Hike with a purpose this year by becoming a weed watcher

Weed Watchers on the hunt for weeds in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie valley

Going for a hike is how we leave our regular life behind and experience nature that isn’t completely transformed by development. So doesn’t it drive you crazy when you see the same weeds you have at home up in the mountains? Invasive plants like Scotch broom, English ivyEnglish holly and orange hawkweed can do real harm to native forests and alpine plant communities. They follow hikers up into the hills, they hitchhike on construction materials and equipment and hay, they are carried by birds that eat their berries, and they escape from gardens around mountain cabins.

Public land managers such as the United States Forest Service, Washington Department of Natural Resources and Washington State Parks are all incredibly short-staffed, especially when it comes to tracking down and controlling invasive plants up in remote wilderness areas. They need our help to find new infestations so they can stop them while they are still manageable. They also need our help in stopping the spread of more common invasive plants beyond where they are now.  Every herb Robert or tansy ragwort that you pull goes a long way to reducing the spread of these weeds farther into the wilderness.

In King County, training classes for trail weed watchers are being held on June 3 in North Bend and June 23 in Seattle. These are primarily classroom based workshops that will teach about the priority species to watch for and how to report that information. There will also be an optional field exercise in the afternoon on both dates. The workshops are a joint effort of King County Noxious Weeds and the Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council (PNW-IPC), through their Citizen Science EDRR Program. You can sign up online on our Class Registration page or contact Sasha Shaw for more information.

Volunteers learn how to search for and report invasive plants at a Weed Watcher training in North Bend, WA

If you like to learn on the job, you might prefer to join a group hike instead. These are combination learning and volunteer events where we will learn to identify plants and try our hand at mapping and pulling weeds as well.  The June 11 group hike will be on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail (after the road is fixed!) and June 14 will be on the Twin Falls Trail. We’ll be helping out these trails by pulling some weeds and mapping some others, and we could use all the help we can get. We will also spend time learning to identify plants, both invasives and natives, so the pace should allow all levels of hikers. Group hikes are a great way to participate without a big commitment of time. Contact Sasha Shaw for more info or to sign up for a group hike.

If you aren’t in King County and want to participate, have no fear. PNW-IPC is holding Citizen Science EDRR Invasive Plant Workshops in many locations in western Washington and even Oregon this spring. In addition to the North Bend and Seattle dates, there are also classes on the following dates and locations: June 9 in Bellingham, WA; June 12 in Springfield, OR; June 28 in Stevenson, WA; June 29 in Chehalis, WA; and June 30 in Cle Elum, WA.  For all the details and to sign up, contact Andrew Fraser at info@pnw-ipc.org.

Anyone can be a weed watcher. Even if you only learn to watch for one weed, it can be a huge help. If you would like more information or want to join a group hike, contact Sasha Shaw at sasha.shaw@kingcounty.gov.