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The Santa Monica Mountains cross the southern part of the Valley. They are often green, hydrated by Pacific mists, and shielded from sunlight along their northern flank.

But up in Chatsworth, one can still occasionally find a brown, rocky, and barren land where horses, ranches, hay bales, and fences predominate. Here, far from the ocean, there is hardly any fog, and the south-facing mountains bake year round in blistering sun.

Near Canoga Avenue and Chatsworth Street, there is a surviving remnant of equine ruralism. I drove here, quite accidentally, on a search for open land beyond the last cul-de-sac in Los Angeles.

In mid-morning heat, pushing 98 degrees, an old man was walking his white dog near a working horse stable. A Metrolink train passed by. In the distance were those dry, mysterious mountains.

Along Canoga, behind a row of olive trees, stood some old, tired wood-frame shacks; weather-beaten, paint-peeling, weed-covered. Only a satellite dish atop a roof gave some clue of present day life.

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