Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 2:57 am | Overcast 64º


Dan McCaslin: Escape Digital Constraints with Visit to Rose Valley

Find yourself rejuvenated by basking in the natural beauty of the Ventura County campground and falls


In an online review of Silicon Valley pioneer Jaron Lanier’s 2010 book, You Are Not a Gadget, I stressed that his view of the upcoming “cybernetic totalism” (now read: “Facebook dominance”) includes the stark warning that the Internet often constrains creativity.

Certainly, one enormous impact that outdoor-oriented parents can have on their children is to get them offline by undertaking exciting and fun activities in the real world.

Lanier himself is the godfather of virtual reality, and he’s worried again in his new book, stating, “If you control a person’s reality (via VR and Facebook) then you control the person. Never has a medium been so potent for beauty and vulnerable to creepiness.” (Dawn of the New Everything, 2017)

However, Lanier’s not quite correct because coming out of the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago, we find ourselves in a potent medium, planetary Gaia herself, a reality redolent with beauty and increasingly ignored in the VR age with its conspiracy of screens and Big Tech.

Ventura County’s Rose Valley Campground and Rose Valley Falls embody pristine fragments of our green earth’s astounding loveliness and compelling aura, and yet for many this spot about 15 miles inland from Ojai is just another rocky desert campground with nine parking spots and dilapidated tables. In the center of the main loop, a huge and sticky juniper tree towers over the concrete outhouse and three “bear boxes” seen in the photograph.

After driving the 43 miles to Ojai along Highway 101 and then Highway 33, continue on Highway 33 for another 15 miles of beautiful, winding road until you see the prominent Rose Valley turn-off sign. After turning, you immediately see a second sign on the right about rules in the Rose Valley, along with a plea to keep this western Arcadia “a nice place to visit.”

The U.S. Forest Service campground itself is very modest, and the amenities at each crude site include a simple wooden table, a fire pit and a standup barbecue stand. While there is no water (bring your own!), there are three modern bear boxes and two pit toilets.

When I visited early on Nov. 8, there were no overnight campers at Rose Valley, although four different parties came in and hiked to the well-known falls while I was there (dogs are OK but must be on leash).

The exquisite and crisp reality of the desert and chaparral plants here below looming Nordhoff Ridge seizes the attention and wrests the iPhone addict and Facebook junkie away from screens to marvel at Earth herself.

Since Lanier contends that “the Facebook business model is (simply) mass behavior modification for pay,” heading out along a fragrant trail beside a brook is a blow for personal freedom and for making an authentic choice.

When I take children on these kinds of ventures, I first ban all smartphones, iPads and electronic impedimenta; no GPS and no satellite phone. In any case, my partner’s cell showed no bars and no reception at Rose Valley.

The half-mile path to the Rose Valley Falls includes occasional pools that glint with the blue sky overhead.
The half-mile path to the Rose Valley Falls includes occasional pools that glint with the blue sky overhead. (Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk photo)

After you circle through the small loop with the nine-car camp sites, go back out of Rose Valley Campground and park immediately on the side of the road. You avoid paying the $20 fee for overnight use or parking inside the official campsite. Walk back into the camp, admiring the gargantuan juniper, and look for the official trail sign to Rose Valley Falls, standing on a post between sites 4 and 5.

The meandering half-mile path to the spectacular falls crosses the barely flowing Rose Creek two or three times while ascending easily. Occasional pools glint with the blue sky directly overhead. Alders and bay trees and some live oaks predominate along with the scrub along the slanted path.

We observed many toyon bushes with their red berries, and copious poison oak above and below the trail add color.

Rose Valley Falls is usually dry, but after last winter’s heavy rains, there was still a bit of flow seeping down the front of the mossy face. At the wide base I spied a small cave, and looking within there were no pictographs but some gnarly cave spiders just spinning away.

With the sun on high, it was impossible to get a photograph of the top of the falls, rising perhaps 50 feet, and the interesting cliff face made the idea of climbing on up pop into my head.

However, the arkosic sandstone with so much quartz and feldspar is quite crumbly, and every comment about this place stressed, “Do not try to climb up,” thus I refrained. Parents must keep their kids from scrambling up there as well.

Fairly similar if more dramatic local falls are Nojoqui Falls off Highway 101 near Buellton. Click here for some spectacular photos of Rose Valley Falls in full spate.

The easy hike to Rose Valley Falls is ideal for very young children, adolescents and beginners. Playing in the creek when the weather is warm may be more fun for the kids than simply hanging out at the bottom of the falls (seep).

As a proud “digital barbarian” living without a cell phone, television or presence on Facebook, I laugh at the self-styled digital natives who spend so much time staring at little screens and missing the wondrous waterfalls of “real” life, like the scraggly little seep at Rose Valley Falls.

Some agree with nature-loving critics who contend cleverly that the once-beautiful digital dream of creative individuality has been suppressed by the conformity-creating hive mind of our Silicon Valley overlords.

Escaping to natural recesses such as Rose Valley, with its dry Upper Lake and filled Lower Lake, one finds time to ponder the issues of our Zeitgeist. The grand illusions proffered by the Internet and the false realities offered by Facebook pale when honestly compared to the great outdoors.

“Facebook is turning us into trained dogs,” Lanier warns us. “We know we’re being trained.”

With growing self-knowledge, we can pull ourselves away from the laptop screen or ghostly iPhone rectangle and walk or bike into the green chaos surrounding us on all sides.


» Books: Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget (2010), and his latest book, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality (2017); Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia (2017); and Maureen Dowd’s interview with Lanier on Nov. 8 in The New York Times (Pages D1 and D8).

— Dan McCaslin is the author of Stone Anchors in Antiquity, and has written extensively about the local backcountry. He serves as an archaeological site steward for the U.S. Forest Service in the Los Padres National Forest. He welcomes reader ideas for future Noozhawk columns, and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read additional columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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