Marching Towards April Working Vacations

Los Padres Greenery!

SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

Happy St. Patricks’s Day everyone!  While March 17 was originally set aside as a religious celebration of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland, the date has morphed a little over the years into a more general celebration of Ireland.  In addition to the religious aspects of St. Patrick’s day, other time honored traditions have developed including wearing green, pinching those who do not wear green, drinking Irish adult beverages, an overall celebration of Irish descent and a celebration of the color green. Good times for sure!  Feel free to celebrate or enjoy as your beliefs and preferences allow.

Here is the Los Padres, St. Patrick’s Day couldn’t come at a more appropriate time of year.  While most of the country is still thawing out from winter, we’re in the prime of spring with GREEN all around.  Take some time this weekend (after your St. Patty’s celebrations of course) and go find some green in the forest.  It’s not hard to do right now.  It should be a beautiful weekend and you never know, you might just find that leprechaun hiding his gold in that patch of miners lettuce…..

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Upper Sisquoc Views from the Manzana Trail
APRIL WORKING VACATIONS

The LPFA has two Working Vacation trail projects scheduled in April along the Manzana Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness.  The first WV will be from April 1-9 and will be based either at Manzana Camp (6 miles from NIRA) or Fish Camp (3 miles from NIRA).  The second WV will be from April 15-23 based at Happy Hunting Ground Camp (11 miles from NIRA).  While the trail projects last an entire week, you are welcome to come for as long or short as your schedule allows.  Both Working Vacation locations are upstream from the NIRA Trailhead and will take the better part of a day to travel to and from the base-camps.  We do ask that you commit to a day or two of trail work, which means you’ll need to set aside at least 3-4 days for the Working Vacations.  Better yet, come for the entire week, it’ll be beautiful out there!

For those of you who have been on LPFA Working Vacations, you know what to expect.  For those who have not, the Working Vacations are stock supported volunteer trail projects with designated cooks and all meals provided.  You can learn more here.  Basically, you show up and commit to volunteering on the trail and we’ll make sure you have tasty food to eat, hot coffee in the morning and cold drinks in the evening.  It’s great fun!  Mike Smith will be leading both of these Working Vacations and can answer any specific questions you might have or sign you up!  You can reach him at:  TrailSmith@LPForest.org

More than anything else, the Working Vacations are a fun way to get out in the backcountry, give back to the trails we love and hang out with like-minded fun people.  It’s great fun and very rewarding.  We hope to see you out there……

Rich Scholl, cooking up a storm, Madulce Working Vacation 2016

And ERFO Was Its Name-O!

Trail Erased, Central Hurricane Deck; photo Blakley
Hello Los Padres!

Spring in here and while the winter weather has pretty much come and gone, its left behind no shortage of damaged roads and trails across the LP.  While the Forest Service, trail-related organizations and individual volunteers are working as hard as we can to repair the destruction, we’re hearing more and more about larger scale show-stopper slides and washouts that are making travel along these forest roads and trails impossible.  Many of these show-stoppers are beyond the scope of what volunteers can do and the Forest Service is looking into the potential of getting some emergency funding for damaged roads/trails through a program called ERFO (Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads).  ERFO funds are very specific and can only be applied to severely damaged sections of maintenance level 3-5 public access roads or trails with engineered surfaces and/or trails listed on the National Trails System Act of 1968.  Also, the damage must have been caused by this winters storms.  We can’t count on ERFO to fix all the problems we’re finding across the forest but perhaps ERFO can solve a couple of the more major problems.  And that is where we come in…..

The Forest Service has asked for the public’s assistance in helping to survey and locate any sections of roads and/or trails that might qualify for ERFO funds.  Here’s what we can do:

  • If you are out exploring the forest and come across any large sections of severe damage (gully washer blowouts, large slides, complete sections of tread wiped out, etc….) take a picture of that damage and record the coordinates of where the damage is (GPS preferred).  It would also be helpful If you can take any kind of measurements as well.
  • The FS is looking for information on ALL FOREST ADMINISTERED ROADS as well as ALL FOREST SERVICE SYSTEM TRAILS.
  • In order to help, we created a GoogleDoc that lists the LP trails that are included in the National Trails System Act of 1968.  You can see that list here.  While other trails can also be included in ERFO, chances are that any funds will be applied to trails from this list.  You’ll notice that there are a good mix of wilderness trails, OHV trails and general forest trails.
  • After taking photos, measurements and coordinates of the damaged sections of trail, send that information to your local LP District trails person or send it to us and we’ll help push that information to the right person (INFO@LPForest.org).
  • After reviewing the details, the Forest Service will determine if that section of trail/road qualifies for ERFO submission and then hopefully submit a request for emergency ERFO funding.
  • Fast forward a few months and maybe some of these major show stoppers we’re seeing will be fixed!  That would be great and we can directly help in the process by surveying the hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails that might have been damaged this past winter.

Thanks in advance for any survey help you can provide!  Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll see if we can get you an answer or if not then point you towards someone who can.

Mark, Modelling the Latest in Showstopper Gully Washers on the Buckhorn Road (Santa Barbara Canyon)
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Tangerine, living reflection from a dream; photo Humphrey

LP STORMS 2017: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

That’s not the Mississippi!  Santa Ynez River at Sage Hill, February 17, photo Chris Orr
Good Morning Everyone and Happy Presidents Day!

We are in the midst of what is clearly going to be remembered as an epic winter here in the Los Padres.  Last Friday, during the heart of the latest storm, some of us were watching the real-time flow rate in Sespe Creek.  The website lists the historic flood level crests along the Sespe and as the latest crest continued to climb, it started to creep up towards the all-time winters like 1978, 1969, 1983 and 2005.  Last Friday’s storm didn’t quite crack that list, at least along the Sespe, but we’re certainly headed towards 2017 being remembered in a similar fashion with those other most epic winters.  While we’ve all been praying for a season like this, it hasn’t been all rainbows and green grass for everyone around the forest.  The rains have certainly caused some challenges and will continue to do so.  Lets take a quick look at the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY:
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Matilija Overflowing
THE GOOD
Last February the LPFA hosted a volunteer trail maintenance project up Santa Barbara Canyon.  We camped on a bench overlooking the dry creek (note: this is not an insignificant small creek) and had to have mules haul in water for the 3-day project.  There was no water in February!  That is not a problem we’ll have to worry about this year.  The creeks are flowing, rivers are raging and best of all, the lakes and reservoirs are filling up.  Water levels within the reservoirs are climbing fast.  There were reports that Lake Cachuma climbed 25ft this past weekend.  That’s great news and we should have nice flowing water for months to come!
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Rain Soaked Trail Damage, see the People on the Trail?
THE BAD
We’re getting reports from across the forest about damaged trails, downed trees, rutting, boulders, holes, slides and even NO MORE TRAIL!  After 4-5 years of drought, many of the trees have been compromised and with the saturated soil and wind, they are toppling down.  Same goes with water related soil damage like slides and sink holes.  The Forest Service, as well as volunteer groups from across the Los Padres, are working as hard as they can to get the trails cleared and safe for travel again.  The best thing you can do if you come across a trail hazard or downed tree is document that trail hazard and share that information.  www.HikeLosPadres.com is a great resource for sharing trail conditions or email a trail report to your local trail organization or FS trails person.  Speaking for all the trail maintenance people, we can’t help the trails unless we know where the trail damage is.  It really helps to take photos of the damage and include as much information as you can about the location and size/extent of the damage.  The trail-users far outnumber the trail maintainers, sharing information is a key component to making the trails good again.
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Highway 1, South of Big Sur, photo Father Zack, from BigSurKate
THE UGLY
Do you see the “PLEASE DRIVE CAREFULLY” Los Padres Forest sign in the photo above?  It might need to be changed to say “YOU WON’T BE DRIVING FOR A WHILE”.  The roads in and around the Los Padres have clearly been the ugly casualty of the storms so far.  Most of the dirt roads around the LP have been closed for the winter (TBD the extent of the damage on those roads) but even the paved major access roads have been getting hammered:

  • Highway 33 out of Ojai has been closed on/off all winter and remains closed today due to slides.
  • Hwy 41 finally reopened after being closed for over a month due to a landslide.
  • I5 near Gorman sustained some major damage this past weekend.
  • And other temporary closures including Hwy 154, Lockwood Valley Rd, 101, etc……

But none of this compares to what has been happening along the Big Sur Coast.  It’s been a tough year to say the least.  First, the massive Soberanes Fire and now crazy amounts of rain followed by flooding and landslides.  Hwy 1 remains closed between Ragged Point (southern end) and Big Sur Station (northern end).  Slides, such as the one in the photo above, have been regular occurrences along Hwy 1.  It seems that as soon as one slide is cleared or mitigated, another slide occurs.  At one point there were reports of over 20 slides blocking Hwy 1.  In addition, the Forest Service has closed the Nacimento-Fergusson Rd west of Coast Ridge Rd due to road slippage.  And as if that was not enough, structural damage was discovered on the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge (just south of Big Sur Station) which has completely blocked access along Hwy 1 in Big Sur.  A slide has developed under the bridge that has caused the structure to move 7 inches within the past week.  Quite a mess!  We won’t try to predict a timeframe as to when Hwy 1 will reopen in Big Sur, but it’s looking likely it will be closed for quite a while.

Sorry for the UGLY news last.  I wish they had called that movie The Ugly, the Bad and the Good.  Oh well.  In time the Ugly will be repaired, the Bad will be maintained and we’ll be left with beautiful creeks flowing well into summer and more water than we’ve seen in quite some time.  That is Good.  Until then, please be careful and never underestimate water.

Santa Ynez Double Rainbow

Grizzly Bears, Condors and Chaparral – February 16

LPFA TRAIL TALK IV
Grizzly Bears, Condors and Chaparral
Presented by: Rick HalseyOnce home to the California grizzly bear and the California condor’s last refuge, the chaparral remains one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated ecosystems on Earth. Threatened by fire and habitat fragmentation, chaparral represents one of our last opportunities to preserve biodiversity and wildness in our state. Since the Los Padres National Forest protects some the largest, most contiguous stands of chaparral in California, it offers a unique opportunity for citizens to not only to enjoy wild California, but to protect what’s left. Join us as we explore the chaparral’s unique natural history, discuss its fascinating wildlife populations, and reveal some of the major misconceptions many hold about California’s most characteristic ecosystem.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 16 – 6PM
BALBOA BUILDING, SANTA BARBARA

FREE for LPFA members or $10 donation for guests. For more information and to reserve your tickets, visit the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trail-talk-4-grizzly-bears-condors-and-chaparral-tickets-31752066285

Questions: INFO@LPForest.org

Woo Hoo for Chaparral

Fond Farewell to Heidi Anderson

If you’ve spent any time along the Ventura trails over the past decade or so, no doubt you’ve crossed paths with Heidi Anderson at least a few times.  Heidi has been the Wilderness Trails Manager for the Ojai Ranger District for the past 13 years.  It’s a sad week for us as Heidi will be leaving the LP after accepting a promotion with the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southern Oregon.  During her time on the LP, Heidi was the main cog for trail projects within the Ojai District.  She organized and led most of the volunteer projects within the district and famously provided timely water and trail updates from across the Ventura Backcountry.  In addition, Heidi was a regular out in the forest and it was not uncommon to see her trekking the trails she worked so hard to maintain.  I remember the first time I met Heidi, I was backpacking the Red Reef Trail and she came hiking up in her Forest Service uniform with a smile on her face and excited to be out in the forest.  Her enthusiasm for the forest was infectious and you could clearly see that through her devoted volunteers who followed her literally anywhere across the ORD swinging tools and lopping brush.  The trails around Ojai surely won’t be the same without her but I think I speak for all of us in saying we’re happy for Heidi as she continues her journey.  Best of luck Heidi, thanks for all your help and one last…… WOO HOO!
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 LPFA TRAIL TALK IV
We’re really excited to announce the next LPFA Trail Talk event is on February 16 at 6pm, at the Balboa Building in Santa Barbara.  We’ll be welcoming chaparral expert and author Rick Halsey to discuss our favorite community of local plants: chaparral!  Rick is the founder of of the California Chaparral Institute and brings more knowledge about our local plants than you probably knew existed.  2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Zaca Fire and our Trail Talk Events this year will have a Zaca theme to them starting with Rick discussing the cycle of post-fire chaparral regrowth.  Rick’s talk is titled: Grizzly Bears, Condors and Chaparral and chances are if you are reading this, then you’ll love the talk on the 16th.  For more details or to get tickets, click this link and as always the event is FREE for LPFA members or $10 for guests.  We hope to see you there.  INFO@LPForest.org with questions…..

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Pinos Purity, first tracks by Tessa Soutar

Los Padres 2017 Storm Update

Raging Big Sur River at Pfeiffer Big Sur, photo California State Parks

Hello Everyone,

We’ve had quite a start to 2017 with lots of weather, snow and rain across the Los Padres.  Seems like the meteorologists got their years confused between last years El Niño (aka El Noshow) and what was predicted to be a warm, dry winter this year.  Whatever, we need it and we’ll take it!  As I am sure you all have been witnessing, these storms didn’t just bring weather but in some cases destruction along with the rain.  We’ve had flooding, landslides, snow closures, evacuations, wildfire area debris flows and even a tornado warning.  The Los Padres is well ahead of our annual average rainfall totals and as a result some of the reservoirs are starting to fill up, including Gibraltar Reservoir in Santa Barbara County, which overflowed last week for the first time in 6 years!  While that is great news, there is still more water needed before we can call off the drought.  For example, Twitchell Reservoir above Santa Maria is still only 7% filled even though that part of the Forest has received almost 20 inches of rain already this season.  It’s still early in the season and we have two full rainy months in front of us with another series of storms headed our way by the middle of next week.  It’s already been an exciting winter, who knows what else is in store.  Travel safe and be careful…….
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San Rafael Mountain Summit, January 20, photo Kevin Cody
WEATHER CLOSURES
As a result of the storms, most of the roads around the Los Padres remain closed.  These closures are fluid, so please be sure to check with the Forest Service or CalTrans before heading out on your next adventure:

  • Just about all non-paved Los Padres roads are closed.  There may be a few exceptions but again be sure to check ahead of time before assuming a road or gate will be open.
  • Hwy 1 along the Big Sur Coast has been closed for most of the past month and remains closed between Big Sur and Ragged Point due to landslides.
  • Hwy 33 in Ventura County was closed this past weekend due to landslides and snow but was just reopened.  There are snow chain warnings still in effect.
  • Hwy 41 between Morro Bay and Cerro Alto in SLO County is closed due to a landslide.
  • Paradise Rd in Santa Barbara is closed at First Crossing Day Use Area.  No time-frame has been set as to when First Crossing will reopen but it probably won’t be anytime soon.
  • Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur remains closed due to road undercutting.
  • Mt Pinos is closed this week due to icy conditions.
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 HARD HAT STICKERS

Perhaps you’ve seen this, especially if you follow college football…… Some college football teams give their players ‘helmet stickers’ as a way of recognizing either individual or team achievement. Each player has his personal football helmet and if their team wins or that player does something excellent in that game, the team rewards the player with a sticker that he then puts on his helmet. More stickers = more recognition. It’s a cool tradition and in some cases you can hardly see the helmet as it’s covered in stickers, indicating that player is a superstar.

We liked this concept and decided to try something similar with LPFA trail maintenance projects. All LPFA volunteers have to wear hard hats (helmets) during trail projects and many of our regular volunteers come with their personal hard hats. Starting this year we are going to give out helmet stickers to each volunteer after a successful trail project. Hopefully the volunteers will be proud to place those stickers on their personal hard hats and maybe if we’re lucky within a few years there will be a herd of decorated hard hats out there working the trails showing how spectacular all the volunteers are. We’ll see how it works. Look for them soon……  Hut, Hut, LOP!
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First Crossing, 6 Feet Under, photo Beeman
THIS & THAT

– On January 17 the Los Padres Forest lifted fire restrictions across the forest.

– The Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club is once again offering their Wilderness Basics Course designed to teach backpacking skills to hikers of all skill levels.  The classes are offered in Ventura County and start February 8.

– Remember that the Soberanes Fire Closure remains in effect within the Monterey Ranger District.

– We’re getting lots of reports of damaged trails across the Los Padres – thank you everyone!  Remember that HikeLosPadres.com is a great resource for sharing that information and getting those damaged sections of trail onto the inventory of trails to fix.  Check it out!

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Piedra Blanca & Montañas Blancas, Sespe, photo Humphrey

Rain Rain Stay Awhile – Lower Manzana Trail Project

Lower Manzana Sandwich, NIRA on Top and Potrero at Bottom

Hi Everyone – Hope you’re staying dry!

We’ve had some nice storms the past few days and a bunch more stacking up over the coming week thanks to the old Pineapple Express.  We’ve been hearing estimated rain totals as high as 18inches up in Big Sur and well over 4inches for most of the forest.  We’re certainly overdue for a larger scale rain event.  Based on all the rain in the forecast, it’s probably a good time to stay out of the forest and most of the seasonal gate closures will be closed this coming weekend.  But if you must get into the forest, if you get the LP itch (not poison oak), please be careful.  Hwy 1 south of Big Sur has been closed for the past day or two due to slides and there have been warnings issued for Hwy 33 as well.  Take it slow…..
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LOWER MANZANA TRAIL PROJECT
JANUARY 14-16

Long range forecasts are starting to show a break in the storms for the three-day Martin Luther King Day weekend, Jan 14-16.  If the weather cooperates, we’re planning a 3 day trail project that weekend based at NIRA Campground and working downstream along the Manzana Trail.  Our focus will be clearing the trail down to at least Coldwater Camp with most of the work being brushing and slough removal along the trail.  Mike Smith will be the project leader and we’re still sorting out logistics but the LPFA will be providing at least dinner and breakfast for volunteers.  We’re hoping people would like to participate all three days but if you can come for even one day that would be great!  For more information or to sign up, email Mike Smith at TrailSmith@LPForest.org.  Hope to see you there……..
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Sunset Wave, Before the Storm, Mission Pine Basin
TID BITS


Due to printing issues with the 2017 passes, 2016 ADVENTURE PASSES will remain valid through the end of February 2017.

• The Los Padres remains in Level II FIRE RESTRICTIONS, although that will probably be changing here really soon!

Fire Openings Across the Los Padres

FIRE OPENINGS & RESTRICTIONS

Hello Los Padres & Happy Holidays – It’s been a monumental day in the LP with quite a few shakeups that most of you will be happy to hear about.  Lets get to it!

Earlier today the Forest Service lifted the fire closures on the REY FIRE, SHERPA FIRE and PINE FIRE.  All regular recreational activities are now permitted within these fire perimeters.  This includes hiking, camping, riding and biking & OHV where applicable and legal.

In addition, the Forest Service reduced the closure of the Soberanes Fire and opened up most of the southern portion of the Monterey Ranger District.  The heart of the Soberanes burn area remains closed and will most likely stay closed through next spring.  For more information on all the fire openings and adjusted closures, check this link here and see the attached map showing the current Soberanes Fire closure.

Want more?  On November 29 the Forest Service downgraded the fire restrictions from Level IV to Level II.  Level II allows portable stoves across the forest, campfires at Designated Campfire Use Sites and target shooting at designated locations.  Check the links for more details.

The changing of these closures is somewhat unexpected but it is good news, at least for most of us.  Please remember that the hillsides and trails within the burn areas are still settling.  Be careful, tread lightly, avoid during rain, listen to your internal ‘common sense meter’ and have a backup plan in case the trail you’d like to explore is impassable.  Otherwise, have at it!

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2017 LOS PADRES CALENDAR
The 2017 LPFA wall calendars are done, they’ve been sent to the printers and we should have them in-hand and ready to distribute by December 15!  Thank you to everyone who contributed photos for the calendar.  We had over 125 photos submitted by almost 30 different photographers.  It was hard work paring down the photos and selecting the final pictures that would appear in the calendar but we think the calendar turned out really nice.  We’ve got a good collection of photos from across the forest and covering themes from wildlife to wildfire, flowers to trailwork and sea level to almost 9,000ft.  If you like the Los Padres, we think you’ll love the calendar.  If you’d like to purchase a calendar, pre-sale is still available at the following link.  Thanks so much again to everyone who helped out and have a great 2017!
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Cottonwood Fallburst, photo Heidi Anderson
UPCOMING EVENTS

We spent some time this past week scheduling the 2017 LPFA volunteer trail projects.  2017 will hopefully be highlighted by a Working Vacation based at Manzana Schoolhouse in April and a second Working Vacation at Madulce in May – we’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, our next backcountry trail project is December 16-18 working down the Judell Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness.  We’ll be car-camping at the trailhead and working down from the top removing fallen trees and brush from the trail corridor.  We’re also working on some sort of holiday theme for the weekend, so you might want to get your ugly Xmas sweaters out of the closet and primed for action.  If you’re interested in helping that weekend, email us at INFO@LPForest.org or email project leader Mike Smith at TrailSmith@LPForest.org.

And lastly, if you enjoy these email updates and appreciate the information we provide, become a LPFA member and support the cause.  We’ll send you a sticker and perhaps a few other goodies but more than anything else your membership helps drive the ship and keep us doing what we do best – working the trails, educating the public and helping the forest along the way.  You can click here for the membership page and thank you for reading this far along – perhaps we should become members of you……

Los Padres Thanksgiving & New Years Calendars

  Wild Turkey in Paradise; Paradise Rd, Los Padres – photo Humphrey
turkey

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving weekend is literally hours away and there is lots to be thankful for here in the Los Padres.  It might not seem like it at times with wildfires, closures, drought, etc but you gotta look past that and focus on the positives.  Positives like ocean fog through redwoods, finding new trails, freezing mornings sipping coffee, that final cut with the crosscut saw or driving to the trailhead.  We’re not going to get too sappy but wanted to thank you all for your support and help over the years.  Be sure to take some time this weekend in between eating, football, family and cooking to think about what you are thankful for and try to do something to show your gratitude.  Sounds easy enough but sometimes time gets in the way.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Now go eat, be merry and spend time with loved ones…….

2017_lpfa_calendarrequest
2017 LOS PADRES CALENDARS
Back again by popular demand, the LPFA will be producing a 2017 wall calendar featuring spectacular sights from across the Los Padres Forest.  And just like last year, WE COULD USE YOUR HELP!  If you have a great photo or two that are worthy of being included within the calendar, we’d love to see them!  If we use your photo in the calendar, we’ll credit you and send you a complimentary calendar.  We’re looking for anything Los Padres related.  If could be an epic sunset, a shot of local LP wildlife, a trail work project, a view from your favorite trail, your favorite creek or waterfall – anything LP’centric and awesome.  Please send to INFO@LPForest.org.  We won’t disclose locations, so don’t worry about spoiling your favorite spots.  All photos need to be submitted by the end of the month, we are hoping to send the calendar to the printers on December 1.  We won’t use your photos for anything other than the calendar without your permission.

And if you’d like to pre-order a 2017 calendar, you can order online here.  Thanks everyone, looking forward to seeing your photos and I’m already looking forward to National Lemon Meringue Pie Day – which of course is August 15, 2017!


One of 25+ Downed Trees on Lower Manzana, photo Curt Cragg
manzanadownedtree
LOWER MANZANA TREE CLEARING
REI started a really cool program last year called ‘Opt Outside’ where they are closing their doors on perhaps the busiest shopping day of the year (Black Friday) and instead encouraging their employees to get outside and enjoy nature.  While Opt Outside might have started as a publicity campaign, it’s turned into a movement with other retailers following suit or donating sales revenue from Black Friday to non-profits or environmental organizations.  Good stuff for sure – well done REI.

Anyway, the LPFA tried hard to get on board and lead an Opt Outside Black Friday event this year but for one reason or another we just couldn’t get it to work.  BUT, instead of Friday, we’ll be leading a Sunday 11/27 one-day trail maintenance project working to remove fallen trees along the Lower Manzana Trail downstream from NIRA Campground.  Curt Cragg will be the trail leader and has reported over 25 downed trees of varying complexity and size.  If you’re looking for an excuse to get out and work off that tryptophan, this is a great trip for you!  For more information check out the link here and we hope to see you on Sunday 11/27 along the Lower Manzana.  And maybe you’ll even get a photo to contribute to the calendar…….!!??!!