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

State of the Winter, So Far…..

Matilija Canyon Changed Forever, Again – Nov 2017 & Jan 2018

Hello Friends,

This winter has not exactly gone as planned, has it?  We were in uncharted waters heading into the rainy season with the largest fire in California history still burning across the southern Los Padres and the already scorched mountains laying helplessly baron, devoid of any vegetation.  Our mountains are no strangers to fire but they’ve usually grown a protective five o’clock shadow of at least a few months of post-fire regrowth before the rains kick in.  We did not have that luxury with the Thomas Fire.  We were all hoping for extended light rain which might fend off the drought while at the same time not causing too much soil erosion.  That certainly has not been the case.  Rainfall totals are way down for the year, with most of the forest receiving well under 40% of average rainfall totals to date.  And all the rain that we have had essentially came in that one horrible storm on January 8.  So much for light rain over an extended period of time, we ended up with hard rain all at once; which, as you know, resulted in the tragic Montecito debris flows.  As of today, there is no rain in the extended forecast and we’re looking at what might be nearly a whole month in the heart of winter without any rain.  It’s really hard to know what to root for from here on out.  It might be best to get through the winter with as little rain as possible and sink back into what will be the 7-year drought.  Or perhaps we hope for rain and pray that we don’t get a repeat Montecito debris-flow.  Then again perhaps we stick to the gameplan and continue to root for light rain spanning the end of winter and into spring.  Who knows.  We’ve already seen so much destruction below the forest and so much change within it.  No matter what outcome we get please be careful.  The forest remains closed within the Thomas and Whittier Fire perimeters and should remain that way for quite some time.  For those looking to take advantage of the good weather, there are plenty of great trails to explore outside the burn perimeters.  It might require a slightly longer drive but there is water in most of the creeks, areas that have not burned and new trails to explore.
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United States Hero & Los Padres’ Own, David Dahlberg
FOREST 411
• In case you missed it, David Dahlberg was recognized earlier this week as part of President Trump’s State of the Union Address.  Dahlberg is a Los Padres Fire Prevention Technician and heroically saved the lives of over 60 people stranded at Circle V Ranch near the onset of this summers Whittier Fire.  While the Los Padres has been making national news of late, it was special to see David get a well deserved round of applause.  David, next rounds on me…..

Fire Restrictions were lifted on January 19 permitting campfires and target shooting.  See attached PDF for more information.  Please PLEASE, be careful with your fires and pick up your brass if target shooting.

Highway 33 remains closed between Ojai and Lockwood Valley Road.  It is possible the road will reopen on February 7 but you’ll want to confirm with CalTrans before attempting to drive through.

• The Thomas Fire was officially called 100% contained on January 12 at an astounding 281,893 acres.

Highway 1 along the Southern Big Sur Coast remains closed at Mud Creek due to the epic landslide from last spring.  It remains on schedule to reopen his summer.

• The FS will be implementing annual prescribed burns across the forest as conditions allow.

• As if TOTALITY wasn’t enough, yesterday we had the pleasure of witnessing the SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON LUNAR ECPLISE, try saying that fast 10 times in a row.  It was spectacular.  In case you missed it, we will have another blue moon in March, just can’t promise the SUPER or LUNAR ECLIPSE parts.

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The SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON LUNAR ECLIPSE, from Aliso Canyon, photo Orr
UPCOMING EVENTS

This time of year is supposed to be too rainy for any trail projects…..  Not this year and as you’ll see below, there are a lot of upcoming volunteer projects and events across the Los Padres that are taking advantage of the unseasonable weather.  We wanted to give you a heads up about one project in particular that popped up late this week:
ROSE VALLEY CLEANUP
Saturday February 3
8:30am at the Ojai Ranger Station
The LPFA is partnering with the Forest Service to arrange a special cleanup around Rose Valley.  Rose Valley burned in the Thomas Fire, revealing decades old trash that was buried in the brush.  We’ll be caravaning up to Rose Valley from Ojai to help cleanup the trash.  Hwy 33 remains closed to the public so it’s important to arrive on time in order to be part of the caravan through the barricades.  Once at Rose Valley, we’ll be spreading out, exploring the area and picking up any trash we see along the way.  Should be a special opportunity to see the burned area up close and help the forest in the process.  For questions you can email INFO@LPForest.org, check the link above and we hope to see you on Saturday at 8:30am sharp.
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Troop 111 from Ventura recently replaced the San Rafael Wilderness sign on the Judell Trail.  GREAT WORK!

newly restored trail sign along Davy Brown Trail.
The sign restoration was part of an Eagle Scout project compliments of Orcutt Scout Troop 91.