing,” says Preissler. That hike starts near the San Buenaventura Mission at 6:45 p.m.

Pat Jump leads the Monday morning hikes. She says they provide a great opportunity for socializing, and the person who previously led them met her future husband on one. “They know each other, and if they have grandchildren,” says Jump. “They’re very, very social. People love to chat.”   

Local Sierra Club hikes are listed on the Internet at www.lospadres.sierraclub.org

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