We’ve been on the run, driving in the sun


For a small change of pace, the National Park Service led us to Upper Zuma Canyon. Despite a new location with greenery that was vaguely reminiscent of the forests of Washington, our task for the day was a classic conservation work: removing invasives This time we took on the poison hemlock and Italian thistle. Fun fact: according to the NPS staff leading us, a sophisticated marijuana operation was growing in the underbrush of the thick vegetation which hid the plants from aerial scouts. Plant growers utilized the waterways and had irrigation systems set up on a timer before being discovered.

Unlike poison oak or poison ivy which have an instant reaction, poison hemlock could be vicious in its own delayed way, and combined with heat it could really affect people who came into contact with it. Gloves were definitely appreciated today. After discovering that the poison hemlock was too thick to simply remove by hand, our crew focused on the dead canes of poison hemlock, which happens to be an biannual plant. Eventually the live hemlock will be sprayed with herbicide. Those who were a little more detailed oriented worked on the Italian thistle among other invasives.

Early into the work, the NPS botanist heard the growl of a mountain lion and informed us to be on the alert. Like most animals mountain lions prefer to stay away from humans but this particular one was reported to have kittens. Mountain lions have a low rumbling growl to warn you to back off. I made sure to stay far away from the possible den site. And so another hot day of work was finished, a little earlier than usual this time. We gladly enjoyed the extra downtime around camp that resulted.