There are a variety of activities out on the Landmarks the week of St. Patrick’s Day to spot green in full force, whether during a fast-paced hike, an interactive outdoor adventure or volunteer opportunities giving back.
On Friday, March 18, get the whole family together for Canyon Explorers: Critter Scene Investigators. This family friendly program is a great evening adventure for children 6 to 10 years old, and a perfect chance for parents to enjoy the outdoors with their kids. Participants will learn how to decipher animal scat, tracks and bones while on an explorative 2-3 mile hike, learning about native animals in the City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon by investigating clues left behind on the trails.
Fitness-focused hikes are a unique opportunity to get a workout in now so you can indulge in that extra helping of corned beef and hash later. On Tuesday, March 15, exercise while experiencing the diverse habitat of the City of Irvine’s Orchard Hills Loop just before sunset at Twilight Hike in Orchard Hills. This leisurely paced 2-3 mile hike around an avocado orchard includes multiple steep climbs and rewards visitors with far-reaching views of Orange County. Or enjoy the lush, healthy coastal sage scrub during Quick Cardio on the Mesa on Tuesday, March 15. Participants on this invigorating workout along one of the newer trails in OC Parks’ Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park will be treated to the green sights and smells of native plants such as California sagebrush, black sage, and coastal prickly pear.
The Landmarks in spring can be rich with wildflowers adding bits of bright color to the green hills. Native species including arroyo lupine, California poppies, hairy yerba santa, and purple nightshade have been recently spotted at Black Star Canyon. Catch a firsthand glimpse of these beautiful signs of spring during Blooming Flower Buds on SilMod Loop on Sunday, March 20. The hike will travel 3 miles with an elevation gain of 750 feet, providing visitors with majestic views of the buds in bloom and the surrounding canyons. Or, channel your inner Picasso, using the colors of the canyons as inspiration on Saturday, March 19, during Art on the Landmarks: Painting in Limestone Canyon. The group will hike a short distance to a picturesque location within OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve, where participants will settle in to sketch scenes from the surrounding habitat. Art supplies are not included, so make sure you bring your own paints, pens or pencils.
Give Back to the “Green”
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities throughout the Landmarks contributing to the long-term health of the land. Spring brings non-native grasses and invasive plants that steal resources from native plants. Simple actions such as planting or weeding go a long way in helping to protect and enhance native wildlife, and many programs repeat regularly – giving participants the chance to connect with the land on a longer-term basis.
On Monday, March 14, help restore Tecate cypress – a rare species only found in Southern California and northern Baja California – at Tecate Cypress Stewardship in Fremont Canyon. Volunteers will be planting seedlings at the Fremont Staging Area, helping bring back this rare tree species in OC Parks’ Fremont Canyon Nature Preserve. Future support from the public is also needed to water and weed around these young trees after they are planted. You can search for all Tecate Cypress Stewardship programs here. Additionally, participants can identify plants, remove invasive weeds and plant native seedlings at Adopt a Canyon – Agua Chinon Stewardship on Saturday, March 19, at OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. Highly trained Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers will be on hand to provide all training, and your efforts will help restore local habitat so that native plants and wildlife can thrive in Agua Chinon. “Adopt a Canyon” programs occur every Tuesday and Saturday; you can search for all upcoming event dates here.
Artichoke thistle is a destructive weed whose aggressive root system and rapid leaf growth steals light, water and nutrients from native plants. If left unchecked, artichoke thistle can spread quickly across a landscape, displacing native plant diversity in its path. On St. Patrick's Day, help remove this weed and keep wildlife healthy at the City of Irvine’s Quail Hill during Pulling Together at Quail Hill. Artichoke thistle – one of the most pervasive threats to natural habitat within the City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve – requires continuous weeding, and Pulling Together at Quail Hill occurs every third Thursday of the month. Those interested in joining this ongoing cause can search for all event dates here.
Milk and Italian thistles are other exotic weeds that invade the oak woodlands of Limestone Canyon. Join Conservancy volunteers in removing any new thistles that have come up this year on Sunday, March 20, at Milk and Italian Thistle Pull at Shoestring Trail/Limestone Canyon. Many of these volunteer opportunities include kneeling, bending and walking across slopes or uneven terrain, but no experience is required. Conservancy staff and volunteers will provide all tools, training and gloves necessary.
All programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are free with required registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to the event. To learn more about or to register for these activities, click on the titles above or go to LetsGoOutside.org/activities.