24 Hours in Point Mugu

Saturday, 7:01 am: Backpacks are expertly packed for optimum weight distribution. We have the equivalent of a 6-year-old in food and water but have a relatively short distance to carry the load.

Tent, backpacks, 4 gallons water, whole pack of tortillas, entire jar of peanut butter...you get the picture.

Tent, sleeping bags, 4 gallons water, whole pack of tortillas, entire jar of peanut butter…you get the picture.

8:27 am: Rendezvous with camping companions and stop at Coffee Bean to load up on egg sandwiches and 20 oz coffees for the road. Caravan to Point Mugu in Malibu.

9:07 am: Hoist on backpacks in comical fashion and begin eastward ascent.

9:28 am: Cross fingers that charred, ostensibly barren landscape will turn lush and green just around the bend.


10:50 am: Come to an unclear sign directing to our campsite; speculate as to the  intention of the person who scratched in an arrow. Punk-ass joker or benevolent do-gooder?

11:15 am: Reach campsite, already occupied by rowdy young gents. Breath sigh of relief when they pack up and leave so we have the whole place to ourselves. Situate and spread out.

The so-called Springs Fire may have transformed the landscape but there was an interesting color palette going on.

The so-called Springs Fire may have, shall we say, transformed the landscape but there was an interesting color palette going on, e.g. bright green sprouts emerging from the burned trees.

12:13 pm: Hammock. Flask. Snacks on snacks.


Princess Consuela Bananaflask, meet Juice in a Box.

Princess Consuela Bananaflask, meet Juice in a Box.

3:10 pm: Explore the area above the campsite and climb a ridge overlooking Ventura. Walk over crunchy scorched earth, breeze through the empty space left by the hundreds of burned down trees and tall grass. Only the sturdiest of succulents remain.

5:10 pm: Theo teaches us a funny Russian card game called Durak.


6:02 pm: Gather some kindling for fire. Chop up the charred remnants of a picnic table for wood.


7:19 pm: Try out brand new MSR stove and cooking set. Success!


8:45 pm: Ben searches in vain for the stick he’d painstakingly whittled into the perfect marshmallow roasting device. Mourns and moves on. S’mores ‘n’ s’mores ‘n’ s’mores. Linger by fire until out of fuel.

9:26 pm: Bed time.

1:42 am: Wake up to the noise of some animal walking near our tent. I imagine a raccoon, possum, or maybe one of those “alot” creatures from Hyperbole and a Half.


Click on the alot to learn about this fascinating animal, invented as a mechanism to cope with the incessant urge to correct poor grammar.

Sunday, 7:13 am: Sun is an effective alarm clock. Find I am not sleepy at all but lay there for a while anyway since I’m in no hurry.

9:02 am: Pack up and stuff trash into a trashcan liner, which is surprisingly full. Begin trek back to civilization with its toilets, TV and Korean barbecue.

happy campers

Cheers to Yahaira’s first camping trip!

The Bunny Whisperer

Manda and fluffernut

Most of us city folk make it all the way through life without partaking in what my little sister Amanda now does quite skillfully, that is, slaughtering small farm animals. But life on a suburban co-op involves certain unpleasantries that can’t be avoided. This particular co-op, where Amanda lives, raises chickens and rabbits for trade with local businesses, and a nearby Georgian restaurant that serves rabbit dishes has her to thank for the raw ingredient.

The perfect slaughter: note the blood draining.

The perfect slaughter: the blood draining from the nasal cavity means cleaning the carcass will be less messy.

My sister took me and Ben on a tour of what is essentially a modern-day hippie commune, thankfully without the presence of a bearded spiritual leader, polygamy or alarming lifestyle practices, although I admit that for some (looking at you, vegans) bunny killing falls under this category. Rather, this co-op consists of a handful of kindred spirits that split the homesteading duties, share meals, play music together and pass around the requisite homegrown weed. I don’t smoke, but I imagine after slicing the jugular of a particularly pecky chicken, a joint or two would take the edge off.

Just chickens...nothing else going on here...

Just chickens…nothing else going on here…

All they need are bees!

All they need are bees!

The house has a big back yard covered in raised vegetable gardens and lined with rabbit cages, a chicken coop and even a bee hive which Amanda built from scratch following YouTube videos and learning to use a saw for the first time. We sneaked a couple strawberries from a tower made from a plastic pipe cut with holes where the strawberries emerge. “My roommate’s going to notice they’re gone,” Amanda said, not too concernedly. We held a couple baby rabbits, and then another roommate announced that there were a couple rabbits whose time was up.

That face! He knows...

That face! He knows…

“Well, this takes a while so I better get started,” she said. “Do you want to watch?” If it wasn’t my sister doing this, I would have politely declined, like Ben, and maybe we’d have called it a day. But come on, my innocent baby sister clubbing a sweet pink-nosed fuzzball with a copper pipe–how could I miss that?

She prepped and sanitized the stainless steel butchering sink and had a bucket of water waiting nearby. She then retrieved rabbit #1 from death row. She wasn’t looking forward to this one, a veritable Easter Bunny. She calmed it by stroking its back, then took it upside down by the hind legs with one hand and reached for the copper pipe with the other. She turned to me to ask if I was ready. At this point I was nervously taking a video with my phone a few feet away.

Finally, Amanda brought pipe down swiftly and decisively. Obviously the last thing you want to do is hesitate. A cloud of white hairs escaped into the air with furball’s last breath. Death happened on impact but there was some postmortem twitching; the tail was the last to stop. Into the water bath went rabbit #1 and it all started over with rabbit #2. Rabbit #2 seemed to require more soothing. It had probably gotten a whiff of fear from the first one’s ordeal. While Amanda held it lovingly, Ben jokingly suggested that Amanda’s job would be easier if she wasn’t so nice to them to begin with. This time I was an accomplice. My fingerprints are all over that pipe from handing it to my sister.



He didn’t want to witness the aforementioned, but Ben came out of the shadows to watch part two, the butchering. A med school friend had once volunteered to come over to handle this part, Amanda told us as she used a basic kitchen knife to remove the skin, working it off the legs and then pulling it up and inside-out over the head, so that it looked like the rabbit died while trying to take off its own sweater.

The entrails were removed, the liver put aside and the feet snapped off like one would snap a branch in half. That noise was the only thing that made me cringe. Amanda proceeded to detach the fur from the head and then then head from the body with a butcher knife. Now a skinny, sinewy carcass, Ben and I helped it into a Ziplock bag along with the liver. She put aside the head to deal with the brain later; perhaps it found its way into a hearty Georgian stew.

Later on, there was ruckus coming from the rabbit cages, so my sister went out from the kitchen where we were talking to investigate and deal with the aggressor. “Is he going to be put in solitary?” I asked. There weren’t any more empty cages, but the chaos was deftly managed. “She’s so good with them,” commented one of the roommates. My sister replied, “It’s easy killing them, it’s keeping them alive that’s hard.”

I don't want anyone who doesn't know her to get the wrong idea about my sister ... this is just the face she puts on for every photo op.

I don’t want anyone who doesn’t know her to get the wrong idea about my sister … this is just the face she puts on for every photo op.

Note: I mostly have still footage of the white rabbit while alive and video of it while not, and visa versa for the brown rabbit, in case you were wondering about the inequity. In any case, the videos are absolutely precious so let me know if you want to see them. I need WordPress Premium to post video.