But for all of nature's resilience, loosened rock and miles of eroded trail have delayed much of the park's reopening until next year. Senior park naturalist Russ Hauck and more than 100 volunteers have spent the past few months readying the lower portion of the park.
Area residents and wilderness enthusiasts have spent the weekends clearing castor bean, tree tobacco and star thistle, which often lays dormant for years, pulling the nonnative plants from their roots and stashing them away so as not to spread seeds.
Rick Yarnes, of La Crescenta, returned with his family to work on the rocky hillside. They've been anxious to get back among nature, he said, and have become part of the core group that helped fill large trash bags with leafy castor bean and stalks of tree tobacco.
"If you run out of castor bean and star thistle, we'll move someplace else," said John Pearson, a landscape architect and the park's project manager. "We have plenty of real estate to work with."
Pearson instructed volunteers to tug hard on the plants.
"If you can't pull it up, we're going to have to cut or chip it," he said.
Kevin Kunitake, a graduate of St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, grew up visiting the park before going away to study journalism at American University. It was a surreal experience scanning the front page of the New York Times and seeing what he regarded as a hometown refuge in flames.
"I thought, what is going on?" said Kunitake, driving a shovel into the roots of stubborn star thistle.
Asked whether he enjoyed the manual labor, the 19-year-old sophomore shrugged and continued chipping away at the roots.
"It's fun," he said. "If you want to call it that."
Mark Ajian, a software engineer from Glendale, stood in a clearing and wondered aloud whether ash and soot from the fire had been completely blown away.