Repelling an Invasion of Bull Thistle

A little neighborly outreach can go a long ways, especially when the neighbors are forest and river.

It was hard to get me to care about invasive species. After all, up until recently, having a yard in western US suburbia meant importing just about everything – sod, plants, trees, and flowers – and keeping it irrigated to survive in a climate that didn’t really have enough water for that kind of thing. With everyone deliberately bringing in outsiders it seemed pointless to me to go into the neighboring hills to try to weed out invasive species of plants along the hiking trails.

Fast forward to having my own little plot of mountain land which came with very natural (read very sparse) landscaping. Me, and most of my neighbors, are foregoing grass in favor of plants that belong in this habitat and take less water to sustain.

A nice US Forest Service Ranger at one of the town events gave me her booklet on invasive species and asked me to be sure my yard only had native plants so that I wasn’t spreading invasives into nearby Tahoe National Forest and the Truckee River Watershed. I agree, thinking it’d be easy with a natural yard.

Wouldn’t you know, I came back from three weeks in Alaska to find my little postage stamp of land covered in weeds!

Bull_Thistle_over_French_Drain

Most of my weeds turned out to be invasives called Bull Thistle ( or Cirsium Vulagare. Now I probably would have figured out for myself that I don’t want this bad boy in my yard:

Big_Bull_Thistle

What I didn’t know was how to get rid of them without spreading the seeds to my yard and my neighbors – both householders and the National Forest. The Forest Service requests us to Bag and Bake the bull thistle. That procedure entails pulling up all the weeds, getting their flowers and seed pods double-bagged, soaked with soapy water, and left to rot in the sunshine for several weeks. Here’s my bags ready to bake:

invasive_weeds_bagged_to_bake

A few weeks later, on a weed walk sponsored by the Weed Warriors of the Truckee River Watershed Council I was introduced to one of the most noxious invasives of all in our area, the Spotted Knapweed. What makes it so harmful is that it actually puts out a herbicide that kills the plants around it. Spotted knapweed of course is immune to its own secretions and can produce thousands of seeds to take over an area.

Worst of all, something about spotted knapweed looked familiar. Sure enough, what I thought was a friendly flowering weed in my front yard had the tell-tale dark dots on its bracts.

spotted_knapweed_10430_JustinCreekRd
(Photo credit: Andy Seigel)

Like a good citizen I’ve reported the spotted knapweed to the county. If they are able to spray it, fine. If not, I will be looking for professional help for this one.

Rabies Shots!

Rabies Vaccine for Humans
Maybe this is why rabies vaccine for humans gets a bad name: the nurse comes and dumps an armload of needles on the tray. Sorry for the blurring photo but i think my hands were shaking.

It turns out to be not as bad as the urban legend. Seven shots yes, but not long needles in the stomach. It seems they want to inject into muscle tissue and, I’m sad to report, there is little of that in my abdomen area. So two sticks in each thigh, one in each arm, and one more in the butt for good measure. I have 3 more follow-up visits and it’s done!

This whole thing came about because this little guy zoomed into my RV up at a campground in Tahoe.
Rabid Bat
I didn’t know it at first. I thought the silent dark glider that went in the open window was a moth. Other people said it was a bird. I left the windows open a good time, didn’t see anything when i looked around, and forgot about it.
Next day the poor sick bat was lamely trying to get out the “kitchen window”. I left quietly, shutting the camper door behind me. Left my phone inside though. D’oh!

Many thanks to the animal control office who caught the bat and brought it in for testing. Unfortunately, it came back positive for rabies.

Since we both spent the night in the bat cave, the health department recommended vaccine for me. Here is the bat cave above the cab:
bat cave
And my rented “batmobile”:
RV
Before the health department caught up to me, I had researched the bat as my Native American totem. Various web pages said the bat was viewed as a source of intuition and a symbol of rebirth.

In a shamanic culture, my brush with the bat might be regarded as good fortune and an opportunity to see more of the world beyond this one. So what if it ended in madness and death. We all die anyway.

Being of this culture, and not at all ready to step through the doorway to the next world, I took the shots and (I hope) shut down the possibility of any altered bat states.

Right now, I’m just hoping my superpower will be immunity to rabies.

San Antonio Valley Ranch

I just like the feel of gravel under my feet.
Gravel Under My Feet
In this case, the gravel is at San Antonio Valley Ranch.

This Nature Conservancy property is on the way to becoming an ecological preserve. It is home to a herd of elk — no photos sorry. But elk! Just over the hill to the east of silicon valley!

Here is the fun and scenic route we took that day. The hybrid was so quiet, we surprised a bobcat on the road. No photos of that either. She ran the other way in an instant.

Back at the ranch, the newly planted trees are fenced to protect the new kids on the block from browsing animals.

If you appreciate the Nature Conservancy’s work, or just want to do a Good Thing, please visit my personal fund-raising page and consider a donation.

C’mon Up to Castle Rock

Castle Rock Park ViewCastle Rock is a park on the edge in two respects:

  1. It sits right up at the top of Skyline and drops steeply to the southwest, giving expansive views of the redwood forest out to Monterey Bay
  2. Its on and off and on the closure list of state parks, which means you might want to check out those views while you still can.

On Feb 26, I acted as the sweep for a Sempervirens Fund hike around the Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trails.   Hike leader Scott Peden snapped excellent photos, including a panel of wildflowers.  He also got a great shot of the woodpecker we saw.

Here’s Scott pointing out all the land across the San Lorenzo watershed — half of which is scheduled for closure in July if it can’t find funding.

Scott Peden Guides Castle Rock
Along the trail…my role as caboose gives a nice vantage point.
Castle Rock Park TrailNobody can resist touching the Madrone “refrigerator trees”.  Madrone treesOld growth redwoods live in Castle Rock, too.

old growth redwoodsWhen you visit Castle Rock State Park, I just have one request:  Please pony up for parking or buy a parks pass.  Your dollars count towards keeping the parks open and maintained.

At Henry Coe State Park

sostateparks1We gathered at Henry Coe State Park yesterday to show our support for California State Parks.   sostateparks2

ktvu_interviewTwo television news crews reported on the scene.    What I have to say is that these lands are a public trust run by the state government.   They are not an asset that can be closed or sold off.    The $15 vehicle license fee is a fine way to offset the costs and if other compromises are needed so be it.   But closing 80% of the parks is neither a reasonable nor effective solution to anything and would be a huge violation of public trust.

hiking_henry_coe

Our mission of taking a photo for the SOS Weekend campaign complete, we set off  hiking to see some sights, soothe our souls and get a little exercise. 

 henry_coe_vista2

More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackieannpatterson/

State Park Access Pass – Ask for It

ca_state_park_poppy_ocean

The budget committee voted to remove General Fund support for state parks.  Yikes! 

That means that incredible lands like the photo shown above may be closed to public access which deprives us all of two benefits:  1. Access to affordable, wholesome, uplifting fun at a time when families may not afford other recreation and 2. Erodes the protected status of these precious open spaces.

The good news is that there is an alternative to sitting back and letting our wild lands be taken from us (and I fear eventually turned into some form of development):

The budget committe also voted to recommend a new State Park Access Pass which would give a year’s unlimited access to state parks for $15 per vehicle — an outstanding deal!  This proposal needs to pass a final vote of state legislature.   Please nudge your representative – click here for an automated form.

Then reward yourself by visualizing your last fun trip to a CA state park…either hiking, camping, or maybe a beach.  Better yet, treat yourself to a visit to a state park this weekend.  🙂

(Photo Credit: Montana de Oro State Park – California Poppy by docentjoyce)

Henry Coe State Park Hike June 20

Henry Coe photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nkinkade/
Henry Coe State Park is a rare and precious combination of wild lands on the doorstep of a major metropolitan area.  Its been one of my favorite places since a backpacking trip deep in the park when a rottweiler-sized cat came down to the stream across from camp to get a drink…and ran once it realized people were about.   Watching the big cat drink was a wonderful sight to behold — and not one I’d particularly expect to see at park headquarters.

Unfortunately, our access to Henry Coe State Park is threatened by the CA budget crisis withdrawing funding for state parks.    I’m not only concerned about not being able to use Coe — I’m also worried that a closed park is less likely to be preserved as it becomes an easier target for development.

SOS is an organization committed to keeping our state parks open.   They have called for a show of support for the parks in the form of visiting a state park sometime on the weekend of June 20-21, 2009 and taking photos of ourselves with banners for a video they are producing.

I plan to be at Henry Coe State Park Headquarters to take the photos and I want you to join in.   Everyone is welcome for the photo.    

Henry Coe State Park HQ is off 101 near Morgan Hill, 60mins from Redwood City. Click for general directionsClick for google map  The HQ has restrooms and drinking water available.

If you want to be photographed with a sign, you can print your favorite of the signs on the SOS Weekend page.    If enough people RSVP by Thursday 6/18 to say they’ll be there, I’ll have a larger banner made up.

If you would like to coordinate carpools, feel free to leave comments on this post.   Please understand that this website is open to the public and I won’t necessarily know everyone who comments.   I’m already in a carpool down and will meet y’all there.

We do plan to hike after the photos.    If you’d like to hike too, please bring water, decent shoes, snack/lunch and your sense of personal responsibility.  This isn’t an organized event, but I’m happy to have new friends and acquaintances share the trail.

Hope to see you Saturday!

(Henry Coe photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nkinkade/)

Eagle Rock Hike at Little Basin with Sempervirens Fund

Great 7 mile hike yesterday up to Eagle Rock in Little Basin for Sempervirens

julia-and-emmanuelle in little basin

Thanks to Emmanuelle for leading the way.

 

 

 

rickCheck out Rick’s awesome photos by clicking here.

 

 

 

Here’s a few shots I took along the way:

1_joe_spots_venus2_stargazing

Joe spotted Venus in daylight.

 

 

 

img_0815final_ascentKathy-cool-bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

liz-and-curt-at-entryway

As you can see from the logo on the signs at the entry, Little Basin used to be Hewlett-Packard’s corporate retreat.   They sold it to Sempervirens and POST, who must foot the bill until California can afford the gift of Little Basin as an extension of Big Basin state park.    Meanwhile, its open to HP, Sempervirens and POST.

The thing I like best about hiking with Sempervirens is all the neat people I meet.   If you would like to join us on a hike, click here.   Please consider joining  in the preservation of these very special redwood forests.

Nutcracker Hike in Little Basin

Sempervirens docent Karen DeMello led a fun interpretive hike at Little Basin — filling our imaginations with scenes of the redwood forest and sounds from the Nutcracker Suite.    What a treat!  

Little Basin started as HP’s corporate retreat.   Hence the garage door mock-up on the amphitheater stage.  We learned on the hike that HP’s first customer was Walt Disney, who bought audio oscillators for Fantasia, which coincidentally features the Nutcracker Suite.  (clip)

Nice that all of this forest and history can be preserved by Sempervirens and POST.  They are the land trusts who bought Little Basin.  The eventual goal is to make it a state park, by adding to Big Basin.  

Scott Peden brought a series of maps more than a century old showing how Big Basin State Park has grown as a result of Sempervirens members.  In addition to helping the forest, members get exclusive access to Little Basin before it is opened to the public.  

Click here to join Sempervirens.