Ojai Edition: Wheeler Gorge, Sisar and More

Good Morning Los Padres – We hope you are doing well and have some adventurous plans lined up for this coming weekend.  The weather will be turning a little hotter starting this weekend with most of the forest climbing into the low-80’s.  There is still plenty of water out there to cool off in and slowly but surely some of the unpaved forest access roads are starting to reopen.  If you can’t stand the heat, you might still find a few patches of snow hanging on up around Mount Pinos to really cool off in.  The flowers are doing their thing as well with peak season either underway or a few weeks off at some of the higher elevation spots.  Lots going on, we hope your plans include some Los Padres time as well…….  We’ve got a very Ojai’centric email today.  Lets get to it…..
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WHEELER GORGE OPEN HOUSE
You want to get out this weekend but still don’t have a game plan, try this on for size….  This Saturday is the 12th Annual Wheeler Gorge Open House up at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center (15mins up Hwy 33 above Ojai).  The Open House is FREE and goes from 10am – 2pm.  There will be booths setup from a variety of local organizations sharing some of the great work they do in and around the Los Padres.  Some of the booths will have reptiles and/or birds you can touch (great for the kids), other booths feature geology specialists and there will be a guided nature hike with Lanny Kaufer starting at 1pm.  In addition there will be have some food, rumor is that Smokey Bear will be stopping by (another fan favorite with the kids) and new this year we’ll have a Used Camping Gear Sale featuring backpacks donated by Gossamer Gear.  It’s going to be a great time, the weather is looking fantastic – come stop by, say hello and learn about all the great summer programs we have lined up at Wheeler Gorge!

Back to plans for the weekend.  If you are an early riser, get up Hwy 33 around dawn and go do what you do in the forest.  Bag that peak, run that trail, go for that ride, etc….  Then stop by Wheeler on your way back home and tell us all about it!  Check out the used gear, high-five Smokey and enjoy the afternoon under the Sycamores at the Visitor Center.

Now, if you’re not an early riser or if you have younger kids, wake up slow, get some breakfast and head up to Wheeler in the late morning.  Check out the booths, learn about condors, get some lunch and after the Open House head up Hwy 33 to the Sespe for an afternoon dip in the pools around Piedra Blanca.  Or come with your camping gear and make a weekend out of it at one of the nearby campgrounds or backcountry campsites.  Lots of options, make Wheeler a stop along the journey, there’s always something going on at Wheeler Gorge, especially this weekend!

Rik doing what he loves most, helping people enjoy the trail – Gossamer Gear packs lined up – 2016 Used Gear Sale layout
As far as the Used Gear Sale; we’ll have tents, backpacks, ultralite, car-camping and most of the other necessities you need for getting out into the forest.  We’ll also have a few gear gurus, including Rik Christensen, out there to help get you sized up correctly with the perfect gear for your frame (both physical and of mind).  We’re also taking gear donations if you have any old camping gear you don’t use anymore – tax writeoffs available!  All proceeds go to the LPFA Trail Care program which go directly back into the trails and camps here in the Los Padres.

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SISAR CANYON TRAILHEAD CHANGE
The Sisar Canyon trailhead in the Upper Ojai Valley is a popular starting point for forest users (equestrian, MTB or hikers) heading up the Red Reef Trail or to see the incredible Ojai views along Sisar Rd. It’s used by peak baggers heading to Topatopa or Hines, used by backpackers en route to the Sespe, great for longer loops incorporating other Ojai Valley trails or a pleasant spot for a day trip to see the flowers and listen to the creek. For the past X AMOUNT OF years there were two main parking spots used to access the trails above Sisar. You could park at the start of the dirt road near the large water tanks or continue 0.4 miles further up-canyon along the high-clearance dirt road to the parking area just below the forest boundary locked gates. That’s now changed……

The 0.45 miles of dirt road between where the pavement ends and the forest boundary is privately owned. Over the past decade the owner of the land has been dealing with issues ranging from illegal campfires to 4WD doughnuts across their fields. Despite repeated attempts to stop this misuse of their property, the landowners have now installed a gate at the start of their property which prevents vehicle access to the two established parking areas. Note that the land owners posted signs at the location of the new gate close to a year ago indicating that this change was going to happen. The owner is still allowing passage up the road and across their property but now forest-users will have to either park at a newly created parking area about 100 yards below the new gate (holds approx 8 vehicles) or at the Stagecoach Station Market along Hwy 150.

Note that the new gate is both equestrian and bicycle friendly. This change is not preventing forest access but it is adding additional mileage for forest-users. If you park at Stagecoach Station it’ll add about 0.5 miles of walking/riding to the new locked gate and then another 0.45 up to the forest boundary gate.

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Another Secret Sespe Oasis

Woo Hoo for Chaparral

Fond Farewell to Heidi Anderson

If you’ve spent any time along the Ventura trails over the past decade or so, no doubt you’ve crossed paths with Heidi Anderson at least a few times.  Heidi has been the Wilderness Trails Manager for the Ojai Ranger District for the past 13 years.  It’s a sad week for us as Heidi will be leaving the LP after accepting a promotion with the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southern Oregon.  During her time on the LP, Heidi was the main cog for trail projects within the Ojai District.  She organized and led most of the volunteer projects within the district and famously provided timely water and trail updates from across the Ventura Backcountry.  In addition, Heidi was a regular out in the forest and it was not uncommon to see her trekking the trails she worked so hard to maintain.  I remember the first time I met Heidi, I was backpacking the Red Reef Trail and she came hiking up in her Forest Service uniform with a smile on her face and excited to be out in the forest.  Her enthusiasm for the forest was infectious and you could clearly see that through her devoted volunteers who followed her literally anywhere across the ORD swinging tools and lopping brush.  The trails around Ojai surely won’t be the same without her but I think I speak for all of us in saying we’re happy for Heidi as she continues her journey.  Best of luck Heidi, thanks for all your help and one last…… WOO HOO!
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 LPFA TRAIL TALK IV
We’re really excited to announce the next LPFA Trail Talk event is on February 16 at 6pm, at the Balboa Building in Santa Barbara.  We’ll be welcoming chaparral expert and author Rick Halsey to discuss our favorite community of local plants: chaparral!  Rick is the founder of of the California Chaparral Institute and brings more knowledge about our local plants than you probably knew existed.  2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Zaca Fire and our Trail Talk Events this year will have a Zaca theme to them starting with Rick discussing the cycle of post-fire chaparral regrowth.  Rick’s talk is titled: Grizzly Bears, Condors and Chaparral and chances are if you are reading this, then you’ll love the talk on the 16th.  For more details or to get tickets, click this link and as always the event is FREE for LPFA members or $10 for guests.  We hope to see you there.  INFO@LPForest.org with questions…..

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Pinos Purity, first tracks by Tessa Soutar