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Hike to the Sea No Easy Task--but They’re Used to Challenges

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was a pleasant Saturday outing, with about 75 nature lovers hiking from the Danielson Ranch down to Sycamore Cove.

At the cove there was a barbecue, sponsored by the Thousand Oaks Kiwanis Club. The hike itself was under the aegis of the Wilderness Institute of Agoura Hills.

What made this particular adventure notable was that some of the hikers were in wheelchairs, some blind or otherwise physically challenged, all negotiating the bumpy, twisty fire road from the ranch down to the ocean.

Some in chairs were pushed by volunteers who turn up year after year to share in this outing. Some propelled their chairs themselves, with such brio that the Wilderness folks and volunteers held their collective breath.

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Some, like 39-year-old Sid Luther of Glendale, who came with his 12-year-old daughter, looked like a drunken sailor as he joyfully journeyed down the fire road. He has Frederick’s ataxia, which degenerates the muscles. But it didn’t stop his fun.

“This hike gives people like me a chance to get out in the open and enjoy the wonders of what God has made for us all to enjoy,” said Chris Honicky.

Honicky, a Van Nuys resident who gives his age as “ageless,” was born with cerebral palsy. He is confined to a wheelchair and speaks with the use of a voice-projecting computer for phone calls and a letter board in person. On both he taps out messages to the world with his nose.

Honicky, who has been on all 12 semiannual Wheels to the Sea hikes, was among those encouraging nervous first-timers to get on with it. He may not be able to speak clearly without the use of his computer, but he knows how to make himself understood.

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Husband and wife Brad and Bonnie Childs are the event coordinators--and the nonprofit Wilderness Institute’s mainstays. Although they coordinate many nature hikes and outings each year, they both say this is one of their favorites.

“There is so much exuberance and sense of high adventure when we go out with this particular group that it would be impossible not to get caught up in it,” said Bonnie. “And this is one event we never have trouble getting funded or finding volunteers for.”

The outing is free to the hikers who may hear about it through one of the many organizations, such as Easter Seals, that serve the physically challenged.

The buses to transport the hikers from Kaiser Permanente hospital in Woodland Hills and Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park are paid for by the contributions of the Golden Eagles, a charitable group that helps support the institute’s philanthropic events.

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There was a lot of ribbing and teasing from the hikers when one of the buses got stuck temporarily in soft ground near the Danielson Ranch and the volunteers had to push it out.

Lake Nofer, 36, of Woodland Hills, is another regular on the hike. Because she has multiple sclerosis and tires easily, she asked a volunteer to push her down the road.

“Don’t make it sound like I am shut in or helpless or something,” cautioned Nofer. “I go lots of places and sing in the Woodland Hills Community Church choir. But I look forward to the hike each year because it gives me a chance to get outdoors and meet new people. And this year the weather was perfect.”

After she went home and took a shower, Nofer said, she had to laugh because her new “tan” all washed off.

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“I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t get a lot of opportunities to get dirty. That’s part of the fun,” she said.

Local Group May Perform Dance of Sugar Plum Fairies

It was your typical Valley wedding, with the bride in white and a state of grace and the groom in his suit and a state of confusion.

Except that when the betrothed couple reached the Reseda Buddhist Temple, the door to the inner chamber was locked. So the wedding party was forced to use another room.

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Then bride Ellen Rand, a Buddhist, and husband-to-be Dan Krause, an atheist, thought their troubles were over until they learned the officiate had lost his voice.

“I had never been to a Buddhist wedding,” said guest Kurtis Bedford, of Reseda, “so I was somewhat startled when the monk started the ceremony by apologizing for not being able to speak out loud.

“He said he had lost his voice the night before and that it had only come back a little during the morning so if everyone would bear with him, he would get on with the ceremony.”

After that there was, as Bedford told it, about 30 minutes of chanting, then the ceremony that united Rand, a computer operator, and Krause, who runs a movie house in Westwood, followed by a reception at the Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills.

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“The florist was late and the band canceled at the last minute,” bridegroom Krause remembered. “Our party got the food from another party and the other party got ours,” he added.

“It was your typical wedding and reception,” said Krause. “People throwing cake at each other. That sort of thing.”

Well, what would you expect from a wedding given by two members of the improvisational comedy troupe called Witness Protection Theater, with a guest list augmented by other members of the troupe, including Krause.

The group has been performing every Friday night at the 50-seat NY/LA Theater at 6006 Laurel Canyon Blvd., in North Hollywood, for almost a year. According to Krause, the ticket sales pay for the use of the hall.

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“We aren’t about to give up our day jobs, but all of us really like the opportunity to be on stage,” Krause said.

The group includes, in addition to the computer operator and theater manager, a couple of actors, a carpenter, a musician, a television production assistant and a couple of people who produce studio special effects.

They are the offshoot of another improv group in the Valley, which, according to Krause and Bedford, was headed by a person with many interesting qualities, none of which either wants to mention because of prevailing libel laws.

A week ago the group was invited to appear at the Comedy Store, which jazzed troupe members some.

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“Unfortunately, we were in the big room, and there were fewer people in the audience than come to our theater,” said Krause, adding that his favorite improv did not prove as challenging as it usually is at their home base.

“We do an improvisation called ‘Dance of the ----------------' in which the audience is invited to fill in the blank. In North Hollywood, people have us doing things like the ‘Dance of the Bumblebees’ and the ‘Dance of the Kangaroos.’ Boy, those kangaroo dances are tough on the thighs.”

But the Hollywood folks asked the group to do the “Dance of the Cats,” so the ensemble felt as if it had wandered into the 10th year of a way-off-Broadway show.

They couldn’t have been too bad because they have been asked to appear at the Comedy Store again tonight at 10 p.m.

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Asked how they got the name Witness Protection Theater, Bedford said, “It made us laugh, so we used it. But we’re not so sure now. We get a lot of people on our answering machine at the theater who grunt a couple of times and hang up.”

Krause says that the group is nonpolitical and most respectful of federal agents and their programs, adding that if any of those agents want to catch their show tonight at the Comedy Store, they are welcome.

Just please don’t ask them to do the “Dance of the Cats.”

Overheard:

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“In the ‘60s I thought I got over crying over the Kennedys. I thought the same thing in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but here we are in the ‘90s and the crying never seems to stop. All they have to do is show those assassination pictures and I start all over. I’m beginning to feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.”

--North Hollywood woman to friend after watching the televised accounts of the funeral of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


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