La Brea Decision, Volunteer Projects and is Fall Here?

Not safe to come out just yet, A-Zone South ends September 22, photo Humphrey

Howdy Friends,

It may not feel like it, especially right now with our recent stack of hot days but there is a subtle change occurring in the forest right now indicating that FALL IS COMING.  The days are certainly shorter, the nights a little cooler and we’re even seeing some colors changing in select plants and locations.  It’s a little early still but even the first hint of Fall is an exciting time here in the Los Padres.  For many, Fall means the start of the Los Padres backcountry season.  Time to say goodbye to the Sierras and hello to planning your next LP adventure.  For the LPFA, Fall also means ramping up our volunteer trail maintenance projects.  As usual, we’ve got a full forest-wide list of upcoming trail projects listed at the bottom of this email highlighted by an October Working Vacation at Bluff Cabin maintaining the Grapevine Trail.  We’re also partnering with REI and the Thomas Fire Trail Fund to work the Lion Canyon Trail as part of National Public Lands Day.  We’ll be kicking off another season of Ojai First Saturday projects in October and for those of you who might be free sooner we’ll be doing trail work on the upper reaches of the Sisquoc Trail this coming weekend.  The end of 2019 will also see some trail projects in the SLO backcountry and we are laying the groundwork for another Working Vacation on the Piedra Blanca Trail in the Sespe.  Lots of great projects lined up across the Los Padres!  We’d love to have you come out this Fall and volunteer on any (or all) of the upcoming trail projects.  For more details check the list at the bottom or email us directly: Volunteer@LPForest.org

LA BREA RESTORATION PROJECT DECISION

The Maps will be Changing, La Brea Decision

Ten years ago the La Brea Fire burned almost 90,000 acres in and around the northwest portion of the San Rafael Wilderness.  We all know the equation: (fire scarred land) + (lots of rain) = BAD and the big winter storms of 2011 destroyed most of the La Brea Canyon Road, which was a popular dirt road used to connect Colson and Miranda Pine.  As a result of the fire and flood damage, the Forest Service closed La Brea Canyon to vehicle use while undertaking a lengthy process of analyzing and determining how to best manage the La Brea area for future use.  It became known as the La Brea Restoration Project.  Over the past few years the FS formulated a series of four different action alternatives for how they might manage the La Brea area.  These actions were repeatedly shared with the public through FS hosted open house meetings as well as multiple rounds of public comment. As expected, there were many different public opinions on how the FS should manage the future of La Brea and after taking all the different sides into consideration the FS indicated that they were going with proposed action alternative 1. Alternative 1 included converting the creek portions of La Brea Canyon Road to non-motorized trail, decommissioning 5 campgrounds, converting 1 campground, creating 2 new trailheads and converting Kerry Canyon Trail to non-motorized.  On August 16 the FS released their final decision on the La Brea Restoration Project.  It matched with what was listed above with one large change, the new decision is calling for the complete decommission of the Kerry Canyon Trail.  Among other things, the Kerry Canyon Trail is a key 8-mile section of the Condor Trail and if Kerry was to be decommissioned that would prevent any future trail maintenance along Kerry Canyon.  Please click the above links for more information.  There is one final 45-day objection period which started August 16. Details and instructions for the objections can be found here on page 10.

FOREST 411

Lions are the king of the jungle.  Are they also the king of the Forest?Rugged Lion Canyon, roaring before the September 28th National Public Lands Day project

Wildfire Updates: Quick update on the larger LP wildfires
MILL FIRE (Monterey): 100% contained, 310 acres and closures remain in effect. – SNAIL FIRE (Mt Pinos): 100% contained, 279 acres

• Speaking of Snail Canyon, the famous bar and grill near Reyes Creek Campground has once again changed management and is now called Camp Scheideck Lodge Bar & Grill.  They are now open for business!

• And speaking of potential wildfires, here’s a link to a story about a Big Sur man who is on a mission to stop illegal campfires along the Big Sur Coast.  It’s certainly a good mission, lets hope for the best.

• And still speaking of fire potential, the National Science Foundation recently funded an extensive study of the Santa Barbara wind event known as sundowners.  Sundowners combined with wildfire is a nasty mix.  It will be interesting to follow this study over the coming years.

• The LPFA will once again host a Used Camping Gear Sale on November 3 at Tucker’s Grove Park in Goleta.  This is a great opportunity for our members to get super good discounted deals on gently used backpacks (Gossamer Gear is hooking us up again!), tents and other car-camping and backpacking supplies.  We are taking donations as well in case you have an old backpack, tent of camping accessory that hasn’t recently seen the light of day.  All proceeds go towards our Trail Care Fund and back into the trails you love!  For more information about the event or where to donate, email: INFO@LPForest.org

BLACK BEAR EATING CONDOR!??!  That was the headline last week when a Ventana Wildlife Society camera captured a video of a black bear in Big Sur feeding on a calf carcass that was set aside for condors to eat.  It was big news since the Big Sur area doesn’t have much of a bear population but the headline claiming that a black bear was eating a condor certainly grabbed a lot of attention.

• The Federal Government filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison for allegedly allowing the Rey Fire to ignite in August 2016.  Read details here.

• According to Ventura County law enforcement officials, 2018 illegal backcountry pot grow operations were down over two-thirds in comparison to 2017.  This could be a result of marijuana legalization.

Electric Bikes (E-Bikes) have grown in popularity over the past decade.  The current Forest Service regulations on E-Bikes is that they can be ridden on 1) Roads Open to All Vehicles 2) Trails Open to All Vehicles 3) Trails Open to Vehicles 50″ of Less in Width and 4) Trails Open to Motorcycles Only.  So basically E-Bikes can be ridden on public OHV/Moto trails and public FS roads, places where other motorized vehicles can ride only.  There are rumblings that the FS stance on E-Bikes might be changing.  Last week, the Department of the Interior took a big step towards allowing pedal assist E-Bikes on traditional mountain bike trails within National Parks.  This is bound to be a hot topic over the coming years as the FS figures out how to squeeze E-Bikes into an existing user-group or decides to create a new user-group altogether.  Stay tuned…..

• We’re in the dog days of summer heat but there were still a few LP trails worked on over the past month or so: Pine Ridge, Sisquoc, Romero, Jesusita, Terrace, Tunnel, Arroyo Burro, Cold Spring, Franklin, Deal, Buena Vista, Reyes Peak, Mission Pine

Big thanks to Goleta based Scout Troop 26 and Logan Beckstrand who worked with the LPFA to complete his Eagle Project installing 21 interpretive markers and a trailhead sign for the Aliso Canyon Interpretive Trail.
The previous trail markers and signs were destroyed in the White (2013) and Rey (2016) Fires.  Go check it out!

Los Padres Hunting & Wildfire Season

We certainly won’t be winning any lumberjack world championship crosscut speed competitions, but we got it done!  Sisquoc Trail, August 2019

HELLO FRIENDS – Tomorrow (August 10) kicks off the most popular hunting season here in the Los Padres, the Zone A South General Deer Season.  Zone A South encompasses most of the Los Padres from Monterey down through Ventura County except for Zone D13 which covers the Ventura/Kern Highcountry, click to see map here.  There will be a lot of hunter activity across the forest over the coming A Zone weeks, especially during the early weekends of the Season.  If you’re out and about you should expect to see hunters at most of the trailheads and along many of the access roads.  If you have plans to visit the forest this weekend, be aware of the extra activity and depending on your interests and where you plan on going, you may want to adjust your plans or at the very least wear bright colored clothing.  Good idea to leave the antler helmet at home this time around.

Remember that we are in fire restrictions and campfires are only permitted in designated campfire use sites.  Be safe!

Wildfire Season is Here!  Mill Fire overview, photo Nic Elmquist

WILDFIRE UPDATE & CLOSURES

The Los Padres had two wildfire scares over the past couple weeks with the Mill Fire (310 acres) along the southern edge of the Ventana Wilderness and the Range Fire (100 acres) off of Happy Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Thankfully both fires didn’t blow up and are near 100% containment.  The cause of the fires have not been shared.  There is a current forest closure as a result of the Mill Fire that includes Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, Mill Creek Trail, Kirk Creek Trail, South Coast and Cone Peak Roads.  Thanks to everyone involved in fighting the fires and lets hope for no more wildfire scares.

Bow wow wow!  Poodle dog flooding Dry Lakes Ridge, photo Perry Van Houton

FOREST 411

• There have been quite a few trails maintained over the past month or so across the Los Padres by the FS and your local volunteer organizations.  Here’s a quick list, remember you can visit HikeLosPadres.com for more information about these wonderful trails: Cold Spring, Marble Peak, Franklin, Matilija Falls, Poplar, Reyes Peak, Rattlesnake Canyon, Romero, Baron, Sisquoc, Terrace Creek, Jesusita

• Earlier this week the Los Padres made the news as a result of a car chase that ended up, then down, along the Sierra Madre Road.  The footage of the LP portion of the chase was released a few days ago and is absolutely crazy.  Please don’t try this!

• The LP also made the news this week thanks to a two-day search operation for a missing backpacker.  The solo backpacker and his faithful dog were attempting the 50-mile Lower Sisquoc Loop in the San Rafael Wilderness when he came down with a sickness on day 1 of his 3 day trip.  His family grew concerned when he didn’t make it home at the end of day 3 and contacted Santa Barbara Search and Rescue.  The extensive search began at sunrise on day 4 and thankfully the backpacker turned up mid-morning on day 5.  The backpacker was dehydrated but otherwise in good health.  Thankfully the backpacker had left an itinerary with his family and had taken the time to enter his name into the various trail registers along the route.  The combination of register entries and knowing his itinerary aided immensely in developing a search strategy for the lost backpack.  Remember that.  Alls well that ends well, great work by SAR and yes, the dog came back in one piece as well – probably had the time of his life!

• The trails above Montecito were hit extremely hard due to the Thomas Fire and subsequent January 2018 debris flows.  Many groups and volunteers have assisted in the reconstruction of the trails but we wanted to mention one specific group effort working on the lower Cold Spring Trail, specifically building a wall that is now affectionately known as the Don Wall.  The Cold Spring Trail was wiped clean after the debris flows and along with it the trailhead on the east side of Mountain Drive.  This section of trail had turned into a lumpy cliff face with a 20ft drop into the creek below.  It seemed impossible to repair but thanks to nearly two-months of hard work the trail has been fixed and is looking terrific!  Many people assisted in this process including: Los Padres National Forest, City of Santa Barbara, SB County, Montecito Trails Foundation, Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, Multi-Use Trails Coalition, Thomas Fire Trail Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, SLO County Trails, SB County Trails Council, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, the LPFA ans especially Donn & Don.  It was really inspiring and fun working with so many people and completing our goal.  Thanks everyone…….

• The gate at Cherry Creek Road along upper Highway 33 is now open.  Cherry Creek provides access to the upper Matilija Trailhead as well as the upper Ortega Motorcycle Trail.

• Get your party hats on…..  Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday is today.  Woot woot!  Wonder if he will have candles on his cake….???  Happy Birthday Smokey Bear.

• Highway 1 along northern SLO County will have overnight closures at Ragged Point for 4 weeks starting on 8/12.

The before and after Don Wall, Cold Spring Trailhead

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.

MAY the FOREST be with you

Hi Everyone – Good Afternoon,

Quite a week for celebrations we’ve had…… 

  • Monday was May Day: a celebration of Spring and the giving of flowers.
  • Tuesday was Teachers Day: even to this day we all have teachers, it’s never a bad idea to say thank you!
  • Wednesday we caught our breath.
  • Thursday was Star Wars Day: May the fourth be with you!
  • And today is Cinco de Mayo: you can read about the history of May 5 but generally associated with Mexican heritage, margaritas and family.

All special days of course, but here in the Los Padres we celebrated yet another event this week as well…….

LOS PADRES GATE OPENING DAY: May 1

Generally speaking, the seasonal road closure gates across the forest close December 1 for the winter and then reopen May 1 after most of the rains have passed.  This is a relatively new holiday as many of the seasonal gates have not always been closed but none the less May 1 now provides reason for many of us here in the LP to celebrate.  We won’t get into MVUM or budgets or politics or any of the other reasons the gates are closed, instead lets focus on the good news that once again road access to more of the forest is open.  Here’s the latest and greatest from each of the five ranger districts:

Ojai Ranger District:
– Three seasonal roads have reopened including Reyes Peak Road (Pine Mountain), Dough Flat Road and Nordhoff Ridge Road (permit required).
– Cherry Creek Road remains closed.
– All campgrounds and trails are open!Mt. Pinos Ranger District:
– All roads, camps and trails have been reopened except for Snowy Trail, Cerro Noroeste, Dry Canyon Rd and Tinta / Rancho Nuevo Trailhead Gate at the Cuyama River / Hwy 33 junction.
– This includes Grade Valley, Alamo and Santa Barbara Canyon.
The new Romero Saddle gate at East Camino and Romero-Camuesa Rd, photo USFS
Santa Barbara Ranger District:
– The news is not so good in the SBRD……
– The Romero Camuesa Rd, which connects East Camino Cielo with the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation area sustained major structural damage this winter and remains closed to all vehicles.  A cribwall section of the road was severely undercut near the junction with the North Romero Trail and will require engineering before the road can be reopened.  As a result, the Forest Service has installed a new gate at the junction of East Camino and Romero-Camuesa at Romero Saddle where the pavement turns to dirt.  Divide Peak OHV remains open, so appropriate OHV vehicles (<50″) can pass around the new gate and continue to access Divide Peak but there is no vehicle travel down to Juncal, Pendola, the Calientes, etc…….  Staging for OHV is now at Romero Saddle.  This is major news, we’ll keep you posted as progress develops and timeframes established.
– First Crossing along Paradise Rd remains closed due to storm damage resulting from the Rey Fire.  The Forest Service expects First Crossing to reopen in the next few weeks.  Currently Upper Oso and the day use areas off River Road are closed.
– No news on when or if Buckhorn Rd / Camuesa will be reopened for OHV use.  The Buckhorn was hit hard by the Rey Fire and with most of the road resources going towards public access roads, it sounds like the Buckhorn will have to wait its turn.  We’ll keep you all posted on this as well.
– Happy Canyon has been cleared and is open for 2wd passenger car travel.Santa Lucia Ranger District:
– Santa Lucia is a bit more fluid than the other districts.  We suggest contacting the District before heading out to a trailhead or location.  Here’s the latest:
– All paved roads are open including Fig Mtn Rd, Sunset Valley.
– The dirt roads in the Fig Mtn Recreation Area are closed, including Fig Mtn Lookout, East Pinery, Catway and Old Catway.
– Sierra Madre is open from Rock Front east to McPherson Gate.
– Miranda Pine is closed at the junction with Sierra Madre.
– Bates is closed.
– Rock Front is open.
– Hi Mtn Rd remains closed at both Arroyo Grande and Salinas River sides.
– Pozo is open.
– Colson Canyon is open to Colson Camp but remains locked at the Rattlesnake Saddle gate (more on that below, see La Brea!)Monterey Ranger District:
– The Soberanes Fire Closure continues to impact the Monterey district with most of the Ventana Wilderness remaining closed.
– Hwy 1 is still closed at Ragged Point (south) and Big Sur Station (north).
– Nacimiento Ferguson is open as well as Prewitt and South Coast Ridge Roads.
– All Forest Service Camps along Hwy 1 are open but access is only via Nacimiento Ferguson.
– Palo Colorado is closed.
– Pfeiffer Beach is closed.
– Pfeiffer Big Sur and Andrew Molera State Parks are closed but should open in the coming weeks.Whew, that’s a lot, are you still with us?  It doesn’t feel like much of a celebration when you see all the closures that remain in effect.  We had quite a winter (rain) following quite a summer (fire).  Maybe we should start a band and call it Fire, Rain & Earth.  The FS is working hard to reopen the roads.  It’ll happen.  Remain optimistic we must…….

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An Apple a Day, photo Aanjelae
FOREST 411

First Saturday Trail Project Ojai: May 6 on the upper Pratt Trail.  Meet at 8:30am at the Ojai Ranger Station to carpool to the Nordhoff Ridge trailhead.

La Brea Restoration Plan: The SLRD is hosting an Open House to discuss the proposed restoration project for the La Brea Fire closure that dates back to 2010.  Public is welcome, the Open House is May 8 from 4-7pm at the SLRD Ranger Station on Carlotti Drive in Santa Maria.

• Final LPFA Working Vacation of the season is May 20-29 at Madulce Camp in the Dick Smith Wilderness.  To learn more or to sign up, email INFO@LPForest.org or check here.

• Latest Figueroa Mountain Wildflower Update from our Forest Service wildflower expert Helen Tarbet, see attached.

Wood cutting permits are available later this month at the Chuchupate Ranger Station.  Dates are May 10, 24 and 31 from 10am – 2pm.  Call Chuchupate for more information: 661.245.3731

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Stay Thirsty my Friends, photo Humphrey