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SYMBIOSIS Newsletter of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority

Summer 2013

Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors

Published by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and partially funded by a Proposition 84 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Symbiosis Summer 2013

Table of Contents Greetings from the MRCA By George Lange


What to Know Before You Go Planning and Preparing for Safe Outdoor Activities


Staying Safe in Nature’s Playground What to Do While on the Trail


MRCA’s Role in Emergency Trail Situations p.8 From Chief Ranger Fernando Gomez Connect to the MRCA: For question about Symbiosis, e-mail us at

Cover: Trail in Santa Clarita Woodlands Top: Ringneck Snake. Photo by Sophia Wong

Meet Ranger Jodi Thomas and Caba Part of the MRCA Safety Team


Showing Your Gratitude to Nature Principles of Leave No Trace and Outdoor Etiquette


Knowing Your Neighbors Notable Plants and Animals in the Parks


Staying Cool and Hydrated in the Summer Heat Lessons from Nature


Wilderness Survival Workshop Coming Fall 2013


Side: Coyote. Photo by Louise Rishoff



Greetings from the MRCA Greetings Friends, Welcome to another issue of the MRCA Symbiosis Newsletter. This issue focuses on “Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors”, intended to get us all thinking ahead of time about being safe and aware -- anticipating the potential for experiences both positive and negative, expected or not expected -- while in open space and out on the trails. More specifically, what does “Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors” mean? We all have our own vision of being outdoors, but what thoughts go through your mind when you hear the word “safe”? Everyone wants to be safe (from danger, harm, disappointment, etc.), yet we know that there is always the possibility that not so pleasant things may happen. There are always unforeseen circumstances that occur throughout our life. However, if we do our best with planning and preparing we can minimize the likelihood and impact of the negative circumstances. These principles also apply when venturing into the Great Outdoors -- which is the message we want to communicate in this issue. As you read through the following articles, addressing safe practices, preparedness, proper outdoors etiquette, and more, you’ll feel more confident when you do encounter an unexpected situation. Our take away message is be prepared and aware, even in a place you are very familiar with. If you recognize the possibility of encountering wildlife or an injured hiker, for example, you are more likely to remain safe while out on trails. To emphasize this, I want to share personal experiences, both positive and negative, I’ve had while out on trails. The beauty of nature entices us to observe it up close, but we still need to be aware of our surroundings and safety guidelines. I once made the mistake of NOT staying on the trail and got in contact with poison oak, so severe I ended up requiring medical treatment. The memory of this experience helps keep me mindful to act in a safe and mature manner while in nature whether mountain biking, hiking, jogging or on a leisurely stroll. Living in the northern part of the Conejo Valley, as I do and close to open space, it is not unusual to have encounters with wildlife. This was especially true years ago prior to increased development. Being open to and prepared for such encounters can be profoundly inspiring and leave lasting memories. I’ll never forget one instance that occurred less than a mile from my house. It was early morning and I was jogging east with the sun rising over a ridge and I came across a doe and her 2 fawns, 50 feet away. I thought she would have heard me approaching, although they were intensely focused on grazing. Obviously we were all startled by the surprise encounter. I immediately stopped in my tracks and watched the scene unfold. They initially appeared slow to react, just looking at me, but then at a fast pace they moved down the hill. Being physically and mentally prepared for an unexpected situation, I was able to assess the situation -- which afforded me a beautiful memory I still “see” today. Another experience ranks among the most memorable for me. About a half a mile west of my previously mentioned deer encounter, I observed a mountain lion perhaps only 50 yards ahead of me! While on the familiar Santa Rosa Valley trail returning from a hike into Wildwood Park -- one of the Conejo Recreation and Park Districts (CRPD) larger parks -- I approached an area where deer would lay in the tall grass on a regular basis, and I observed the commotion of a mountain lion chasing 5 deer. The deer came to a knoll and headed north, disappearing from view quickly as the mountain lion followed in close pursuit. While my adrenaline was flowing, it was remarkable observing an act of nature so close! This specific situation did not present any danger, yet certain encounters do have that potential as you may have read about recently in local newspapers. So I strongly suggest that you prepare for potential wildlife encounters and you can read more in our “Knowing Your Neighbors” article on page 10. I am sure that you too have had memorable experiences while in nature that were unexpected and that provide wonderful memories. In hopes that your various encounters with the Great Outdoors continue to hold positive memories, we encourage you to plan ahead and be prepared. It’s my hope that the articles in this issue of Symbiosis will provide useful tips and new insights about keeping safe while spending time outdoors on the trails. Sincerely, George Lange, MRCA Chair

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What to Know Before You Go

Trail at Temescal Gateway Park. Photo by Arthur Hoyle

Planning and Preparing for Safe Outdoor Activities With summer starting, people are looking forward to spending some time in the outdoors. From hiking and camping to horseback riding and biking, summer is a popular time at the parks. But with the recent headlines about lost hikers and injured park visitors, you may be a bit hesitant about going out on the trail. While it is everyone’s personal 4


responsibility to be prepared, we want to set your worries at ease and make some suggestions for your future park visits. Luckily with a few simply steps, you can be well prepared and keep yourself safe while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Just as everyone has a morning routine – like brushing your

teeth, eating breakfast, checking traffic, making a cup of coffee and carpooling to work – you should have a similar routine before going on a hike. This includes a list of questions that should be running through your mind. Do I have enough water for everyone and will I be able to refill there? Do I have sunscreen and proper clothing? What if

the weather changes? How cold will it be once the sun sets? Did I pack a first aid kit? These are all important questions that you need to think about before you go outdoors. There is an old piece of advice that says, “Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best!”. While its difficult to expect the unexpected, you can think about what could possibly happen and have a plan, just in case. Proper planning can prevent many outdoor emergencies, allowing you to have the best possible time, again and again. Once you go through the following suggestions a few times, it should become second nature, resulting in safer, more enjoyable outdoor adventures. Bring Water Water is essential for any outdoor activity. The average person requires roughly 1 gallon of water (4 Nalgene bottles) per day. This amount increases when in the sun and heat. Without enough water, signs of dehydration can occur, including headaches, irritability, and loss of coordination. If you experience any of these, you should seek shade, drink water, and rest until the symptoms subside. Read “Staying Cool and Hydrated in the Summer Heat” on page 14 for ways to conserve water. Bring Food Healthy snacks on the trail help replace lost electrolytes and minerals, and keep you energized for the day’s activities. Recommended trail snacks

#1 Thing to Remember: Stay on the Trail! Many recent incidents regarding lost or injured hikers, including the rescue pictured to the right at Malibu Creek State Park, could have been prevented by sticking to one rule: stay on marked trails. Staying on the trails protects you and the beautiful park you came to visit by minimizing damage to the natural resources. This also reduces your exposure to poison oak, rattlesnakes and unstable terrain, and lowers your chances of getting lost. Perhaps you see a beautiful waterfall and want to climb Photo by Mark Hollinger, Malibu SAR some rocks to get a better view. Or maybe you think you could see the ocean if you walked a few yards off the path. But these seemingly small decisions can lead to unfortunate and dangerous situations, such as injury or becoming lost. Trails are designed as passage ways through parks, avoiding precarious areas and leading visitors to memorable views and natural features. Every time you decide to go on a hike, make sure to stay on the designated trails and adhere to posted rule signs, which are there for your safety and for protection of the park. include fruits, nuts, and other healthy foods. Sugar may give you a quick energy boost, but will quickly wear off, leaving you tired and sluggish. Hike with a Friend It is always best to adventure outdoors with other people. Not only is it a fun social activity, but you can help each other in an emergency situation. Tell a Friend Anytime you go into the outdoors

tell someone what park you are going to, what trail you are hiking on, and what time you expect to return. This can be important information if anything were to happen. Check the Weather In California, we know weather can be unpredictable. We can have warm, sunny days in December and cool, rainy days in June. Also, while it may be blazing hot in the valley, our canyons can be cooled by a heavy Summer 2013 5

marine layer. It’s always best to check the weather reports before a hike. Don’t forget, it’s not just about rain or sun in California, also watch out for Red Flag Warnings. This warning indicates when conditions are ideal for wildfires based on temperature, humidity and wind speed. Be a Good Neighbor Park visitors can often be the eyes and ears for park agencies and law enforcement out on the trails. If you see any suspicious activity, please report it to the authorities. See the box on page 8 for important numbers to know. This can help protect you and other park visitors from many unsafe situations. All these tips are easy to follow, it is just a matter of making it part of your routine. A little extra time spent before leaving on a hike can be a lifesaver during an unforeseen situation on the trail.

Contributed by Michelle Renner MRCA Interpretive Specialist

Be Prepared with the Hiking Essentials Make sure to pack these hiking essentials every time you head into nature. These items will keep you comfortable and safe while exploring the parks:

1. Water – Not only quenches your thirst, water keeps you hydrated. Make sure to bring an ample supply.

2. Snacks – Everyone gets hungry, especially when hiking. Boost your energy with healthy snacks, such as fruit and granola bars.

3. Sun Protection – A hat, long sleeves, and sunscreen will keep you cool and protect against the sun’s harsh UV rays.

4. First Aid Kit – A first aid kit, either store bought or one you make yourself, is useful for minor cuts or injuries.

5. Whistle – Three blows on a whistle signals a sign of distress. It is a life-saving tool if you are lost or hurt in the wilderness.

6. Cell Phone – A fully charged cell phone is handy in case of an emergency, so don’t leave home without one.

Want to learn more? Watch our video on these hiking essentials, featuring Naturalist Ian:



Staying Safe in Nature’s Playground What to Do While on the Trail Picture yourself out hiking on a trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is a beautiful day, 80°F, with a gentle breeze blowing through the chaparral. You had a scrumptious lunch break with a spectacular view looking out over the rolling hills and valleys, forgetting the hustle and bustle of the big city that is only a few miles away. As you pack up your lunch and start to head back, you accidentally stumble on a rock in the trail. You feel a sharp pain in your ankle. Not sure whether you broke or just badly sprained your ankle, you are certain you will not be able to walk out on your own. Without anyone else around to help, you call 911. Every year, experienced and novice hikers alike find themselves in unfortunate situations that require emergency assistance. Whether they’ve been injured, had a severe allergic

reaction, or simply took the wrong trail and got lost, people rely on emergency assistance while in the outdoors for many different reasons. While not every situation is preventable, many could be avoided with proper preparation and trail safety. We will cover a few simple rules you can follow to help you, your family, and your friends stay safe, as well as discuss what you should do if you find yourself in an emergency situation while in the great outdoors. Plan Ahead and Prepare Whether you are going to a local park for a short hike or planning a 15-mile mountain bike ride, planning and preparing beforehand can make all the difference. Read “What To Know Before You Go” on page 4 with specifics on what you should bring with you and double check before embarking on a trail.

Prevention is Key There are several things you can do while in the park or on the trail to stay safe. Always be aware of your surroundings and changes in the weather and environment. Recognizing changes early can help you stay on the right trail, or help you decide if you should turn back. It is always okay to turn back. A smart hiker knows when to turn around and that they can always come back another day. When hiking with a group, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have a safety concern. Maybe your friend is comfortable hiking up that steep trail, but you are not. Know your limits. Know What to Do Despite proper planning and following safe hiking procedures, accidents can happen. When in an emergency situation, it is important to know what to do. Summer 2013 7

There are things you can do that will help you stay safe and help those trying to assist you. Being lost can be scary. If you ever find yourself lost while hiking on the trail, it is important to remain calm. Staying calm will help you sensibly think through your situation and determine what you need to do. Whether you are hiking with others or by yourself, make sure you stay in one place if you get lost. Your other group members or a search and rescue team will be looking for you and you will be much easier to find if you stay in one place. Once you are calm

and have chosen a visible spot near the trail, whistle or call for help. Following these rules gives you the best chance to be found quickly. If you are hiking by yourself and are not found after 30-60 minutes of whistling or calling for help, you may need to find a location with cell reception. Be sure to conserve your phone’s battery power and turn it off when you do not have reception. Move to higher ground until you find service. Remember, it is safer and easier to be found if you hike up hill on a trail as opposed to bushwhacking.

Numbers to Know Important numbers to know before hitting the trail: 911: For any emergency For Ranger Assistance: 310-456-7094 MRCA Ranger Services 661-723-3620 National Park Services Angeles Dispatch

Once you do get cellular reception, call 911. They will give you specific directions. You can also call other emergency services such as a local ranger service (see list on above) that will have more detailed trail and

MRCA’s Role in Emergency Trail Situations From Chief Ranger Fernando Gomez What are the most common safety situations that the MRCA responds to? And how do we respond to these situations? The most common are people getting lost and injured. If we have phone communication with the person(s), we guide them out to their vehicles. Otherwise, we send rangers to their starting point and begin searching by ground and air. We work with the local fire, police and other park agencies. We check the trails by foot, ATV, helicopters, and vehicles. If a hiker is lost or in an emergency situation, what actions should they take to help the rescue efforts? First step is to remain as calm as possible. Sitting will relax you and provide the ability to think clearly. This usually prevents you from continuing your walk in the wrong direction. Think, your mind is your most critical survival tool, training or skills will help you rationally assess the situation. If you have bright clothing, keep it ready to use as a signal to catch the rescuer’s attention. If you could give one piece of advice that would help prevent many of these situations, what would that advice be? A little pre-trip prep can save you a lot of worry and hassle should you get lost later. Leave a trip plan with a friend or relative that includes where you’re going, emergency contacts, when you left and when you expect to return. Carry a freshly charged phone or a two-way radio with new batteries. If at all possible, hike with a buddy and be prepared with some essential items (food, water, flashlight, sweater, map, a whistle and a first aid kit). Be aware of the weather, since it can change quickly. 8


park information. Unless given specific directions to move, stay in one spot until you are found. If you are lost, you may get low on food and water. While the nearby stream looks clear, cool, and refreshing, it also can contain lots of bacteria and viruses such as Giardia. If ingested, these can cause severe diarrhea which will only worsen your dehydration. Only in an extreme situation, where you have been lost and without water for 2 days, should you consider drinking stream water. Be sure to visit your doctor immediately once rescued. While the human body can only

survive 3 days without water, it can last more than 30 days without food. This means that while you may feel extremely hungry and have stomach pains, you should not eat berries or plants that you find in the wilderness. Many plants look alike and it can be difficult to tell an edible plant from a toxic one. We all stumble while hiking from time to time and even the strongest hikers can get injured. Bringing along a first aid kit can help with the minor scratches and injuries, but some injures require help from others. If you or a group member is severely injured and require immediate medical

attention, call 911. Remember to give as much detail as possible, including location, distance, other safety concerns, as well as anything else that may be important for the search and rescue team to know. We have so many beautiful parks here in the Santa Monica Mountains and we should always remember to give wilderness the respect it deserves. This advice can help you stay safe and make sure you get to have many more wonderful adventures in nature’s playground. Contributed by Andy Bleckinger MRCA Interpretive Naturalist

Meet Ranger Jodi Thomas and Caba Part of the MRCA Safety Team Ranger Jodi Thomas has a very special side-kick keeping parks safe – Caba, an experienced search and rescue (SAR) dog. Jodi started with search and rescue dogs while working in Yosemite National Park. For over 20 years, she has continued this amazing work. Now partnered with Caba, they accomplish daily duties like clearing parks after closing to responding to emergency situations, including lost hikers, natural disasters and even providing their services at the Pentagon after 9-11. Of the three kinds of SAR dogs: trailing, tracking, and air-scenting, Caba is a wilderness air-scent dog. Air-scenting dogs can locate groups or individuals over a large area and considering one search and rescue dog can cover the same area as 30-60 human searchers, Caba and Jodi are a powerful duo. Together they are qualified as a Type 2 Area Search Dog Team working for the MRCA, but also able to lend their skills to our partners California State Parks and National Park Service when needed. Their work doesn’t stop there either. Jodi and Caba often share their skills by educating the public about what to do on the trail, helping avoid situations that might require their services. Caba also helps train our Mounted Volunteer Patrol. Being so highly trained, he barks and moves on cue, testing the horses in our Volunteer Patrol to ensure they are comfortable around dogs and loud noises. Together, Jodi and Caba make an amazing team; one that plays a critical role in the MRCA’s goal to keep park visitors safe.

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Showing Gratitude to Nature

A young girl careful observes a Sycamore branch.

Principles of Leave No Trace and Outdoor Etiquette Manners are good skills to have no matter where you go or what you are doing. They go a long way, especially in the outdoors! Followed by many outdoor adventurers for decades and officially established by the US Forest Service in 1994, Leave No Trace (LNT) was designed to spread the word of outdoor etiquette. LNT’s 7 principles encourage respect and stewardship of the land, a way you can demonstrate your “pleases”,“thank yous”, and gratitude for recreating in a space shared by other living organisms. As civilizations grow and populations encroach upon wildlands and recreation areas, we must do more than just pick up litter and refrain from picking flowers; we must learn how to maintain the integrity and character of the outdoors for all living things. Individuals who practice outdoor ethics reduce 10


their impact on the Earth and ensure a positive experience for all those who spend time outside. The LNT principles set the standard for the ethics code to live by whenever you are outdoors. This helps you to be better prepared, while treading lightly on the Earth. It’s a win– win situation for both you and Mother Nature. Leave No Trace Principles: 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare 2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 3. Dispose of Waste Properly 4. Leave What You Find 5. Minimize Campfire Impacts 6. Respect Wildlife 7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors Plan Ahead and Prepare Through effective trip planning, including educating yourself on the regulations of the area you

are visiting, you set yourself up for a successful outing. (Read more in “What to Know Before You Go” on page 4.) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces By sticking to the trail, you allow yourself the advantage of knowing where you are on a map, staying out of poison oak, and limiting your impact on the environment. Just as our city roads get worn down over time, the land we hike on is slowly eroded. Minimizing the amount of disturbed habitat both reduces the care needed to maintain the trails, and protects animals’ homes and habitats. Durable surfaces include: established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, and something you will not find in the Santa Monica Mountains... snow. Concentrate on using existing trails and camp in designated campgrounds.

Dispose of Waste Properly Pack it in, Pack it out There are over 35 million annual visitors to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Imagine if all these guests were cognitively aware of not leaving anything behind. How much cleaner would our parks and beaches be? A big issue, though small in size, is micro trash. Micro trash is tiny pieces of trash that add up to be a big problem (i.e. bottle caps, torn off pieces from wrappers, etc.). Some end up being eaten by animals or built into nests, both of which can result in significant damage to the animals. Proper disposal of micro trash protects our magnificent wildlife while keeping our parks beautiful. To avoid leaving behind micro trash, try your best not to completely tear off the tops of wrappers or packaging. Instead, leave a little bit connected in the corner so the trash does not fully separate. Or tear off micro trash at home so you won’t lose it when you’re outside. Remember, whatever you pack in, pack it out. Leave What You Find From the mule deer and the lizard, to the blooming flowers and sticks on the ground, everything in the parks is protected. Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them. Also, the Santa Monica Mountains preserve a rich heritage of the many cultures and peoples that once lived in the region. If you should come across any cultural or historical artifact

or structure, please do not disturb the area. Allow the next person a chance to discover the beauty that you have found. Minimize Use and Impact of Fire Here in Los Angeles we all know about fire. It is a natural process of the land, regenerating the soils and making room for new growth. However, fire can have negative effects when caused by human error. Keep personal campfires in designated areas and be aware of Red Flag Warnings. If you do take the responsibility of creating a campfire, make sure all wood and coals are burned to ash, and douse the fire completely when you are finished. Respect Wildlife When you are outdoors, you are a visitor in the home of the plants and animals. Observe wildlife from a safe distance, and do not follow or approach them. Just like you do not want a stranger in your personal space, animals don’t either. Also, refrain from feeding the wildlife as human food damages their health and alters their natural behavior. Help us keep the animals wild. Be Considerate of Other Visitors Let nature’s sounds be heard by avoiding unnecessary loud noises. People seek out nature for a variety of reasons. Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their outdoor experience. We should always remember we

Great wildlife sightings like this one are best observed at a distance. Photo by Louise Rishoff.

share this Earth not only with other people, but also with all living things. We are constantly forcing nature to change and adapt to us humans. By giving your best effort to remember and practice Leave No Trace principles, you will reduce your impact on Earth both in nature and in your community, and ensure a positive experience for all who spend time outside. Contributed by Ian Griffith, MRCA Interpretive Naturalist & Leave No Trace Certified Trainer The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

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Knowing Your Neighbors Notable Plants and Animals in the Parks How well do you know your neighbors? If you are anything like me, you know a few names and occasionally wave a friendly hello. When you are out enjoying your local parks this summer it can be helpful to know your nature neighbors a bit better. Take a moment to meet some of our notable neighbors so you can be better prepared when visiting their wildland homes.

Poison Oak Poison oak is most recognizable by its lobed, shiny leaves that grow in bunches of three, which is where the saying, “leaves of three, let it be” comes from. Poison oak grows like a shrub, a vine, or along the ground and is found mostly in damp, shady areas throughout California. Though not a plant favored by humans due to the rash it can cause when touched, it is still an important part of the food chain as its leaves and berries provide nourishment for local wildlife. What should I do? All parts of the plant (leaves, stems, berries, flowers) carry oils toxic to most humans. The oil causes an itchy skin rash which appears within 12-48 hours, and can last up to 4 weeks. The best protection against exposure to poison oak is to stay on designated trails and to wear enclosed shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts while hiking.

Rattlesnakes The Santa Monica Mountains are home to a variety of reptiles which are wonderful to come across on hikes. Often seen along trails or rock outcrops, they are true Southern Californians taking in the sun’s rays. One such reptile, the rattlesnake, can be more exciting to meet. While dangerous if they strike, they are an important part of the ecosystem, keeping rodent populations down free of charge. What should I do? Watch where you put your hands, your feet, and your seat. Stay on designated trails and if you see a rattlesnake, like all wildlife viewing, give it plenty of space so it does not feel threatened. Never try to move a rattlesnake, but you can try stomping your feet from a distance which may be enough to coax the rattlesnake to sun in a new spot. If bitten, stay calm and call 911 immediately.

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Ticks Like surfers hanging ten, ticks hang out on the edges of grasses and bushes hoping to catch a ride. In the same family as spiders, ticks survive as parasites, feeding on the blood of their host. Most often the host is wildlife, but it is important to check yourself for ticks during and after a hike. There are several types of ticks found in Southern California and some have been found to carry diseases, like the blacklegged ticks recently found positive for Lyme disease at some local parks. ( What should I do? Staying on designated trails can help you avoid these stowaways and long pants and light colored clothing can make them easier to see if they do catch a ride. If going through thicker brush or grasses, keep ticks on the outside of your clothing by tucking shirts into pants, and pants into socks. Check frequently for ticks while outdoors and after hikes. If bitten, carefully remove the tick by grasping the head with fine-pointed tweezers and slowly pull straight out. Do not squash the tick, remove with your fingers, or try to twist or burn the tick from your skin. Be aware of symptoms of Lyme disease and seek medical attention if they present.

Mountain Lions The top predator of the Santa Monica Mountains does its best to stay out of the limelight. Preferring to be stealth, mountain lions travel the span of the mountain range in search for their next meal, often mule deer. Despite their size, mountain lions actually face many challenges to survive, from limited habitat to poison. Like most predators, these animals help keep the ecosystem in balance by keeping prey populations in check. An elusive mammal, most hikers will never catch a glimpse of these beautiful cats. What should I do? Hiking with a partner is always recommended but if hiking alone, making loud noises can alert wildlife to your presence and reduce chances of seeing a mountain lion. If you do spot a mountain lion, do not run. Stand your ground and look as large as possible, picking small children up and raising hand and jackets above your head. Those are some of the notable neighbors you might find out on the trail but there are many more you can become acquainted with. Along with your 6 essentials (see page 6), plant and animal guides can be a fun way to make neighbors into well-known friends. If you come across something you can’t identify, you can always bring a picture to the various nature and visitor centers in the Santa Monica Mountains and we will be happy to discover a new nature neighbor with you. Contributed by Carolyn Everhart MRCA Interpretive Naturalist Summer 2013 13

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

Staying Cool and Hydrated in the Summer Heat Lessons from Nature Our summers in Los Angeles can be extremely hot and dry which makes it more important to keep cool and stay hydrated. Whether you are hiking the trails, enjoying a day at the beach, or relaxing under an oak tree, water is a key component for a successful day. Often when we are enjoying our activities, we lose track of time and forget to take a sip of water. 14 Symbiosis

While it is easy to get carried away in our activity it’s crucial to replenish our loss of fluids. Water hydrates our muscles and regulates our organs. It increases our blood oxygen levels and helps us recover after physical activity. If not properly hydrated, physical activity leads to a loss of water especially during the heat

and dehydration can set in. This can in turn lead to more serious issues of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Therefore, to keep healthy and happy, it’s important to remember to bring water with you before heading outside. Humans aren’t the only ones who depend on this essential liquid. Water is necessary for all living

things. Even some plants and animals have special adaptations that help them stay cool under the hot sun. Let’s take a look at some of our local plants and animals to learn some clever ways to conserve and store water. Keep Hydrated Cacti, including our local Prickly Pear Cactus, are well known for storing water in their pads. By collecting water when it’s plentiful and storing it for times of need, succulents are able to survive periods of little rain. Like the cacti, you can make sure to pack enough water when water is plentiful at home, and bring it with you to places where water might be less available, like on backcountry trails. Avoid the Hottest Time of Day Animals in the chaparral need to beat the heat. During the summer, animals often become crepuscular and come out during dusk or dawn to decrease their exposure to the sun. In some cases, animals can shift to being

nocturnal during the hottest times of the year. Even our sun-loving reptile friends need to reduce their exposure to the sun. For instance, some lizards burrow underground when it gets too hot or find refuge in the shade. We can make similar adjustments to our outdoor activities. By hiking in the early morning or evening hours, we can avoid the hottest time of the day. Choosing to stay in the shade or indoors on extremely hot days can also protect us from dehydrating. Just wait for a cooler day to enjoy your favorite park.

exposed skin from the harmful sun rays. When needed, they will urinate on their unfeathered legs and feet to stain them white. This will help cool them off and act like sun block. While we do not recommend mimicking this specific behavior, we can take other steps to protect our skin and reduce exposure to the sun. Protect yourself by applying sun block or wearing appropriate clothing. You can prevent sunburn by wearing a hat, long sleeves and pants. Some of this clothing even comes with special UV coating to reduce the rays from reaching your skin.

Block the Sun The Laurel Sumac have inventive ways to reduce their exposure to the sun rays. The leaves curl like a taco to decrease surface exposure and increase shade. Not only does this keep the leaves cool, it also helps to prevent water lose. This has led to many nicknaming it the “taco tree”.

We can learn from the local plants and animals adapting their survival skills for hot summer days. So as we embrace our summer season, don’t forget to pack a full water bottle, wear appropriate clothing, and spend time in the shade to help stay hydrated and cool out there!

The turkey vulture has one of the most creative ways to protect its

Contributed by Judy Perez Soto MRCA Interpretive Naturalist

The taco-shaped leaves of the Laurel Sumac curl to reduce sun exposure. Photo by Justin Taylor

Take a lesson from the Turkey Vulture and make sure to protect yourself from the sun.

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Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority 26800 Mulholland Highway Calabasas, CA 91302

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Printed on recycled paper

Coming fall 2013

Wilderness Survival Workshop

Photo: Louise Rishoff

Get hands-on experience with practical skills to survive and thrive in the wilderness. MRCA workshops provide participants with on-the-trail skills application, guidance, and educational material. Topics will include: friction fire making, wildlife tracking, backcountry navigation, shelter construction, emergency preparedness, and much more! More details to come, including dates and fees. For more information, e-mail

Summer 2013: Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors  
Summer 2013: Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors