Not so long ago, maybe five thousand years before this Canyon was called Dayton, a village of Chumash Indians, who had never imagined running a casino, did alright trading and hunting in these hills. Trails converge here from the ocean, and two or three rivers (depending on the season), many long valleys and the desert beyond.

Generations of bare feet disturbed the dust of eroded sandstone and decomposed bones of those who once cast shadows on these sacred brown grounds.

Carbon dating has shown that bone fragments belonged to bodies whose lives were separated by seventeen hundred years. DNA analysis revealed that they were from the same family line.

If some of those old villagers were to enter the canyon today they would notice the hillside has been severely cut into and very big houses have been planted. A whole generation of local Chumash could live in one of those houses.

Two hundred forty acres have been donated to the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy in exchange for developing the mouth of the canyon.

We walked past the trailhead and right up the dirt road that disappeared over the ridge in front of us.

Every New Year’s Day my daughter and I go on a hike, usually from Thousand Oaks to the Ocean. This year my wife and our dog, Lupin, are with us and we are hiking Dayton Canyon for the first time.

On our right we see a rustic sprawling property with many fences and at least five dogs; a little white one, a Great Dane mix, a black and white pit and two nondescript dogs. Lupin is a Siberian Husky. We hear a goat, complaining about something.

We see the black and white pit easily leap over a five foot fence, with athletic grace and purpose.

We stop. Something is wrong, maybe my sense of direction. This might not be the right trail. The pit is isolated and agitated in a rectangular area, totally fenced in.

And then the pit leaps another fence and charges up a sloping dirt drive. He makes a hard turn at the top of the driveway and is now running full speed down the dirt road, at us. Lupin, tail up, is quiet, not afraid. He has never read Jack London. The pit is 55-65 pounds of pure muscle and capable of leaping face high.

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