As a runner who spends a lot of time on local trails here in the Conejo Valley and throughout Ventura County, there are 3 things I'm always on the lookout for....things that can eat me (knock on wood, no close calls yet), bite or sting me (e.g. rattlesnakes, bees, etc.) or attack my skin...namely poison oak. Leaves of three, let me be, as they say!
I've had a couple encounters with poison oak and they were not pleasant. With the significant recent rainfall, poison oak will be out in full force this summer. There are large patches of poison oak in highly travelled areas, like the path between the parking lot and culture center at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park.
The main thing to do about poison oak is obvious...STAY AWAY FROM IT! But of course to do so its good to know what it looks like and to know that there are different forms...bright and green early in the spring, reddish as it dries through the summer and branch patterns in the winter. I run in shorts and shirts that expose my legs and arms...definitely not advisable if you plan significant hiking in the area. I try to stay away from overgrown trails and jump over and away from any foliage. But if you're out on a hike, try to wear long sleeves and pants, and if it's hot out, find some lightweight, breathable materials.
This local Conejo Valley resident and outdoorsman has some great advice in this 10 minute video, including how to spot poison oak, how to avoid it and the best ways of treating it. Definitely worth a look if you plan to spend some time on our beautiful trails. If you're pressed for time, skip to 3:10 in the video where he shows different forms of poison oak. Very useful information.