About Author

Connect with Me:

Be Aware; Be Prepared

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s trained volunteers and staff lead dozens of free hikes, mountain bike rides, and stewardship events each month in the South Coast Wilderness. The details of each program – whether a yoga hike, habitat restoration event, or fitness hike – are listed online, providing the community lots of ways to “opt outside.”

Before each outing at the selected trailhead, introductions are made. The leaders reiterate the details of the activity so that participants may confirm they are appropriately prepared. Participants have the opportunity to take a quick restroom break or run back to their cars for any needed items, and then everyone hits the trail for a new adventure. It is a wonderful time to get to know our wilderness in unique ways and make a few new friends.

Just a “walk in the park,” right?

Not quite. A lot goes on behind the scenes. OC Parks and Laguna Canyon Foundation’s long-term volunteers are amazing for a lot of reasons: they love the land and they know the trails; most are experienced naturalists; many are specifically trained in their field of expertise: geology, California native plants or yoga, for example.

They are also trained in CPR and First Aid. Having recently been re-certified in CPR/FA, I am reminded how important this training is to the work we do.

During the eight-hour course, led by a wonderful instructor, Louis Liwanag, volunteers learn what steps to take in an emergency. Stop; breathe; scan. This includes assessing and responding to variety of situations, from heat cramps to sprains to a heart attack. Students learn how to assess a scene and approach a distressed or injured person. They review who to call and when. Louis spends a significant amount of time on how to administer CPR and first aid and the students practice…and practice…and practice. Participants take a test and those who pass are certified.

CPR and First Aid training is as important for the volunteers to know as the trails they are on.

Ever wonder what the most common issue is that we see on the trails? Not a bike crash, ankle sprain or other physical injury; not a snake bite, bee sting or animal related injury; thankfully, not a heart attack. It is heat-related illness: dehydration, cramps and weakness.

As we head into the cooler days of fall, we might think that we’re not at risk for heat-related issues, but this is really a fallacy. Heat-related illnesses happen when we aren’t hydrated enough or we take on an activity that is too steep, too long, or too challenging for our skill level. Weather is but one factor.

The wilderness and trails are very inviting, and so it’s not a surprise if we want to go farther, higher or faster than we should sometimes. But as the volunteers are trained to do when they are first aware of a scene, we too can stop, breathe, scan. Whether on a guided hike or out on our own, let’s listen to our bodies. Are we skilled and fit enough for what we are about to do? Once on the trails, if we feel fatigued, should we go back? Should we rest? Should we let someone know?

Let nature take its course as you take care of yourself. The trail will be there next time too. Be prepared and be aware.

Nothing like planning for the upcoming school year to reflect on hard-earned accomplishments while pondering what’s ahead.

Wait, what…but it’s summer. Sweet, low-key summer!

Yes, it is July, but for several school districts, including Santa Ana, school starts again in just weeks – mid-August.

That means we at Laguna Canyon Foundation are already in the throes of budgeting, strategizing and planning for the students we’ll soon be bringing on wilderness hikes this coming school year.

Last year, Laguna Canyon Foundation hosted:

  • 76 hikes
  • with 4,506 participants
  • covering 169 miles of hiking

The participants are second through fifth graders, their teachers, and several parents. The hikes are out of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s Barbara’s Lake and Dilley and Willow Staging Areas, as well as Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

Laguna Canyon Foundation offers bus transportation, programs led by our trained field educators, and materials – all at no cost to schools or students. The curriculum covers such subjects as design in nature, adaptations, habitats big and small, the art of observation, and general fitness, all while emphasizing how each of us can be good stewards of the earth, whether in the wilderness or in our own neighborhoods.

But while facts and figures are always interesting to crunch and review, the most rewarding part of our yearly review is remembering the individual conversations we had with students, teachers and parents, and how a morning hike in the wilderness sparked their sense of wonder.

Students learn that one of the biggest “social” trails fragmenting the habitat and making it very difficult for animals to cross between the Santa Ana Mountains and the South Coast Wilderness is the very freeway they traveled on to come to the trailhead. They learn that while a snake can’t make all the holes along the trails they see, they can – and sometimes do – certainly come out of one. Why? Snakes are looking for their lunch. Students ponder, as they see the “No Dogs” sign, why their pet cannot come on the trail with them. Then an “a-ha moment” comes: a dog, after all, is a predator.

This past school year, Laguna Canyon Foundation brought students who typically might miss out on such an adventure: students who need ADA bathrooms or may not be able to hike the trails as their classmates can; students who may need one-on-one attention, such as those who are visually impaired. We prioritized accommodating the needs of each individual student, ensuring that every single child (and his/her parent) felt welcomed and had the confidence to learn and grow alongside their classmates.

Hats off to our wonderful field instructors, Alex, Audra, Cameron, Chrisha, Luma and Joanne, for the care, the knowledge and the enthusiasm they shared with each and every participant of our school program.

Student quotes from thank you notes and trailside wrap-ups:

“Thank you for taking your time to teach us about nature. I loved learning about the flowers. My favorites were the wild cucumber and the sticky monkey flower.” – Eli

“Keep calm and love animals.” – Fabian

“I love nature.” – Stephany

“If you take flowers, you might be taking an animal’s food or shelter.” – Omar

“I liked being outdoors, learning new stuff, being with my friends and hiking with our teacher.” – Janet

“The graham crackers were delicious, but I know human food isn’t good for wildlife.” – Adela

“Picking up trash like glass, is important. Hot days and trash could make a fire.” – Bailey

“I saw bunnies, one snake, animal ‘footsteps’ and a hawk’s nest. My favorite part was when we played camouflage.” – Navid

Thanks to Cameron and Chrisha for the pictures!

What’s ahead?

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s partnership with its Santa Ana Title One schools is unique. Our staff works closely with teachers to ensure our NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) curriculum syncs with what they are teaching in class. Our goal is to bring back each student in his/her second, third, fourth, and fifth grade years to develop future environmentalists.

Our local Laguna Beach schools are also a priority. Many Laguna Beach teachers have a passion for the wilderness and want their students to understand the gift we have with the wilderness “right outside our doors.” Hikes with local students involve fitness, yes, but also discussions on safe trail use and what each of us can do – pick up trash, not go on unauthorized trails, keep our dogs on dog-friendly trails, volunteer – to protect what we love.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum

These programs would not be possible without the generosity of our grantors and donors. This coming year, we hope to raise $150,000 to sustain our program. Whether you enjoy the trails frequently or admire them from afar, it is the open space that makes Laguna Beach so unique.

Decades ago, Lagunans fought to ensure that this wilderness would be here for generations to come. Laguna Canyon Foundation is leading the way to develop the newest generation of activists and environmentalists. Thank you to our wonderful community for all you’ve done.

Help us carry on. Donate today: www.lagunacanyon.org/donate

It was a tweet: “Laguna Vegetation Fire…one acre.”

Then a warning: “Extreme fire behavior with erratic canyon winds.”

Then it became reality: “…400+ firefighters on scene.”

Then it was in “our” park: “Command Center in Wood Canyon for #AlisoFire.”

Then it hit home: “Mandatory evacuations: Top of the World and Aliso Viejo.”

Then it hit my home with thick smoke coming over the ridge.

How many times this past week have we at Laguna Canyon Foundation — our staff, our board, our volunteers — heard our fellow hikers, bikers and trail users voice, “This is in MY park,” with questions about the oak tree on Wood Canyon…on Wood Creek Trail…at the bottom of Nature Loop/Coyote Run?

“Is ‘our’ oak tree ok?” 

“What about the deer we saw last week?”

“How did any snakes possibly get out?”

“Are animals coming back?”

“My [dad, sister, uncle…] is a firefighter. I pray they’re ok.”

A fire ignited in the midafternoon on June 2, 2018 and burned approximately 175 of sensitive habitat inside Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. As of this writing, Coyote Run (South of Rock-it), Dripping Cave, and Nature Loop are closed.

The fire was started by a “juvenile accident.” The Orange County Register has reported that a boy came forward.

Now, thanks to hundreds of first responders, “our” wilderness is healing. The blackened hillsides may appear lifeless; however, natural recovery is already underway. The ash contains rich nutrients that will aid habitat regeneration.

So what can we do for our park?

As we read in airports, “If you see something, say something.” For public safety, including the habitat’s safety, please let the park office know if you see any off-trail use. Call 949-923-2200. If no answer, please leave a detailed message including time, date, location and description of the trespasser.

Sign up to volunteer with Laguna Canyon Foundation and OC Parks.

Stay Out. Please respect closure notices. Some areas are still unsafe. And entering closed areas could increase erosion, damage recovering plants and further traumatize displaced animals.

Be Patient. Land managers are working to reopen the trails for public access as soon as it is safe and feasible for visitors and habitat.

Donate. Laguna Canyon Foundation is working with OC Parks on clean-up and restoration efforts.

Subscribe to Laguna Canyon Foundation’s newsletter. Be informed.

Most importantly, be good stewards of the land. Pick up trash; take nothing. Stay on trails and avoid user conflict. Smile, share the trail and be grateful that “our” wilderness is safe.

 

Thanks to OC Parks for detailed information. Photos courtesy Ed Baranowski.

After four hours on the Dilley trails carrying shovels and tools to do trail maintenance with volunteers and colleagues, I am back home in my favorite chair, a little sweaty, smelling like sage, with my two dogs sleeping beside me. It is a good day.

I love the Dilley trails: Canyon, Blackjack, Mariposa, and Sunflower. Well, really, I haven’t found a trail I don’t like, and I know I’m not alone. Whether we hike, bike, run, photograph, paint or bird watch, the South Coast Wilderness and its 70 miles of trails, to quote Edward Abbey, “feed our souls.”

Throughout Aliso and Wood Canyons and Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks, I hike the trails with our volunteers who lead guided hikes; I hike the trails with elementary school children to develop our next generation of environmentalists; I hike the trails with my family. I pick up trash, respect the animals’ right of way in their own habitat, let the rangers know if I see something suspicious, and teach our visitors about the importance of good stewardship.

One wilderness duty that hadn’t cross my mind to do was participate in a trail maintenance event. Being of a certain age, with four knee surgeries under my belt, I just didn’t think I could handle four hours of wheelbarrowing stuff from here to there, carrying heavy tools, or otherwise keeping up with a far more able group of folks.

But I gave it a go today, and boy, I’m glad I did. Not only was it fun hard work, I learned a lot and got to hang out with cool people. Even more so, we worked on trails that I am deeply familiar with — trails where I can point out a specific wood rat nest, a good gall place, or where to see one of the best views ever.

My fellow field instructors and I take fifth graders on Dilley trails throughout the school year, trails that may, from time to time, have some challenging footing. So it was with a great sense of contribution today that I learned how to build and maintain trail drainage. As the trail experts say, “We like to keep the users on the trails and the water off.” There was plenty of work I was capable of doing, from shoveling debris out of the dirt drains to building a rock gargoyle that better defined the trail.

Trail stewardship is rewarding and hard work. It is hiking, with many stops. It is not stops to mediate, as with the Yoga Hike, or stops with the fifth graders to learn about a prickly pear cactus, but a stop to maintain a small and very important part of the trail that helps both the trail users and the inhabitants of the wilderness. Surprisingly to me, it is a very intimate experience with nature to thoughtfully tend to a little area of need. It truly refreshed my soul.

Restoration Program Director Alan Kaufmann, who heads the trail stewardship efforts, is always happy to see new volunteers at the events. “The trails are used by a wide variety of people, and, of course, for a variety of activities. We welcome everyone to these trail events. There’s always something folks at every level can do, from brushing to moving rocks.” And, Alan quips, “Sometimes, volunteers might just lean on their shovels to watch and learn; that’s perfectly acceptable, too.”

Now, as if I didn’t have enough reasons to get out on the trails, I have one more: to maintain our beloved trails for our enjoyment and for the plants and animals that live in this very special place. Another way to #KeepItWild.

To sign up for a Trail Stewardship event and help maintain our trails, visit www.lagunacanyon.org/volunteer.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is blessed to work with kind and generous volunteers, board members and staff. During the Thomas Fire, two of our own spent days in Ojai and Ventura doing what they could to help.

The call came in …

Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteer and Laguna Beach resident John Monahan has served as a Red Cross DAT (Disaster Action Team) Lead for more than three years. The Red Cross and its army of volunteers are poised 24/7/365 to assist and comfort residents when disaster strikes: fires, mudslides, cars running into their homes, earthquakes.

Most of the year, John shares a weekly schedule to be on call for local (Orange County) emergencies. This means, says John, “When I get the call, I try to make sure Red Cross volunteers are with the clients within an hour of the call to help them through these difficult days. We are focused on the individuals in their time of need to provide a variety of possible resources and services: money for lodging, clothes, blankets, food, prescription and medical equipment replacements, spiritual care and/or mental health services. A Red Cross case worker will follow up to see how the recovery is going.” Calls usually come in from first responders such as firefighters and police.

When the Thomas Fire hit, the Red Cross’s DRO (Disaster Relief Operation) was elevated to a national operation. Red Cross chapters which are local to the Ventura/Ojai area were called first, but as John explained, “The fire was so massive and so much help was needed, I was soon working shoulder to shoulder with Red Cross volunteers from Long Island and Bainbridge.”

As with local operations, the Red Cross volunteers were focused on the immediate needs of displaced victims. “We managed the shelter at the Ventura Fairgrounds and provided food, clothing, personal items and support to more than 300 people,” said John.

For the first three days, the volunteers stayed in a church gymnasium. One hundred and fifty volunteers shared a space with just a few toilets and sinks and no showers. “That was a bit tough — a lot of snoring, sweating, and noisy shift changes,” said John, “but then we were moved to Port Hueneme Naval base apartments which, of course, had showers and actual beds.” The Naval base, which became John’s home away from home for the next ten days, was about a 20-minute drive from the Ventura Fairgrounds.

“The smoke was a constant problem. As the fires moved north, the smoke continued to waft down through the Ojai River,” said John. “We were all wearing masks.”

The volunteers reported daily for 12-hour shifts. John’s specific assignment was to manage unsolicited donations. This included traffic control (cars lined up to donate), triaging donations that were useable for the current situation and donations that needed to be stored for further sorting, and securing a warehouse for the donations that couldn’t be used at the Fairgrounds.

This was a huge task, and at one point, when John was directing the line of cars, a woman pulled up with 30 – 40 bags of miscellaneous donations and several cases of water. She parked her car and helped unload her bags into the Red Cross’ U-Haul truck in an effort to keep the queue of cars moving. The air was thick with smoke. As her last bag was unloaded and she got in her car, she realized she no longer had her keys. “All of the volunteers looked stricken as we surveyed the long line of cars and wondered how long it would take to unload the fully loaded U-Haul to find her keys. As it turned out,” said John, “we found her keys which had slipped between two water cases and she was quickly on her way.”

“People like to donate material goods because they feel a closer personal connection to the people in the shelter. But it’s often very difficult to match the shelter needs with the donations. We probably received 25 – 50 times the amount of baby care items, bottled water and used clothing than was needed. Ultimately, the donations will be used, but probably not during the actual disaster at hand.

“Overall, the best advice I have is to donate money for all the facilities, food, bedding, vehicles, volunteer transportation and housing or, to make it more personal, donate time. We really appreciated all the people who came out to the Fairgrounds to help,” said John.

Because Red Cross policy requires that the perishable food served in shelters be from a commercial or professional kitchen, each local Red Cross chapter has agreements in place with vendors to provide food in case of a disaster. Food was brought in daily to the Fairgrounds and included pizza, Mexican food, sometimes even hot food from a mobile kitchen.

The Ventura Fairgrounds also had stables, which made it convenient to house pets and animals.

“It’s amazing the kind of details that go into an operation like this and I’m proud to be a part of the Red Cross. Most of us have never experienced a disaster,” says John. “That’s why I volunteer with the Red Cross, because it’s very gratifying to have the resources and experience to help when people need it most.”

“Ojai is where I’m from ….”

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s Outreach and Restoration Coordinator, Cameron Davis, grew up in Laguna Beach. But having lived her high school years at Ojai Valley School, hiking, camping and learning in the hills of Ojai Valley, it’s hard for her not to think of herself as an Ojaian. She also met the love of her life, James, at Ojai Valley School, and although the two now live in Laguna Beach, they still have many family members and friends in Ojai.

On a hot, dry Tuesday in December, as she prepared to lead 60 third graders on a hike to Barbara’s Lake, Cameron got a text from James. She needed to leave immediately to go up to Ojai. James had already left his La Mirada office and was on the 101 heading north. James’ father’s property was threatened by a fast-moving fire. He was packing his two cars and needed help. Also threatened was “The Ranch,” a citrus and avocado grove home to several horses, goats and animals, as well as many of Cameron and James’ family and friends.

Ojai Valley is rural, with a history of ranching. The Valley has a population of about 30,000 and has only three ways out. It is a small town, much like Laguna Beach.

Cameron ran home to grab clothes for James. She also grabbed whatever else seemed appropriate: water and cans of beans. She dropped their dogs off at her mother’s in North Laguna. Thankfully, since Cameron was preparing to hike that day, she was wearing appropriate clothing for the days ahead, because she didn’t end up getting clothes for herself.

James and Cameron met in Ventura to drop off James’ car “… at the safest place we could think of,” said Cameron, “the Patagonia store’s parking lot right under the security camera.” They picked up more water and headed east on the 33 toward Ojai. “There were no cars going into Ojai, just ours, and there was a line of cars leaving.”

James’ father, John, had already left his property on Ojai’s west side and headed east to what was a safer spot for the moment, the Ranch. James and Cameron’s first order of business was to pick up John’s second car and move it to the Ranch. “The neighborhood was eerily empty; there was smoke everywhere. John’s house wasn’t locked,” said Cameron.

The Ranch fast became a central place for family and friends — as many as 12 people at a time — to huddle together for the next few days, determined to protect the property and animals. “One of my high school teachers lives on the Ranch and she was not going to leave the animals and we were not going to leave her.

“For most of the time, we had electricity, giving us access to the news on the radio and the TV,” said Cameron, “but the coverage quickly moved to the Ventura fires, so we had little knowledge of how near the fires were to us.”

Enter #OjaiFire, @OjaiFire, and @CALFire. “I would have never guessed it, but aside from our ham radio, Twitter ended up being our best source of information. From tweets, we could better assess where the fires were.”

“Citrus doesn’t burn.” Old adage? Fact? Whatever the case, the Ranch was surrounded by citrus and it was a truth the group wanted to believe. “We hiked up from the Ranch to the highest point where we saw so many hot spots. The hills where we had camped over the years were covered in ash. Many streets and homes familiar to us were burned down; the air was thick with smoke.”

The days and dangers blurred together for Cameron as she retold her story. At one point, she recalled, the fire quickly turned, and now it appeared the Ranch’s east end was in danger and John’s house on the west side seemed safer.

James told the group it was time to leave, but many wouldn’t. “Citrus doesn’t burn” and they weren’t leaving the horses. James took Cameron, three dogs and three cats and drove the ten miles to his father’s home, only to return to the Ranch a few hours later as the fires took yet another turn. At this point, John’s house was still standing, although other houses on the street had burned down.

Throughout the days James and Cameron were in Ojai, the fires continued their erratic behavior. “We just lived and survived and monitored the news on Twitter and through our ham radio. We helped friends move belongings. We moved pets to safer places. We ate the beans I brought and made do with what food we could find; the Ranch work still needed to be done, so we fed the animals, worked on the irrigation in the groves, and cleared brush away from the structures,” said Cameron.

In many ways, Cameron’s Laguna Canyon Foundation restoration experience of planting, weeding and watering in our local wilderness assisted her. “If it wasn’t for all the smoke, it almost felt like at times, I was at ‘work.’ It was comforting to be productive.”

Cameron also made it a point to fill big tubs of water on the Ranch edges to potentially help the wildlife — and it worked. “We saw deer, bear and coyote tracks leading to the tubs.”

One day, Cameron and James ventured out to town to see what businesses might be open. Most were closed, but a coffee shop — and the location of James’ and Cameron’s first date — “Full of Beans” was open. They picked up coffee and muffins to take back to the Ranch. On the way back, they ran into an exhausted firefighter. He had come from Oakland and had been up for 24 hours. “Want some coffee?” James offered. At the word, two more firefighters came out of the smoke, and soon, James and Cameron were giving the firefighters all they could offer them: coffee and muffins.

Back at the Ranch, the group soon got word that Ojai Valley School had suffered much damage. The new tech center and many offices were burned and data was lost. The girls’ dorm where Cameron had spent three years of her life was burned to the ground, with only a brick chimney standing.

Staying until they knew their family was safe and grateful to know that John’s house, the Ranch, and the animals were all saved, James and Cameron made the tough decision to leave on the sixth day. “There was so much still to be done, but we had our jobs and dogs and life back in Laguna Beach.”

“Oak doesn’t burn.” Adage? Fact? When asked about a specific memory of her experience, Cameron recalls, “I was looking out into the wilderness surrounding the valley … nothing but white ash, a place that I cherish, where I grew up and developed my love for the wilderness, a place full of chaparral, now a total moonscape, except for one massive oak tree. Not one leaf was burned, just a little scorching on the trunk.”

When asked for advice to share with others about their experience, both John and Cameron said to get your to-go bag together now. Put important photos and documents on a thumb drive and/or the cloud. Create a plan with your family and for your pets. Imagine going through a disaster without your phone and car. Be prepared. When you’re told to evacuate, leave.

On a recent education hike at James Dilley Preserve, Marco, a 5th grade student, impressed one of our Field Educators by arriving with his Field Journal from the prior year’s hike. In it, he had continued his observations and drawings about nature and the open space. This was something we encourage: be inquisitive; be creative; enjoy nature – wherever you are – and write down your thoughts, sketch what you see, and make notes on what you want to research.

Since 2006, Laguna Canyon Foundation has been partnering with several Santa Ana schools to bring second through fifth graders to the South Coast Wilderness. In the open space, a living classroom, students learn from a different angle, in the fresh air and among native flora and fauna.

 

Our partnerships have grown. In 2017, we expanded to 12 partner Title 1 elementary schools. Using NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) to ensure an informative and enjoyable outing for both students and teachers alike, Laguna Canyon Foundation tailors the hikes for each grade level:

Second Grade:          Art in Nature

Third Grade:              Adapting and Surviving

Fourth Grade:           Let’s Create a Habitat

Fifth Grade                The Power of Observation

There are several unique aspects of our education program.

  • Free of charge to the schools. Laguna Canyon Foundation hosts, at no cost to the schools, up to 85 school trips per year, serving more than 4,500 students. Through the generous donations of our supporters and grantors we are able to cover costs of busing, supplies and staff.
  • Students return each year. We are grateful for the commitment of the principals, teachers and parents who ensure the success of our program, which is designed so that each student – throughout their elementary school journey – may return from their second grade year through their fifth grade year. We build on the life sciences, growing and developing future environmentalists, conservationists and scientists.
  • Our education staff are trained field educators. Prior to leading a group of students, our field educators, already experienced naturalists in our canyon, repeatedly walk the specific trails we will be using for our hikes with the students. They know to point out certain plants on the trails…where a woodrat nest is…where a fossil is. While they can answer many, many of the students’ questions, they also know that they are scientists too, learning together alongside the students on each and every hike.
  • Each year, we “adapt.” With each outing as a new experience, we see ways to improve. We take input from our grantors, teachers, parents, students, field educators and volunteers to make each year better than the next.

As one teacher said, “Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education hike is often the only time my students get out in nature and, after experiencing it myself, I am grateful to see how seriously the field instructors take their responsibility. They make it really special for my kids.”

Learn more about our programs at lagunacanyon.org/education.

For the past 13 years, my husband and I have walked our dogs daily on the fire road between Moulton Meadows Park in Arch Beach Heights and Sommet du Monde, a private enclave with half a dozen houses. Time and weather permitting, we often go further, along Alta Laguna to Top of the World.

The southwest view from these walks is Laguna Beach, with all its beautiful homes, protected coastline, nestled canyons – Oro, Nyes and Bluebird – and the expansive Pacific Ocean reaching out to Catalina and beyond.

The east view is Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, home to native flora and fauna and miles of trails including Mentally Sensitive, Dripping Cave, and Five Oaks. From our fire road perch, eyes lifted may gaze across the canyons to the ridgeline of Laguna Niguel’s Aliso Summit Trail and further still to Cleveland National Forest. Aliso Viejo landmarks such as the Ziggurat Building and Soka University can be easily spotted and, if timed right, one can even experience the fireworks going off at Disneyland.

Aliso Creek runs her 19-mile course from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean through Aliso and Wood Canyons. Hills covered in mule fat, coast live oak, toyon, and coyote gourd rise up from the creek. Take a sniff: the sages are earthy and the coyote gourd will surely wake you up! If “earbudless” (not often the case in today’s world), one could perhaps hear a coyote howl, a warbler sing, a western fence lizard scurry, or a covey of quail coo-cooing, their call often described as “Chi-CAA-go; Chi-CAA-go.”

While the southwest view is what drew most of us – my husband and me included – to Laguna Beach, it is the east view, and the rich native habitat surrounding us, that has won my heart.

Laguna Beach is a cornucopia of individual neighborhoods, each minutes away from an amazing trailhead. The North Laguna “tree street” neighborhood has Dartmoor which winds up to Bommer Ridge, Emerald Canyon and many other trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Canyon Acres has, well, Canyon Acres Trail climbing to Westridge and beautiful Catalina views. Mystic Hills has Park Avenue Trail and its lush and rocky terrain, and South Laguna has Valido Trail with a quick 900-foot elevation gain, well worth the effort to see a spectacular view of Aliso Creek meeting the Pacific. 

Our neighboring communities also have wilderness trails nearby: Laguna Woods has Woods End; Aliso Viejo has Cholla, and Laguna Niguel has Wood Creek, to name just a few.

And whether you’re reading this thinking, “Yeah, been there; I ride/hike it every weekend,” or “What strange names and places; I must learn more,” or something in between, these 22,000 acres of biodiverse habitat surely enrich our lives. As Laguna Beach residents, it is clear how much we love our city, our beaches, our culture and our neighbors. We take pride in our community. Inspired by The Saloon, our motto may say it best: “Be nice. You’re in Laguna!”

Let’s also love — and be nice to — our open space, that “east view,” the treasure that many Lagunans – more than 25 years ago – fought to protect against development. It is our backyard. Take a look. We must protect it.

Interested in learning more? Laguna Canyon Foundation has been protecting and preserving our wilderness since 1990. Call us; email us. We’d love to chat.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is hiring Field Instructors to support our outdoor education program!

Position Summary

The Field Instructors support the goals and objectives of Laguna Canyon Foundation by bringing awareness of and engagement with the open space. Throughout the school year, Laguna Canyon Foundation will host approximately 85 field trips, during which each field instructor will lead a grade-specific, educational hike for approximately 15 students and their teachers/chaperones.

During each grade-specific trip, students will enjoy an outdoor adventure that encourages a scientific mindset while connecting with nature through fun activities and exploration. Students will “think like a scientist,” and will leave with ideas and tools to explore and wonder about nature wherever and whenever they see a patch of green in their world.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Lead several educational hikes in the canyon each week during the school year.
  • Adhere to written program guidelines (Next Generation Science Standards based) to teach children grade-specific curricula.
  • Encourage engagement, observations and wonder with each student.
  • Understand and carry out both oral and written instructions
  • Performs other duties as assigned or requested.

Required Skills and Experience

  • Commitment to the vision and mission of Laguna Canyon Foundation.
  • Demonstrated experience working with children of a variety of ages in an outdoor environment showing patience and kindness.
  • Ability to interact successfully with supervisors, teachers, and parents.
  • Punctuality, flexibility and dependability.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills.
  • Knowledgeable of local plant and animal life and ability to memorize and recall facts, figures and information.
  • Ability to hike on trails, in a variety of weather; ability to lift up to 50 pounds
  • CPR/First Aid certified or ability to become certified (LCF will pay for training course); ability to respond to immediate needs of students, participants and hikers. Fingerprinting for a background check will be required.

Desired Skills and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university with coursework in environmental studies, sustainability, science or related field preferred.
  • Ability to speak Spanish preferred.

Schedule, Salary and Benefits

  • Education programs run from September 2017 through June 2018. Although programs could be scheduled any weekday, programs will be mostly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from approximately 8:00am – 12:30pm.
  • This is a part-time position and pays $14 per hour.
  • Each Instructor will work (on average) two days per week during the school year. Instructors are able to choose their own workdays within the overall program schedule.

Physical Demands/Work Environment

The physical demands and work environment described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

About Laguna Canyon Foundation

Laguna Canyon Foundation is a nonprofit established in 1989 that is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the South Coast Wilderness, a 22,000-acre network of Open Space surrounding Laguna Beach in Orange County, California.

Originally founded to facilitate the transfer of land from private to public ownership so that its open space values could be protected in perpetuity, Laguna Canyon Foundation had evolved from a land acquisition organization to also engaging in education, public programming, assisting the Parks with trail maintenance, and conducting habitat restoration projects in and around the South Coast Wilderness.

To apply, send resume and cover letter to paula@lagunacanyon.org. Applications will be processed on a rolling basis.

Where were you on the night of June 22, 2017?

Don’t worry; we’re not asking for your alibi, but if you weren’t at the Nix Nature Center at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, you missed something special. With stellar support from Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteers, OC Parks Resource Specialist Laura Cohen treated more than 50 visitors to a beautiful and educational night in the park.

The visitors – of every age – could engage in several activities, including participating in a constellation scavenger hunt, learning about the sizes of planets and why each might be a difficult environment for living things, and understanding the difference between astrology and astronomy.

OC Astronomers set up six powerful telescopes. Science Heads brought their mobile observatory in which aspiring astronomers could tour a “virtual solar system.” While the actual night of June 22 had a bit of a marine layer limiting celestial observations, visitors learned that this was the best time to see Saturn and Jupiter.

So, where will you be on August 21, 2017?

You might want to consider planting yourself in one of a few selected states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri…and continuing across the middle of the USA down to North and South Carolina. Why? Because it is in these states where the total solar eclipse can be seen on August 21, 2017.

A total solar eclipse occurs when a new moon comes between the sun and the earth, aligning just perfectly. It is a rare occurrence. The last time a total solar eclipse could be seen from the United States was in 1979 and only from a few Pacific Northwest States. If you’re a planner, check out the Washington Post’s interactive webpage, illustrating when your next shot would be.

What will we see? The better question might be: what will we experience? Imagine, during a bright sunny day in August, the moon covers – eclipses – the sun…dim, dim, dimming the sun’s light as it moves across the sky, until the day’s sky reveals stars and planets. Venus and Jupiter, for example, should be visible. Remarkable, right? The moon almost taking over the day from the sun, creating a dark circle in the sky, with the sun’s corona fanning around it like a muted, silvery sunflower.

Our universe is, of course, amazing. We at Laguna Canyon Foundation – staff, volunteers, board and partners – love learning about our earth and our surroundings. It helps us better understand how we can protect and preserve this canyon that we love.

OC Parks Resource Specialist Laura is already planning the next Astronomy night at the Nix, on October 28, 2017. On this night, International Observe the Moon Night, we will share lots of fun activities. So please join us for a wonderful – full of wonder – evening.