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

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!