LPFA Transverse – No Campfire, No Problem

Getting Ready for the Night, Terrace Creek, Ventana Wilderness


Most of the Los Padres has now received between 0.5 and 3 inches of rain this season.  We’re getting a fairly consistent flow of small storms, especially in the northern LP, but have not gotten the big rains that most of us are looking for.  Knock, knock – it’s still early.  The Forest Service normally doesn’t lift the fire restrictions until most of the Forest gets at least 2 inches of rain, so we’re still a ways out from having campfires in the backcountry.  The LPFA receives quite a few questions from backpackers and campers who don’t seem to know what to do if they can’t have a fire.  “How can I camp without a campfire?”  Well, here are a few suggestions:

Stay Warm
– The sun goes down around 5 these days and as a result you’ll be in the cold/dark more than ever.
– Bring an extra jacket, some fleece pants, gloves and a really good beanie.
– If you don’t want to climb into your bag at sunset, the best protection is some extra layers to stay warm.
– It’s also a good idea to use a tent.  Tents provide additional warmth and a nice place to hang out if you can’t be next to a fire.

– When facing nearly 14 hours of dark, be sure you have a fresh headlamp and extra batteries.
– In addition, you might want to bring a lantern or some light source to create the environment of your choice (Christmas lights, disco ball, etc….).
– There are quite a few light light options these days that can make you forget about your trusted campfire and not break your back packing them in.  REI is a great place to start.

Have Fun
– Nothing beats lack of campfire better than some good old entertainment.
– Depending on what floats your boat, you could bring in some music, a guitar or even watch a movie on your iPad.
– Games are always fun.  Some camp favorites include Yahtzee, LCR, charades, UNO and of course the mandatory deck of cards.
– What is better than telling ghost stories?  Nothing.
– Just remember to be courteous to other campers, your fun could become their nightmare.

Be Active
– Things go bump in the night, perhaps you should investigate?
– Rather than hitting the hay, bundle up and take a short walk away from camp and sit next to the creek or stare at the stars.  Always a special treat!
– If you are camping with a group, tour other people’s tents.  A sure fire way to chew up the time and you might learn some gear tips along the way.

Eat & Drink
– The best way to eat up the hours is to eat during the night hours.  Rather than cooking when its light, save the cooking for the dark.
– With plenty of time on your hands, you can use the stove to get really creative.
– Try that complicated recipe you heard about in Backpacker Magazine.  Go for it!
– Who says you can’t eat s’mores without a campfire?  What’s wrong with the stove?
– And nothing warms the insides more than a sip or two of your favorite evening drink; hot chocolate or tea, of course.

– How often do you get 14 hrs to yourself with nothing to do?
– Take advantage of the long night and write in a journal or read your favorite book.
– You could just sit there and listen for animals.  Without the glare of a campfire and smell of smoke, your odds of hearing critters will go way up.
– Once back at work/life you’ll be wishing you had that extra time to relax and do exactly what you wanted to do.

– If you can’t beat it, join it!
– Everyday life has a way of depriving you of sleep, am I wrong?  This is a great way to take the sleep back.
– Try to squeeze in every minute of sleep you can.

The moral of the story is that there are plenty of things to do in order to make camping fun without a campfire.  Get out there, make it to your favorite camp, be creative and have fun.  If you have any great ideas that were not covered here, we’d love to hear them too……..

Fullmoon Frisbee, San Rafael style, photo Ziegler


LPFA Transverse – Water in the Sky

Reyes Peak Dusting, November 1 by Ranger Heidi

Rain, rain……. stay a while!  The LP was treated to a nice storm this past weekend.  Rain fell across the Forest with some of the higher elevations getting a brief dusting of snow.  Rainfall totals ranged from around half an inch up to 2.5inches along Big Sur and eastern SLO County.  The great thing was that the entire Forest received some precipitation with most of it falling fast and furiously on Friday.  Many of the trails throughout the forest showed clear signs of substantial runoff – hope those waterbars were in good shape.  Anyway, the trick is that temps have returned to above normal and there wasn’t enough rain to change the flows in any of the creeks.  Water remains a major concern for those heading to the backcountry.  If we can help gather any information for you, please let us know – and of course if you have any information worth sharing, we are all ears.

S B    H I G H    C O U N T R Y

The LPFA hosted two trail projects recently in the Santa Barbara high country.  This is the area ranging from Madulce Peak west along Mission Pine to McKinley Peak.  It’s beautiful country, with elevations generally above 5,000ft and views in all directions.

West Big Pine, by Curt Cragg
One of the nastiest sections of trail in the San Rafael Wilderness is along the East Mission Pine Trail, specifically where the trail dips down above Rattlesnake Canyon.  This trail was ravaged in the 2007 Zaca Fire and has not seen much attention since then.  Our ten trail-volunteers set out to fix the hidden tread past Rattlesnake but found that there was enough work before that section to keep them busy for two solid days.  As a result, they are setting up a second mission to get back in there and work farther West along the trail – this time hoping to blast through the scrub oak mess on the far side of Rattlesnake Canyon.  If you are interested in helping with this second project, we’ll be heading out the weekend of November 14-16.  Contact INFO@lpforest.org or Curt Cragg (cragg.curt@gmail.com) for more details.

100+18 Trail Crew, by Gilcrest
Another popular trail in the SB High Country that is in need of some TLC is the Madulce Peak Trail.  This trail spurs off the main trail and heads a couple miles up to the 6,500ft Madulce Peak, which was once the home to a fire lookout.  We teamed up with a group of 18 Hundred Peak Hikers and spent a day clearing the old trail.  While some larger trees remain along the tread, the trail is now actually followable up to the peak – including along the dozens of switchbacks.  And once on the peak, the views are incredible!  It was great partnering with the 100 Peak crew and we look forward to many more trips in the future.

Switching Back to the Peak, photos by Gilcrest
G A T E S   &   M O R E

As winter approaches, many of the seasonal gates across the forest will start to close for the season.The Mount Pinos District will begin their seasonal closure on November 10.  We are unsure exactly which roads these include but will try to get that information for you by the next Transverse.  If you are planning a trip into the Pinos backcountry, best to give them a call and verify which gates are open and which will be closed.

The Ojai District will be closing the Dough Flat gate on December 1.

The Divide Peak Gate in the Santa Barbara District is open but does close at the slightest indication of pending rain.  We get complaints quite a bit about the gate being closed.  Rule of thumb, If rain is forecast, that gate will be closed.  Live by that.

James Wapotich will be giving a slideshow presentation about Exploring the San Rafael Wilderness this coming Thursday (Nov 6) at 7pm in Santa Barbara.  More information here:

That’s it for now everyone.  Enjoy the cool nights and warm days – we’ll catch you next time…….