Donuts and Tumbleweeds

Howdy y’all! So this week I’ve mostly stayed in the office working on those spreadsheets I mentioned earlier that contain all of the archaeological reports the park has conducted, going as far back as 1947! We’re almost done inputting all the necessary information into it so that we can refer to it in the future when looking for specific sites, or when we record new sites so that we could simply add the new reports to the existing spreadsheet and keep everything in order. However, we received a park-wide email on Tuesday asking for help on Wednesday with the removal of Russian Thistle (remember them from the island!?) from the Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch, with staff bonding time and donuts being our delicious rewards. Naturally, the weed removal party had a great turnout. Just as a refresher, why remove Russian Thistle in the first place? For one, when they grow up to be adult plants, they actually become annoying tumbleweeds* that can pose as road hazards for vehicles, as they may get caught in their tires. Another more important reason to remove Russian Thistle before they can become tumbleweeds is because as tumbleweeds, they become a fire hazard that may allow fires to spread quicker, since tumbleweeds are extremely dry and thin. And since the visitor center was recently relocated to King Gillette Ranch, it would be a shame for it to suffer fire damage due to evil tumbleweeds. So we each picked up a shovel, some gloves, and a donut and got to work!


We had a hard time differentiating between those green bushes and the Russian Thistle.


Digging away! You could also kick the little beasts with your boots.


Snake skin! It kind of felt like tissue paper.

Luckily, we didn’t have to collect all the plants that had any flowers or seeds on them because according to one of the botanists, the seeds wouldn’t fertilize anyway because they don’t possess the proper nutrients at the moment to sustain a new plant. So we created little piles of plants and pushed them off to the side. After our weed removal party, the archaeologists took us on a quick tour of the area, which is also known as Talepop, a possible village and meeting site for the Chumash that connected them to the Pacific Ocean, which is now about 7 miles away from here. We walked around the site and noticed multiple shell fragments ranging from clam to mussel shells scattered around the open plain, which gives more truth to the possibility of this area having been a village. The archaeologists told us that pots, ceramic fragments, flakes, and even human remains have been found at Talepop, although they want to revisit the site because the first time they recorded it, they recorded it for the purposes of creating the visitor center, so they really only focused on the area where the visitor center was going to be built. The ranch has a large open space behind it, where we ended up finding flakes, animal bones, and even a complete stone tool! I hope they revisit the area in the future and perform a comprehensive survey of the site, because there’s definitely more to be found here at Talepop!

This lithic tool was used to shape arrows by using the notch in the middle to round the arrow barrels.

We eventually entered the visitor center and checked out the interactive displays inside, such as this map that depicts a few popular hiking trails of the Santa Monica Mountains. image1 And this one, that lets visitors send postcards to their loved ones showing them enjoying themselves in California.

You can’t really see our faces very clearly, but Archaeologist Nicole and I are riding horses in Rancho Sierra Vista!

I have one more week left at my internship, so let’s see what next week has in store for me! 🙂

*Apparently, people from all around the world travel to California, or the United States, to get a glimpse of tumbleweeds! They’re as iconic as the Palm Trees of LA, the Torrey Pines of San Diego, and the Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park.  

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