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Blast to the past at Placerita Canyon nature Center's Open House

Posted: May 11, 2013 9:58 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2013 9:58 p.m.

Sampling a bit of history first hand at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center's Open House Saturday, Caleb Hoyle (left) and Eric Provencio use a two-man saw as Al Wallander looks on.

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Cutting your own wood and washing your clothes by hand proved hard work for kids visiting the Placerita Canyon Nature Center’s Open House on Saturday.

More than 500 people, many of them families, got a taste of the natural, the wild and the old-fashioned as the center threw open its doors to the public.

“We love the Nature Center,” said Charla Provencio as she watched her 8-year-old son, Eric, sawing a log the way they did more than a century ago.

“We come up here and visit the personal trails they have and we’ve had this (open house event) on our calender for two months now.”

As her son paused in his sawing duties, supervising saw boss Al Wallander told the boy how to stand with his feet firmly on the ground and how to use his arms.

This is how they built houses 150 years ago, someone near them said. To which, Wallander added: “And, at this rate, it will be a very small house.”

Young Provencio and his sawing partner Caleb Hoyle, 8, were sweating with each back-and-forth motion of the saw blade.

Asked what he would do if he lived 150 years ago and was told to spend the day cutting wood, Hoyle said: “I’d go to the outhouse and hide there all day.”

Against a sunny backdrop of birds chirping and wood being cut, was also the splashing sound of soap on a washboard nearby.

Nature Center volunteer Evelyn Velie, dressed in an ankle-length blue dress and supervising the old-time washing experience, told kids how to scrub, wring and feed clothes through crank-turned rollers.

Saturday’s event featured many of the less strenuous attractions popular among children such as face-painting.

The attractions offering visitors a brush with the past or a close encounter with nature, however, proved to be a bigger hit with kids and adults, organizers said.

“It’s been a record turnout. We’ve never had so many people turn out before,” said the Nature Center’s Superintendent Russ Kimura.

“We did some things differently this year,” he said, pointing to a expanded browsing area created around the center that moved parking further out.

“I talked to my vendors, my volunteers, my park staff and everybody is having a great time.”

One of the stars of Saturday’s open house was Wheely — a majestic Harris’s hawk with her grappling hook talons capable of exerting 70 pounds of pressure.

The hawk’s handler, Rick Brammer, held out his gloved hand to show a bloody exposed part of unprotected arm as proof of the bird’s prowess.

As a small crowd gathered around him, Brammer told the story of how Wheely came to call the Placerita Canyon Nature Center home.

“We found Wheely inside the wheel well of a UPS truck,” he said, hence Wheely’s name.

Center Animal Keeper David Stives “reached into the wheel well and all her tail feathers came off,” he said. That was 15 years ago.

An estimated 15,000 people on average visit the park every month, according to Kimura.

The park has seven different trails covering 12 miles of natural terrain. Its main trail, the Canyon Trail, connecting the Nature Center to eastern most part of the park, was recently updated to accommodate mountain bikers.

 

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