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Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: Of Fires And Frying Pans

SCV Outdoor Report: Of Fires And Frying Pans

By: Wendy Langhans


Coast Live Oak leaves:A hydrophobic waxy coating on the leaves helps conserve water

Have you every fried up a mess of bacon in a pan, sat down to eat a leisurely breakfast, and then returned to the kitchen to clean up?  And what do you find in the fry pan?  A lump of waxy solidified bacon fat, of course!  Chemists describe that waxy layer of bacon fat is as “hydrophobic”, which means it repels water.  So you clean the pan by first wiping out as much of the bacon fat as you can with a paper towel; then you use dishwasher soap to dissolve and remove what little fat remains.


In nature, hydrophobic chemicals are often useful.  The shiny, waxy gloss on a duck’s outer feathers provides a hydrophobic barrier that keeps water away from the insulating layer of air contained within the interior downy feathers surrounding the duck’s body.  A waxy coating on coast live oak leaves protects the tree from losing moisture on a hot summer day.


But hydrophobic chemicals can also cause problems.  When a hot wildfire blows through the area, those waxy leaves will burn.  Their hydrophobic chemicals volatilize, penetrate the soil as a gas and solidify after cooling, much like what happens when you fry a mess of bacon.   This creates a layer of hydrophobic soil, ½ to 3 inches beneath the outer surface of the soil.


Mallard Drake: A hydrophobic oily coating on the outer feathers helps repel water and conserve heat

That’s why we are so concerned right now about rain in the burn areas.  Hydrophobic soil reduces water infiltration into the soil and increases runoff and erosion.  The good news is that eventually deep plant roots, soil microorganisms and fauna will break down the hydrophobic layer of soil.  But in the meantime, we use mechanical devices such as mulch, hay bales and sandbags to minimize erosion, channel runoff and protect structures.



Upcoming Outdoor Events:  (Remember, heavy rain cancels MRCA-sponsored events)

Saturday, Jan. 5, 8:30AM.  Pico Canyon (Mentryville).  An 8 mile R/T hike from Mentryville to Odeen #1. 


Click here for a map.

Sponsored by the Community Hiking Club.

For more information, click here.


Tuesday, Jan. 8, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM.  Placerita Canyon.
Our annual docent-naturalist training begins Tuesday, January 8th, 2008. This is a 9-week program meeting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9AM to Noon. No previous experience is necessary to take the course.

For more information, click here.


Saturday, Jan. 12, 3:30 – 5:30 PM.  Twilight Walk at Towsley Canyon.
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Click here for a map.



Saturday, Jan. 12, 9:00 AM.  Placerita Canyon Nature Center Docents’ Bird Walk.
For more information call the Nature Center a 661-259-7721.

Saturday, Jan. 12 and 26, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout. 
For more information call Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565 or

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Tuesday, Jan. 15, 9:00 AM.  Towsley Canyon. 
Weekday Wanderers Bird Walk at Towsley Canyon.

Sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society.
For information contact Carolyn Oppenheimer before 7:00 PM at 818-885-7493 or


Click here for a map.



Saturday, Jan. 19, 8:00 – 10:00 AM.  Towsley Canyon. 
Bird walk.  Meet at the front kiosk.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority


Click here for a map.



You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Of Fires And Frying Pans

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