Los Padres Swing the Gates & National Trails Day

Is that ‘June Gloom’, or yet another wave of storms headed our way?  Silver Peak Wilderness, photo Toejam

Hello Friends,

It sure seems like every time we’re ready to call an end to our 2018-19 rainy season, another storm or two pops up on the Doppler.  It’s not often we get any significant rain in May.  Yet this year, on top of all the rain we’ve already had, we made a serious run at the all-time record for rain in the month of May.  Even this past week we had some odd early season thunderstorms which caused flash flood warnings across much of the Los Padres.  As a whole, the LP is well over our seasonal average rainfall totals with most stations across the forest recording 115-140% of annual rainfall totals.  It’s certainly been an exciting year for weather but we all know the heat will be coming soon so until then lets be sure to enjoy all the overcast, dreary, precipitation filled days we can.

Speaking of precipitation and rain delays, the Forest Service has done a good job over the past few weeks of getting most of the seasonal road closures open across the forest.  Here’s the latest and greatest on gate closures and openings:

I know many of us have been waiting patiently (some impatiently) for the gates to swing open this year.  Now is the time, most of the gates are open and the forest is yours to enjoy responsibly!  Many flowers are still blooming, some of the protected hillsides remain green and water is still flowing across most of the drainages.  Get out and enjoy your forest and if you come across anything interesting, dangerous, a trail impediment or have any questions please share on HikeLosPadres.com, email us (INFO@LPForest.org) or contact your local district ranger office.  Have at it and as always be cautious and safe!

Trail work is ________!  Fun?  Rewarding?  Radical?  Necessary?  Fill the blank in for yourself during an upcoming NTD trail project LPFA, Thomas Fire Trail photo D Najera

NATIONAL TRAILS DAY 2019

National Trails Day (NTD) is an annual day of trail celebration where thousands of hikers, bikers, riders and trail users across the country donate their time to help protect and maintain the trails they love.  While NTD is technically the first Saturday of June, NTD hosted projects usually spill over a few weeks before or after the actual National Trails Day.  This year is no different with a few NTD projects still scheduled on both June 8 and June 15, see list below.  While it would be great for you to make it to a trail project this month, the essence of National Trails Day is much more than just a singular day each year.  Dedicate every month, every week and every day you spend on the trail to the spirit of a NTD event.  It can be as easy as picking up a few pieces of trash along the trail, helping clear a downed branch from the trail corridor or simply sharing what you found with your local trail organizations or agencies.  And of course, you can always step up your game and try adopting your favorite trail as well.  Every bit helps!  Hope you can make it to an upcoming trail event near you:

Deep Emerald Gems Around Every Corner, the Lower Sisquoc – LPFA Working Vacation this week!

FOREST 411

– The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center summer series of weekend interpretive events is off and running.  In June we have presentations and talks covering the Wonderful World of Bees, the Last Days of Dinosaurs and Saving the California Condors.  Always something going on at Wheeler!  Hope to see you soon….

– Speaking of the condor, our local 400+ mile Los Padres thru-hike, the Condor Trail has been seeing some activity this season.  There are currently at least three people hiking the CT and another few who have already completed it this year.  The CT made an appearance on a recent Backpacker Radio podcast and rumor has it that a guide book is in the works as well.  Stay tuned, we’re certain to be hearing more about the Condor Trail in the years to come….

– And along those lines, Piper (Diane) from Santa Barbara successfully connected the Los Padres with the PCT backpacking from NIRA to Agua Dulce.  This was Piper’s second time completing this epic hike.  You can follow her journey through a series of YouTube videos she put together.  Check it out…..

– If you’ve ever driven up Hwy 33 you’ve probably noticed the remains of Matilija Hot Springs on the left across from what used to be the U.S.A.’s Smallest Post Office.  The VC Star recently ran an article discussing the future of the hot springs along with a small video tour of how it fared during the Thomas Fire.

– The Partnership for Resilient Communities steel ring net project above Montecito is in full swing.  There are 6 nets currently being installed across West Fork Cold Spring, East Fold Cold Spring, Buena Vista and San Ysidro canyons.  If you’re in the neighborhood, go check them out, they are not hard to spot.

East Fork Cold Spring ring net, lying in wait…..

– From sediment capture to sediment flow, the San Clemente Dam was removed in 2015 along the Carmel River in large part to help restore local steelhead populations.  Reports this spring are showing that steelhead numbers along the Carmel are way up from previous years.  You can read about it here and here. This is potentially a good sign of things to come for other failing Los Padres area dams including the Los Padres Dam and the Matilija Dam.

– The Los Padres National Forest is seeking public comment on a recently proposed forest-wide Invasive Plant Treatment ProgramPublic comment can be submitted to the Forest Service before either June 19 or June 27 (conflicting reports).  You can read much more on this proposal here.

– This is pretty cool, the Forest Fire Lookout Association in conjunction with the Los Padres National Forest will be training volunteers to spot smoke from the Chews Ridge Lookout tower (36.312201, -121.568204) in Monterey County.  If interested, please see flier.  This is a neat concept for a few different reasons.  Can you think of any other lookout towers across the Los Padres that would be worthwhile to reactivate and setup similar volunteer programs?  Lets do it!

– Do you shop at Amazon?  If so, please shop through the AmazonSmile program and choose the LPFA as your charitable organization.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of all eligible purchased back to the LPFA.  It adds up quick and goes right back towards the forest and trails you love!  You can start shopping right now by clicking this link or choosing the Los Padres Forest Association within the AmazonSmile program.  Thanks in advance and happy shopping!

Otis, Susie, Beth, Kathleen and String Packing the May 2019 Upper Sisquoc Working Vacation, Judell Trail, photo Beckstrand

Winter’s Grand Finale, Trail Updates, Spring is Coming

Was this the grand finale to the epic 2018-19 winter season, if so, what a way for it to end!  Photo Andy Quinn

Hello Friends,

It’s been quite a winter for storms hasn’t it?  We’ve had flash floods, debris flows, road closures, evacuations, washed away trails, snow, snow and more snow and it might have been capped off by one of the more spectacular lightning displays this past Tuesday night.  And most importantly, we’ve had a lot of great rain soaking into the earth, recharging the groundwater supplies and filling up our creeks, rivers and reservoirs.  Almost all of the LP has received over 100% of our annual rain averages with more “rain season” still ahead of us.  It’s been terrific!  While we might not be completely done with the rains, many of the signs across the forest are indicating that spring is in the air.  Wildflowers are starting to do their thing (#SuperBloom2019?), the grass is gliding a little different, the ants have resurfaced (%&#^#&), the days are longer and there is that faint sweet smell of flowers.  No matter what season you might argue we’re in, the Los Padres is about as good as it gets at the moment.  We hope you are getting out and enjoying the trails, sights and sounds.  Be safe with the water crossings and be sure to check in on www.HikeLosPadres.com before you head out and after you get back.  There are also a bunch of upcoming volunteer projects up and down the forest you could participate in.  Olly olly oxen free = time to come out of hiding! 

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these trail crews from the swift completion of their appointed trail work. 
Hurricane Deck Trail, LPFA Trail Crew, Photo Jason Morris

TRAIL WORK UPDATE

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about recent trail work and upcoming trail work.  While we can’t possibly share every detail here, you’d be reading for a month, we can at least provide a quick update on some of the LPFA trail work that has occurred over the winter season.  As always, if you come across any downed trees or showstoppers along the trails, let us know and we’ll do our best to share the information with the appropriate trail crews: INFO@LPFOREST.ORG

  • Hurricane Deck Trail has been brushed a mile from Lost Valley out towards White Ledge.
  • Poplar Trail (Upper Indian Creek) within the Dick Smith Wilderness from Bluff Camp down to within 100 yards of Poplar Camp has been opened.
  • Grapevine Trail within the San Rafael Wilderness is clear other than some large downed trees about 1.5 miles west of Bluff Camp.
  • Alamar Trail is in the best shape it’s been in many decades.  You can actually follow the trail now, which is saying a lot based on how bad it was.
  • The Sisquoc Trail remains our main focus this spring with multiple Working Vacations planned over the next few months.  These projects are piggy-backing on some great work we accomplished in 2018 including this summertime project that Terrence filmed for us along the upper Sisquoc.
  • Deal Trail has received some much needed attention brushing out the upper valley between the Narrows and the wilderness boundary.
  • We had a crew working the Agua Blanca Trail in December between Blue Point and Log Cabin.
  • The Tinta motorcycle trail has had 5 of the 7 miles brushed along the trail.
  • Quite a bit of work has been put into the Matilija Trail outside of Ojai.  We’ve worked the bottom mile of the trail and recently flagged the entire trail from trailhead to trailhead.  Once the water levels lower we’ll be back out there to continue working up towards Middle Matilija Camp and beyond.
  • We’ll also be working nearby Gridley Trail on March 16, hope to see you there!
  • We’ve also been working hard to clear downed trees and washouts along many of the Santa Ynez Valley trails including Davy Brown, Devil’s Canyon, north Tunnel Trail, north Arroyo Burro, north Cold Spring, Blue Canyon, Aliso Canyon, Santa Cruz, Tequepis, Snyder and we’ll be leading a trail project this Sunday on the White Rock Trail on Figueroa Mountain.  Come join us!
  • We also did some water control tread work on Santa Paula Canyon, Last Chance and Lion Canyon Trails in the Ojai Ranger District.
  • And of course a TON of work has been accomplished in the SB Frontcountry partnering with Montecito Trails Foundation, SBMTV, SB Trails Council and others…..
  • We’ll also be maintaining the Sellers Potrero Trail in the Garcia Wilderness later this month. Scouting project is set for March 10.


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We haven’t seen this much winter camping in the LP in many years, Pine Mtn at it’s finest, photo Jack Roten

FOREST 411

  • There is still space available for the LPFA Backpacking Fundamentals class we’re teaching in Santa Barbara.  We had our first class this past week and it was great sharing the backpacking stoke.  Click here or email us for more information. 
  • Even with some nice drying weather on the horizon some of the roads and trails around the Los Padres remain closed due to storm activity and damage:
  • Highway 154 opened earlier this week about a half a week ahead of schedule.  The damage along Duval Canyon is astounding.
  • Ranger Peak along Fig Mtn Rd remains closed due to black ice.  You cannot drive between Fig Mtn and Cachuma Saddle.  Fig is bound to receive a lot of attention in the coming weeks as wildflower season kicks in, be sure to call the FS ahead of any visits to make sure the roads are open.
  • As reported by the VWA, the Carmel River Trail is closed at the moment due to trail damage. 
  • West Fork Cold Spring Trail in Montecito remains closed due to a particularly active landslide.  Trail work is scheduled this coming week with the hopes of getting the trail reopened by the 15th of March.
  • Highway 1 through Southern Big Sur remains on a pre-storm closure schedule.  Check CalTrans ahead of any visits between San Simeon and Big Sur.
  • And we’re also getting a lot of mixed messages about the regular Forest Service gate closures.  Some gates that are supposed to be locked have been found open and vice versa.  We suggest you contact the FS ahead of any trips into the forest that might be impacted by gate closures. 
  • If you have a spare $31million, you might be in luck as the Neverland Ranch outside Los Olivos is for sale.  Great access to the Los Padres!
  • The FS announced this week that there will be a series of controlled burns across the forest, namely at Arroyo Seco and Fig Mtn. 
  • This information slipped through the cracks a bit but the FS extended the Soberanes Fire closure of the western Pine Ridge Trail through November 6, 2019.
  • If you missed the story of the trail runner who fought off and killed a mountain lion last month in Colorado, it’s certainly worth a read.  Fortunately, that mountain lion was just a kitten.  He probably wouldn’t have fared so well against a full grown athletic mountain lion like this one recently seen in Montecito.

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You might call this a boilermaker, Topatopa with a shot of Jameson.  Please, someone has to get that joke!  Photo Humphrey
You might call this a boilermaker, Topatopa with a shot of Jameson.  Please, someone has to get that joke!  Photo Humphrey

Getting Your Year End Los Padres Fix

Hello Friends – Happy New Year!

We hope this email finds you either on your way to your favorite trailhead or packing up and leaving work for the last time this year.  Woot woot!  We wanted to send out a few quick notes before the start of the New Year holiday that might help with your Los Padres adventure planning.  Be safe and thanks again for all your support to the LPFA over the past year…….
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Early Contender for the 2020 LPFA Calendar, photo Nikolay Zapreyev
FIRE RESTRICTION CHANGES
On December 18 the fire restrictions across the Los Padres National Forest were downgraded from ‘extreme’ to ‘high’.  What this means for the regular forest-user is that:

  • Campfires are allowed within Designated Campfire Use Sites only
  • No backcountry campfires
  • Portable camping stoves can be used anywhere across the forest, including backcountry
  • No recreational target shooting

There is a chance that the restrictions will be further modified in January, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any changes.  Oh, and don’t forget your California Campfire Permit, which is needed for having a campfire or using a portable stove, click here, it’s free and takes just a few minutes…….

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The new Matilija Falls Trail is taking shape and one of the LPFA’s big initiatives for 2019!
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or been too involved with the Holidays then you’ve no doubt heard about the latest Government Shutdown which started at 9pm on Friday December 21.  While you can educate yourself on the intricacies of the Shutdown and budget through mainstream media we’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the Shutdown is impacting the Los Padres Forest.  At the moment, other than a large percentage of FS staff not working, there hasn’t been a lot of changes across the Los Padres.  All regular campgrounds and Parks Management Campgrounds remain open and we don’t think there have been any additional gate closures or changes that would impact forest-users.  Now that being said, things could change starting January 2 when select FS employees return from holidays and we’ll be sure to share that with you if and when changes occur.  Until then, lets hope the budget issues are resolved and that access remains open across the Los Padres……
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The LPFA Trail Crew, changing the name “Lost Valley” to “Staying on Trail Valley” one bush and downed tree at a time.
Another LPFA focus for 2019 is continued trail work in the San Rafael Wilderness.  Photo Jason Morris

FOREST 411

  • Some really exciting news came out of Santa Barbara County earlier this month when the first California condor chick fledged in the SB backcountry in more than 35 years.  Awesome stuff!  You can read more about this monumental success here, here, here and here.
  • We’ve been hearing reports from across the Los Padres from Big Sur to Agua Blanca that ticks are out in full force this season.  Yikes!  There are quite a few tricks to avoid ticks but here are a few recommendations from the Forest Service you might want to follow.
  • Thanks in large part to the Montecito Trails Foundation, the Cold Spring and West Fork Cold Spring Trails have been reopened within the Thomas Fire scar above Montecito.  The lower Mountain Drive trailhead remains closed but you can enjoy the trail coming from either Hot Springs Canyon or the Gibraltar trailhead of West Fork Cold Spring.  Cold Spring was the final trail to remain closed as a result of the Thomas Fire.
  • The May 2019 Amgen Tour of California bike race was announced with two stages crossing through the Los Padres.  The exact stage routes have not been announced but it looks like stage 4 will be going through Big Sur along iconic Hwy 1 and stage 5 will be covering some of the Central/Southern Los Padres.  We’ll share more when available.  The Tour of California is always fun…….
  • The road construction along Hwy 33 just above Ojai near the quarry has been completed and the road delays have been removed.  Good news for sure……
  • Cherry Creek, Pine Mtn and Dough Flat roads have been closed in the Ojai Ranger District as part of the regular winter weather road closures.  They should reopen on May 1.
  • A young mountain lion was found in Santa Barbara before being relocated into the Los Padres Forest.
  • The Franklin Trail above Carpinteria is temporarily closed at mile marker 3 along Phase II due to Southern California Edison road construction.
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Devil’s Canyon, not nearly as nasty as its name indicates, thanks to SYWHG, LPFA and SBMTV volunteers, photo Jim Blakley

La Brea Restoration Update

Mountain bikers enjoying the recently restored post-Thomas Fire Romero Fire Road.
The trail restoration was part of a joint project between LPFA, SBMTV, MTF, SBCTC and the Forest Service.
Photo Ray Ford
Hello Again Friends,

In case you didn’t see the Forest Service announcements on their proposed La Brea Restoration plans we’ve included some information about the plan below.  This appears to be the final opportunity for the public to comment on the La Brea Restoration so get your thoughts down on paper or screen and send them in before August 20.

Have a great weekend and we hope you find some time in the Los Padres while you’re at it.  If so, please share photos, we’d love to see how it’s looking and what fun you’re having……..

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Junction of La Brea Road (10W06) and La Brea Canyon Road (11N04), just across La Brea Creek from the newly proposed Rattlesnake Trailhead
LA BREA RESTORATION UPDATE
The 2009 La Brea Fire chewed up nearly 90,000 acres of northwestern Santa Barbara County within the Los Padres Forest.  Included within the fire scar were numerous trails, campgrounds and forest roads.  As we’re all too familiar with, there was some significant post-fire weather events (namely January 2010 and March 2011) that caused severe flooding and damage within and downstream of the La Brea Fire scar.  The biggest casualty of the fire and rain was La Brea Road and La Brea Canyon Road, which were popular high-clearance vehicle roads used to access the campgrounds and trailheads along La Brea Creek.  The La Brea Roads crisscrossed the creek many many times and the storm waters essentially wiped the roads off the map at each of these crossings and along many of the lower benches which the road followed.  In response to the damage, vehicle access to the La Brea area has been closed since the La Brea Fire (2009) while the Forest Service determines how best to proceed.

Since that time the Forest Service has been working to develop a restoration plan for the La Brea closure area.  They’ve organized field events to show the damage along La Brea and also reached out for public comment on how we believe the FS should manage this area.  The end result of this many year process is that the FS is recommending a proposed action for the La Brea Area which would essentially close the La Brea Road to motorized access while creating improved access to the area for non-motorized recreation.  Please read the fine-print here and below is a quick outline of the proposed actions (seeing attached map might help):

  • Reopen La Brea Canyon Road coming from Miranda Pine down as far as Wagon Flat Campground.  La Brea Canyon Road would then be closed to motorized travel at Wagon Flat both downstream along La Brea and also up towards Lazy Camp.  Wagon Flat Campground would get a makeover including six campsites, a new toilet and the establishment of a trailhead used to access Lazy and the lower La Brea area.
  • Kerry Canyon Motorcycle Trail would be converted to non-motorized.  The portion of road between Wagon Flat and Lazy would be converted to non-motorized single track and become part of the Kerry Canyon Trail.
  • Colson Canyon Road will be reopened down to the first crossing of La Brea Creek where a new trailhead will be established for accessing the lower portions of La Brea Creek.  La Brea Road will be closed to motorized travel from the new trailhead at the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon both upstream towards Wagon Flat and downstream towards Barrel Spring Campground.
  • In addition there will be quite a few changes to some of the nearby campgrounds:
    • Colson Campground, Alejandro Camp, Kerry Camp, Bear Camp and Lazy Campground will be decommissioned with their camp amenities removed where possible.
    • Barrel Spring Campground would be reclassified as a primitive campsite since it would no longer be accessible by motorized travel.

We realize this is a lot to digest, especially if you are not familiar with the area or this proposal.  The Forest Service is accepting comments on this proposal through August 20.  You can comment here at this link.  Let your voice be heard!

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It’s another Los Padres sunset, Starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky, said goodbye
Sayin’ goodbye to August 15, photo Humphrey
FOREST 411
• We wanted to reach out and congratulate long-time Los Padres volunteer Steve Benoit on being recognized nationwide with the Enduring Service Volunteer of the Year award.  Steve does most of his volunteering with the Ventana Wilderness Alliance but his contributions and dedicatrion have certainly trickled down across the rest of the Los Padres as well.  Congrats Steve, we’re all proud of you!  Now you’ve just got to figure out a way to wear that award on a necklace or perhaps a full-size tattoo is in order…..

• Quick correction from the last email, the only trails which remain technically closed in the Santa Barbara Frontcountry are West Fork Cold Spring and Cold Spring (southern side above Montecito).  Thanks to Montecito Trails Foundation for the correction.

• Unfortunately the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California has now surpassed the Thomas Fire as the largest wildfire in California history.  Here’s hoping that the Mendocino Complex Fire retains that title for a long long long time…..

• It seems to happen every year or two but an Oregon woman driving south along the Big Sur Coast swerved to avoid an animal and drove off the cliff and onto the beach some 200+ ft below.  She survived for a week before finally being discovered and rescued.  Amazing story for sure, check it out here.