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Pixley: July is the time to let summer flow on

by John Pixley

“When you go out and see kids camping who’ve never camped before, it brings it all home to me.”

Obviously, getting people outdoors, getting them to enjoy being in nature, is a passion for Sean Woods.  Luckily, it’s his job.

Mr. Woods is superintendent of the Los Angeles sector of the California State Parks system. As he explained in an interview with Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times in late May, it’s his mission to promote the state parks in the area and help people enjoy these natural spots.

He says that this can be a challenge, especially with children who grow up using iPhones and other devices and are used to dealing and engaging with the world through a screen. Plenty are even fearful of nature, seeing television programs about alligators, sharks, killer storms and other dangerous, not-fun aspects.

He notes, “Gone are the days when your parents let you go out until you came home for dinner at 6. When kids come out to camp, they’re very fearful, but then they realize it wasn’t so bad. A lot of kids are used to ambient urban noise, so when they’re in a quiet spot, like our programs in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, they’re spooked by the fact that they can’t hear noise. That’s the challenge, to break down these barriers with kids.”

We’re in luck, too. Because it’s July. Yes, it’s July, which is the new August. For most of my life, August was when everything was closed and everyone took off. But now that school starts in August, and earlier and earlier in August in some places, July is the shut-down, take-off month.

July is when we should let it rip, with summer flowing at full force.

One way we can let it rip is, as Mr. Woods indicates, is to take a break from our electronic device and take our eyes off our screens. I have at least one friend who puts his television in the attic when summer comes. I can’t go that far, but I’m all for the recent ad shown before movies, featuring a family camping and encouraging us to “unplug,” not use our devices, one day a week. This is something we all, not just kids, can do.

July, with summer and its light shining at its fullest, is a great time for this. And not only for kids, who are out of school with days spread out before them. With its long days and balmy evenings, this is an ideal time to explore and try new things, to go on new adventures, to unplug and see what’s beyond the screen.

Of course, these adventures might include camping. It seems quaint now in our fast-moving, high-tech world, but that’s part of camping’s appeal, as summer’s popular activity from long ago when days were slower and more hands-on. At least I found myself lured in by those outdoorsy pre-movie ads.

Not everyone likes the down-and-dirty experience of camping. There are lots of nice picnic areas and trails good for day trips (or not far from motels), if that’s what one prefers or is more feasible. We in Claremont are particularly lucky in this regard. Not only are there beaches and those Santa Monica Mountains not too far away. Don’t forget the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument right in our backyard. A quick trip up to Mt. Baldy can make for a refreshing tonic on a hot afternoon.

We in Claremont are even more blessed in a town known for its surplus of parks. There is the ever-so-popular Wilderness Park, of course, but there are also the dozen or so parks in town. Not only do we have  city parks, there are the campuses of the Colleges, many of which are park-like. The campuses are now relatively quiet during the summer break, although there may sometimes be noisy tree-trimming or construction going on.

I find that, except on the hottest or notably humid days, reading under a tree can be surprisingly pleasant. The campuses and parks are also wonderful for getting out and going for a walk in the cooling evening. Of course, sitting out under a tree or maybe by the pool in the backyard can also be a nice escape.

Then there is music in the evening, as the sun goes down and the cool breezes finally come. Yes, music in the evening. Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. And lots of it is free. Another way to unplug and get away, if only for a couple of hours.

There are, of course, the old stand-by Monday evening concerts in Memorial Park drawing bigger and bigger friendly crowds and also, in what has become a popular tradition in the last several years, live music in the Village on Friday evenings.

For those who are more adventurous, there are the concerts almost nightly through August at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena, with the pretty lights in the trees. There is also the Levitt Pavilion in Los Angeles, as well as Grand Performances, with a very eclectic line-up and dramatic big-city backdrop, on LA’s Bunker Hill.

Back here in Claremont, though, there isn’t just free music filling our summer evenings. There are also films, suitable for the whole family, being shown for free in the parks around town. And, for the second year, the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival is being presented by Ophelia’s Jump during the last two weekends of this month at the beautiful, outdoor Greek Theater on the Pomona College campus. This year’s plays are Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus, and while tickets cost $25, this is hopefully another Claremont tradition getting underway.

There are lots of things in July encouraging us to unplug and take some time off to explore our surroundings. Claremont isn’t a bad place to do so. Sure, the beach and the mountains aren’t that far, but there’s more than that in Claremont. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to read recently that Claremont has been named by TheCultureTrip.com as one of the 10 most beautiful towns on the west coast, right up there with Cambria, Nevada City and Mendocino in California. Yes, enjoy! 

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