Condor, Sycamore and Baer……. OH MY!

BAER Trail Protection, San Ysidro Trail, photo Carr
Hello Friends – We hope you are doing well and finding some time to splash in the puddles!

If you’ve been anywhere near a fire over the past few years, you’ve probably heard the words “BEAR WORK” and might not know exactly what that means.  We get asked about it all the time and it’s BAER WORK (pronounced BEAR).  So what is BAER?  This is directly from the Los Padres NF website:

The US Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team’s purpose is to assess threats to life, property, and cultural and natural resources from fire-induced changes to the watershed that can cause erosion, sedimentation, flooding, and debris flows.
Basically what happens is that after any larger scale fire, the USFS dispatches a team of specialists to study and survey the future impacts that fire might play within the downstream communities and to the resources within the forest.  This team is called the BAER team (see acronym above) and they’re usually the first people on the ground as the flames die down.  The BAER team studies all the potential risks from the fire, generates reports outlining those risks, prescribes treatments designed to mitigate those potential risks and then performs those treatments within the forest.  BAER studies include archaeology, road engineering, trail protection, fisheries, soils, hydrology and more.  All the Thomas Fire reports are published on the FS website in case you are interested in the details.  So remember, the next time you hear a post-fire BAER reference, you can amaze your friends by telling them it has nothing to do with Smokey or Boo-Boo and then for bonus nerd points follow that up with a NIRA reference (National Industrial Recovery Act).
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It just feels like Burkittsville, along the Condor Trail
CONDOR TRAIL TALK
Is the Condor Trail on your bucket list?  Do you fear you’ll kick the bucket if you attempt the Condor Trail?  Do you enjoy exploring new places across the Los Padres?  If you answered YES to any of those questions then you have to come to the Condor Trail Talk on Friday March 23 at the Balboa Building in Santa Barbara.  The Trail Talk is being hosted by the Condor Trail Association, LPFA and REI and we’ll be welcoming 4 sets of hikers who either finished the CT in 2017 or came really really close.  Each set of hikers will share stories from their journey across the Los Padres and it should be really cool hearing how different each journey was based on time of year and what they encountered along the way.  The talk is free, doors open at 6:30pm, we’ll have a raffle, silent auction, maybe a game or two and some beverages to kick your weekend off in style.  Come one, come all – as long as space allows!  Hope to see you there……
Condor Trail 2017 Hikers
Friday March 23 – Doors Open 6:30pm
Balboa Building – 735 State Street – Santa Barbara
*parking can be tough, suggest Paseo Nuevo*
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Toejam Taking in the Lower Sisquoc, January 2018
LOWER SISQUOC WORKING VACATION
Sycamore Camp, April 14-22
We’re happy to announce our latest and greatest LPFA Working Vacation, this time along the Sisquoc Trail, based at Sycamore Camp in the spectacular San Rafael Wilderness.  The plan is to drive in to the Jackson Trailhead along the Sierra Madres on Saturday morning April 14.  From there we’ll backpack 4 miles down to Sycamore Camp, which will be our camp for the week.  We’ll be joined by the usual cast of mule packers and exquisite backcountry cooks that make camping life so enjoyable while on a Working Vacation.
Our mission for the week is to clear the trail from Sycamore Camp downstream to Big Bend Canyon. As mentioned, we’ll have mule support to bring in tasty food and cold sudsy beverages while Rich Scholl will once again be cooking up a storm, providing the best in wilderness camp cooking, including the now infamous “COFFEE’S READY, HUH!”.  No joke, some people come just to hear coffee’s ready, huh!  Or is it the Woot Woot that they come for?  Either way, all food is provided for volunteers and we promise you’ll never leave hungry.
While we’ll be at Sycamore for a whole week, there will be plenty of opportunities for shorter stays and we’ll make room for you if you can spend 3, 4, 5 or more days on the Working Vacation. Let us know what works for your schedule and we can most likely make it work for us.  You will have to backpack in 4 miles to the camp, including a hard steep hike back out at the end of the WV.  We usually work from 8am – 3pm but we’ll take however many hours you’re willing to give.  Most of the work will be using loppers to cut back the brush, the occasional sawing of a branch and clearing ravel from the trail corridor.
The Working Vacations are always a great time! It’s a terrific way to give back to the trails you love, explore some new parts of the forest, get into a backcountry groove and meet great friends along the way.
To sign up or to learn more please email: INFO@LPForest.org

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Doesn’t that look a whole lot more inviting!

FOREST 411
– There has been a bit of controversy surrounding post-fire reseeding and if it’s beneficial or not, in particular with the recent Thomas Fire.  We reached out to the FS as well as the California Chaparral Institute to learn about what their recommendations are.  Attached you’ll find some notes and letters with opinions.  Enjoy……

– Tragically, on February 15 there was an accidental self-inflicted gunshot caused death at the Glass Factory target shooting area along East Camino Cielo.  Due to the investigation of the shooting, the Glass Factory will remain closed until March 27.

– Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast remains closed just north of Salmon Guard Station at Mud Creek.  There have been a few additional slides that have caused delays and/or closures due to the recent storms but all of those have been cleared.  If Hwy 1 is on your radar, be sure to check CalTrans or BigSurKate ahead of time.

– Even with the recent “March Marvel” (we can’t call it a miracle just yet), we remain well below the average rainfall totals across the forest for the season.  We’re still fighting to overcome a February that had single digit percentages of average rainfall across most of the Los Padres.  Figueroa Mountain received only 2% of their average rain in February, Three Peaks in the Silver Peak region only 7%.  By comparison, Fig Mtn is 174% of normal for March so far and Three Peaks is a whopping 757% of normal!  March is off to a good start and fortunately the storms have been light and steady within the fire areas.  Lets pray for more of the same……

– In case you hadn’t heard, the Whittier Fire closure has been lifted and West Camino Cielo is once again open, barring temporary rain closures.  Please tread lightly.  While West Camino is open, the Tequepis Trail remains inaccessible due to the closure of Circle V Ranch.

– Speaking of the Whittier Fire, the cause of the fire was released last month, read here for more information.

– The Thomas Fire closure remains in effect with all of the burned areas (the black) still closed to public access.  This includes access east of Gibraltar Road along East Camino Cielo and all the trailheads accessed via Rose Valley (yes, even Piedra Blanca Trailhead).  There has been no timetable set as to when the Thomas closure will be lifted.

– There’s been some good news coming from the Thomas Fire specifically related to fire impacted animals surviving the fire.  Here’s one about the use of fish skin bandages to help repair burns and the release of two of those bears and a mountain lion cub.  And this article talking about condor #871’s first flight across the Sespe.

– Thanks to the fantastic work of CalTrans, Highway 33 has remained open through all the past series of storms.  Those guys are amazing!  Thanks CalTrans!  That being said, if you plan on driving Hwy 33, please be aware that it could close at any moment and especially around rain events.

– The Los Padres Forest is requesting comments to reissue power-line permits through the forest.  For more information start here.

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Smokin Hot, Cold Spring Sunset

Volunteer Projects FOR YOU!

The Lower Sisquoc & Its Most Famous Wilderness Sign, January 2018

Hello Friends,

Quick reminder on some upcoming volunteer projects that you might want to help with and a cruz’in Thomas fundraiser.  Lets get to it…..

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LOWER SISQUOC TRAIL PROJECT
February 16-19, Manzana Schoolhouse

“COFFEES READY!”  The LPFA will be leading a 4-day trail project working on the Lower Sisquoc Trail from Manzana Schoolhouse up towards Water Canyon Camp.  The project will be led by Mike Smith.  We’ll have drive-in times to the Schoolhouse on both Friday and Saturday mornings and using the Schoolhouse as our base for the 4 days.  We plan on leaving Monday morning 2/19 (President’s Day) with the hopes of being back home by early afternoon.  Work will be primarily brushing the trail corridor and clearing slough from the trail-bed but there will be some opportunity for crosscut sawyer work as well.  The Lower Sisquoc is a special location with a rich history.  It’s really neat being able to drive in and enjoy this backpacking style campsite with all the conveniences of a car-camping setup.  The Lower Sisquoc is also part of the Condor Trail (although we cannot guarantee you’ll see the rare and illusive CT through-hiker while on this trail project).  All food will be provided by the LPFA, compliments of backcountry cook extraordinaire Rich Scholl.  While we’ll be out there for 4 days, you are welcome to join us for any part of that time as long as you can hike in via the 8 miles from NIRA or 5 miles from Zaca Cedros Saddle.  This is a great opportunity to explore a new corner of the forest or revisit one of your favorite haunts from the past.  For more information or to sign up please email: INFO@LPForest.org
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CHERRY CREEK CLEANUP

February 10, Cherry Creek off Highway 33

The Ojai Ranger District and LPFA will be partnering again this Saturday to cleanup some of the areas that were recently burned in the Thomas Fire.  Last weekend was Rose Valley, this weekend we’ll be moving a little further up Hwy 33 (which is now open!) and focusing on Cherry Creek.  Until recently Cherry Creek was a popular target shooting destination off the Upper Sespe along Hwy 33.  To put it bluntly, the area was trashed over the previous decades by target shooters blasting the trees and leaving target remains up and down the road.  A few years ago target shooting was prohibited and a series of cleanups organized to haul away much of the target remains and trash.  The Thomas Fire burned much of Cherry Creek, revealing in the absence of brush a new wave of trash.  Our objective is to get in there and pick up as much remaining trash as we can.  The Forest Service will be providing lunch for all volunteers so please RSVP with Mike Porter and let him know if you want veggie or meat sandwich:

mporter@fs.fed.us – 805.646.4348

We’ll be meeting at the Ojai Ranger Station (1190 E. Ojai Ave.) at 8:30am and plan to be back by 4pm.  All supplies will be provided but please wear closed-toe shoes and bring snacks, water, sunglasses and gloves if you have them.  Hope to see you there…….

Hey, we could have used those! 
You never know what “trash” you’ll find after a fire?
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SANTA CRUZ BIKES – THOMAS FIRE FUNDRAISER
There’s been quite a few Thomas Fire related fundraising events over the past month or so and we wanted to share a really cool fundraiser that Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers (SBMTV) is working on with Santa Cruz Bikes.  You can read all about it at the link below but basically you can buy $5 tickets to win one of two brand new Santa Cruz bikes!  And even better, the proceeds from the ticket sales are going to support trails impacted by the Thomas Fire.  There is a little more to it than that as SBMTV will be splitting the money raised with a Santa Rosa based mountain bike group who will be using their share of the money to work on trails damaged in their fire.  Again, you can read all the fine-print below.  This is a great fundraiser that supports our trails, huge kudos to Santa Cruz Bikes for being so supportive and SBMTV for making it happen.  Check it out, get your tickets while you can and good luck with winning the second bike – since I’ll be winning the first bike!  😉
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He’s not kidding!  Don’t mess with Smokey……

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.

Condor Trail Talk: CANCELLED

Cold Spring Trailhead, Montecito, January 9.  
Where’s the trail?  For that matter where’s the road?  Like a giant spoon was drug down the canyon.
Photo
Ray Ford

CONDOR TRAIL TALK: POSTPONED

Due to yesterdays tragic debris flows that ravaged the Thomas Fire and communities downstream, we’re postponing the Condor Trail Talk tonight and will reschedule for early February.  Words can’t describe the devastation that was witnessed yesterday, mainly throughout the Montecito community.  As I’m sure you all know, access along Hwy 101 is closed from Ventura to Santa Barbara and most of the side streets remain closed due to piles of debris, downed trees and everything else stacked up along the creek banks and roadways.  Much of the community remains isolated and it seems likely even more devastation and loss will be uncovered as crews work to regain access.  While most of the news understandably has been focused on Montecito, there has to be similar mudslides and flows in other communities as well.  From what we’ve heard, Ojai seems to have fared okay but Hwy 33 is closed due to road damage above Wheeler Gorge (see photo below).  We’ll certainly hear more in the coming days and lets hope for better news than we received from Montecito.  It’s even scarier that this storm won’t be our last and most likely won’t be the largest either.  Round 1 is in the books, Mother Nature 1, People 0.

The promising news is that warm drying weather is in the forecast for the next week or more.  Access in and around the Los Padres will remain limited with closures occurring yesterday on just about all the Highways used to access the LP from Hwy 1 in Big Sur to Hwy 166, 150, 33 and of course 101.  Be safe everyone and we hope to see you at the Condor Trail Talk in February.

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Highway 33 Undercut, photo CalTrans

Fire Restrictions Lifted & Trail Project Schedule 2016

Lucky Pooch Recharging by the CampfireJackson

FIRE RESTRICTIONS LIFTED

Hi Everyone,

Happy New Year!  The big news across the forest this past week has been the change in Fire Restrictions.  Effective January 9, the fire restrictions dating back to May 5, 2015 have been lifted.  While this is exciting news for those of us who have spent freezing nights in the forest of late, please PLEASE remember to be safe with your campfires.  Only build campfires in cleared spaces, preferably in designated campground campfire-rings and most importantly be sure to completely put out your fires before you leave camp.  It may seem like a pain to spend those extra minutes soaking your fire but it’s so important – think about the alternative.  Take that extra time to run trips back and forth from the creek.  For those of you looking for an easier solution, REI sells a collapsible bucket made by Sea to Summit which carries 10 liters and can easily soak down a campfire with only a few trips to the creek.  Also be sure to get your California Campfire Permit.  Permits are available at any of the Ranger Stations or online at this link.  Just takes a few minutes and it is the law to have a permit.  Enjoy the warmth and be careful.  The change in fire restrictions also reopens shooting ranges across the forest.  Contact your local Ranger District for information on shooting ranges near you.





Happy Trail Workers Along Mono-Alamar Trail, photo Beeman
WorkersHappy VOLUNTEER TRAIL PROJECTS

The LPFA and friends have a bunch of volunteer trail projects scheduled over the coming months, a BUNCH!  We wanted to get the dates out to you now so that you can hopefully find a free weekend (or longer) to help the trails.  If you have any questions or want to sign up, please email INFO@LPForest.org:

February 7: Deal Trail, Dick Smith Wilderness

This is the 4th Annual Super Bowl Sunday trail project hosted in conjunction with UTMC along the deal Trail.  Meet at 8:30am and home in time for the second half of the game.  Lots of fun and you’ll feel great sitting on your couch that evening knowing you deserve it, Mark Subbotin is the project lead.

February 19-21: Location TBD
This is going to most likely be a 3-day car-camping project in the Santa Barbara Backcountry led by Curt Cragg.  We are finalizing the location based on weather and road access.  More to come soon……

March 4-6: Potrero Trail, San Rafael Wilderness
Led by Mike Smith, this will be a 3-day backpacking project based at Potrero Camp along Manzana Creek.  Work will be up the Potrero Trail towards Hurricane Deck.  The project will be stock supported so expect tasty meals.

March 18-20: Buckhorn Trail with SBMTV, Santa Barbara Backcountry
Led by Curt Cragg and cosponsored by LPFA and SBMTV, we’ll be working the legendary Buckhorn Trail down from the top towards the first creek crossing.  We’ll be camping at Happy Hollow Camp with opportunities for day volunteers as well.  Gonna be a fun one!

April 8-18: Madulce Working Vacation, Dick Smith Wilderness
This is the first of 3 LPFA Working Vacation scheduled for spring 2016.  We’ll be based at Madulce Camp and working the network of trails radiating from the old guard station.  Our main focus will be working the Madulce and Puerto Suelo Trails.  While we’ll be up there for 10 days, there will be opportunties for shorter stints.  Backpacking 7 miles to camp is required and there will be stock support.  April is a great time of year in this part of the forest.  Mike Smith will be the project lead.

April 29-May 1: Alamar Trail, Dick Smith Wilderness
This project will be based at Bluff Cabin and focused on completing the final mile of trail down Alamar Trail from Alamar Saddle.  Curt Cragg will be leading this project.  This was a project we started in September 2015 as part of National Public Lands Day.

May 5-8: Lost Valley Trail, San Rafael Wilderness
Mike Smith will be leading a gutsy (Mothers Day) extended weekend project along the Lost Valley Trail.  This will be a backpacking / stock-supported project based somewhere along the trail with the goal of working from the Manzana up to the Hurricane Deck.

May 20-30: Middle Sisquoc Working Vacation, San Rafael Wilderness
This is going to be a fun one as well.  We’ll be based at Sycamore Camp along the Sisquoc River and working the trail down-canyon to Abel Camp.  The Sisquoc should be epic this time of year with deep pools and green slopes.  Access will be along the Jackson Trail.  The project will be stock supported with shorter length stays possible as well.

June 3-5: National Trails Day, Location TBD
We’ll be partnering with REI to host a 3-day project in the Ventura or Santa Barbara Backcountry.  Location and specifics are in the works.  Stay tuned…….

June 11-19: Mission Pine Working Vacation, San Rafael Wilderness
There have been quite a few projects over the past few years attempting to reopen the Mission Pine Trail from McKinley Saddle to Big Pine.  Talk about epic trails, this Working Vacation will be focused on completing the work across Mission Pine and down the top mile of the Santa Cruz Trail.  There is lots of potential for this project as far as where it is based and all that.  In the works and we’ll share when we know more……..

Wheww, that is a lot, isn’t it?  We hope you can make it on at least one of these projects.  We’ll be covering many different types of trails at many fantastic locations.  There is really something for everyone on these projects.  If you haven’t been on any LPFA project, try to make it this spring, you’ll have a great time!





 

Snowy Hwy 33 Pine Mountain Winter Wonderland, photo Humphrey