Goodbye to the Center of the World

When I first came to Frazier Park, I was scared. It was two days after graduation, my first summer away from home, and my first time moving to a new place with no one that I knew. However, when I first stepped out of the car, smelt the Jeffery Pines ad fresh air, I knew it would be an amazing summer. I was right. This summer has been one of the best. I have made new friends, had amazing experiences, and made steps to conquering some personal fears.

Through this internship, I have realized that field work is amazing. Before, I knew I enjoyed being outside, but this summer allowed me to work outside for extended periods of time. Certain days, I was not sure if I could continue on. I was tired, sore, and hungry. But then just over the next ridge we would make an amazing discovery, and my energy would be restored. I have learned how to use a radio, which is much different than a walkie-talkie. I have become more familiar with GPS equipment. Best of all, I have improved my academic learning, and used it in hands on situations.

The Chumash used to call Mt. Pinos the “Center of the World,” and being here this summer, I completely understand what they meant. When standing at the top of the mountain, you can see for miles and miles in all directions. However, I do not believe the Chumash named the mountain just for its amazing view. While being in nature this summer, making collections and documenting locations, I felt at peace with the world. This may sound strange to come, but I believe the Chumash named this area the “Center of the World” because it brings a sense of calm to people, unlike anywhere else. I am very sad to be leaving this special place, but I am leaving thankful of the experiences and opportunities it has provided to me.

The Magic Spring

Recently, my co-intern, Eli Grinberg, and myself, made a trip up Cerro Noroeste in hopes that there would be seeds for us to collect, or insects for us to capture to add to our collection. Along the way we stopped at multiple locations, collecting seed pods and berries from different plants. When we got to our destination, a small spring, we were expecting to find multiple different species of flys, bees, and wasps, however, we found something much more magical.

To locals, this spring is known as Lion’s Gate. Although in the quaint mountain town of Frazier Park, California, there are no real lions, the spring was just as magical. When we first pulled up to the spring, we were not that impressed. If we did not know exactly where we were supposed to go, we would have missed it. The spring was a small trickle of water coming out of the side of the mountain along the main road, nothing special. Upon closer examination, Eli realized that there were a few hummingbirds flying around. We knew the birds would not be comfortable unless we remained extremely quiet and still. After a few minutes of still silence, the birds became comfortable with our presence, and came out of hiding.

When the birds came out of hiding is when the true magic began. At one point, we attempted to count how many hummingbirds were hanging around the spring, which can be extremely difficult. We counted seven birds at one point, all of which were flitting around, some drinking from the spring, others were chasing each other, and some were posing for us to take pictures of.

It was truly magical to watch the hummingbirds in their natural habitat, playing and simply enjoying their lovely home.

Photo by: Eli Grinberg

Sticky Toes

This past month I had the opportunity to participate in an Arroyo Toad survey along Piru Creek, in California. The survey began around 6 pm so we had plenty of time to survey the toads in both daylight, and nighttime. As we moved from pool to pool, we saw a couple of tadpoles, but no toadlets, which was slightly disappointing. We were beginning to worry that upstream water diversion and pollution had decimated the toad population.

As the sun began to drop, our worries turned into excitement. With the growing darkness, the toadlets began to appear out of no were. One minute we were strolling along the creek bed, not seeing a single toad, and the next we had to shake our feet before setting them down to avoid stepping on the little critters.

Upon further inspection of the toads, we realized not all of them were the Arroyo Toads we were looking for, however we were still thrilled to see the creek bed come to life. As we were bent down looking at one of the toadlets, one of my co-interns came up from behind me, informing me that there were several toads just a foot away. As I turned to look, one jumped on my back, and began to make its way towards my head. Imagining the Parent Trap scene where the lizard crawls into the stepmother’s mouth, I closed my eyes, covered my ears, and tried to keep my mouth closed. The whole time I could feel the small toad climbing up my back. When it got to my shoulder, I could feel every one of its small, sticky toes as it crawled toward my neck. After what felt like five minutes, the toadlet finally decided it was done exploring, and jumped off, never to be seen again.

For the rest of the night, I could feel the toad’s sticky toes climbing on my shoulder, which might have been the weirdest feeling I have ever felt.

A Intern in a Candy Shop

Before starting my internship, I had a grand idea in my head. I pictured myself hiking through a lush forest, finding colorful flowers everywhere I looked, and being swept away by the forest’s beauty. Then my mom looked up my ranger station on Google Earth. The images showed the station in the middle of chaparral, with no trees in sight, let alone a whole forest. Although my day dreams of frolicking through the forest seemed to be crushed, I kept my spirits high, knowing I would have an amazing experience no matter where I was working.

As I drove to the station on my first day, my dreams were restored. I know you are not supposed to trust everything you see on the internet, and this was a perfect example of why. As I drove through the twists and turns of the mountain roads, I was in awe at the forest surrounding me. The massive Jeffery Pines and abundant wildlife blew me away, however this was not the most shocking element of the forest. When I opened my door, I was overwhelmed by the sweet butterscotch smell of the pines. I had been taught that if you approached a Jeffery Pine and stuck your nose in-between the bark scales, you could smell butterscotch. No matter how many times I tried this in the past, I could not smell anything. However, in this new land of adventure, the smell was everywhere, I felt like I was in a candy store who had just taken a huge lick of a Butterscotch Dum-Dum.

The next three weeks were filled with very similar experiences. Time after time I believed I knew what would be around the next turn on the dirt mountain road, however, after coming around the bend, the unexpected would be staring back at me. We have found springs in the middle of dry patches, meadows in the middle of heavy forest, and massive pines that stick out amongst the rest.

My partner and I have been tasked with collecting native seeds for a pollinator garden, however we have decided to expand the project, and also create a collection of different pollinators from the area. Although collecting seeds can be tedious, trying to catch a Carpenter Bee can be nerve-wracking. None of the hikes we have been on have caused my heart to race like it does when I am sticking my hand into a net with a plastic bag to capture the bee inside.

So far our seed collection is comprised mainly of Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale, which has been painful to collect and clean. We are hoping that as the summer progresses, other species will soon go into seed and be ready for us to collect. For now we are taking what we can get, and running around chasing bees and butterflies with nets like fools. I can not wait to see what other candy I can find in the candy shop that is the Los Padres National Forest.



Los Padres National Forest, U.S. Forest Service

Los Padres National Forest, Frazier Park