BIG SURealism

Pfeiffer Gulch (Canyon) Bridge, photo CalTrans  
Hello Los Padres,

Once again we find ourselves in the dog days of summer, closer to fall than spring but aren’t the dog days supposed to be lethargic and carefree?  That certainly is not the case here, in particular the Big Sur coastal portions of the Monterey Ranger District where the community continues to recover from the 2016 Soberanes Fire and subsequent winter storm damage.  Dog days?  More like a colony of ants, hustling and bustling to get ready for the coming winter…..  There’s a lot going on around these parts and I’m not quite sure where to begin so we’ll start at the heart and work out from there:

  • Access along Highway 1 has improved but remains closed at both Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and Mud Creek.
    • Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge is located just south of Big Sur Station and was famously demolished earlier this year after it was discovered structurally unsound.  Great progress has been made rebuilding the bridge and it is on schedule to reopen by October.
    • Also famously (recurring theme), a bypass trail was built around the failed bridge so that workers and residents could pass from one side to the other.  This bypass trail was initially only open for residents and workers but was opened to the public on July 1.  The public can now park near either side of the bridge and walk around to the other side.  Shuttle services are available to help usher tourists to and from the bypass trail.
    • Mud Creek, which again famously demolished a 1/3 mile chunk of Hwy 1 in May 2017, remains closed and won’t be reopened until sometime in 2018.  CalTrans is working on a plan to rebuild the new road over the slide.
    • The other major slide named Paul’s Slide has been reopened with a single lane allowing vehicles to pass 24hrs a day 7 days a week.
    • Pfeiffer Beach access remains closed due to both Sycamore Canyon Road damage as well as the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure.
  • All said, you can now drive north from SLO all the way to Salmon Creek Guard Station.  You can drive south from Monterey as far as Big Sur Station.  You can also drive over Nacimiento-Fergusson Road from Hunter-Liggett to access Hwy 1 and from there head north as far as the Big Sur Taphouse and south as far as Mud Creek.  Confusing, isn’t it.  Here’s a map that might help.

The newly minted Bypass Trail (aka Taphouse Trail), a shining example of community’ism.

  • All State Parks and Los Padres Campgrounds / Dayuse areas along Hwy 1 are open.  Now that being said, there are certain parts of the parks and campgrounds that remain closed due to winter damage.  If you are heading out that way to camp, BE SURE TO HAVE RESERVATIONS (note the new State Parks reservation service).
  • One rather large issue in recent years has been campers coming to Big Sur without reservations and having no place to camp or stay.  As a result many of these campers are ‘forced’ to camp illegally along roads or in turnouts.  The road most heavily impacted by the illegal camping has been Nacimiento-Ferguson Road.  It’s been well documented that illegal campers have left trash-piles, campfires and make-shift toilets along the sides of Nacimiento-Ferguson Road and as a result the Forest Service responded today by prohibiting dispersed camping along Nacimiento-Ferguson.

Doesn’t sound very dog days’ish does it…?  The Big Sur Coast is the most highly visited portion of the Los Padres Forest and for good reason – it is absolutely spectacular.  It’s unfortunate that not everyone cares for Big Sur the way most locals do.  And it’s equally important to step back and put yourself in the shoes of the people who come to visit Big Sur.  There is a great saying: come with solutions not problems.  Progress is being made.

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West Cuesta View
FOREST 411
• In case you can’t get enough LPFA through these emails or Facebook, we are now on Instagram as well: Los_Padres_Forest_Association
West Cuesta Ridge Rd (aka TV Tower) in San Luis Obispo has reopened after being closed for nearly a year.  Great mountain biking!

Cherry Creek Road off Hwy 33 in Ventura County is usually opened seasonally on August 1 but due to gate damage has not yet opened this year.  We’ll keep you posted.

• Once again, A-Zone South general hunting season starts August 12 and lasts through September 24.  A-Zone includes most of the Los Padres.  For those of you new to hunting season, expect more people camping around the trailheads and more activity both at sunrise and sunset.

Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center is hosting a talk on August 12 on the geology of caves, volcanos, mountains and more.  Show starts at 11am, this is a great event for the kids and adults alike.

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IMBA‘s Chris Orr teaches trail design at a Patagonia sponsored Trail Summit hosted by the OVLC

Fire Openings Across the Los Padres

FIRE OPENINGS & RESTRICTIONS

Hello Los Padres & Happy Holidays – It’s been a monumental day in the LP with quite a few shakeups that most of you will be happy to hear about.  Lets get to it!

Earlier today the Forest Service lifted the fire closures on the REY FIRE, SHERPA FIRE and PINE FIRE.  All regular recreational activities are now permitted within these fire perimeters.  This includes hiking, camping, riding and biking & OHV where applicable and legal.

In addition, the Forest Service reduced the closure of the Soberanes Fire and opened up most of the southern portion of the Monterey Ranger District.  The heart of the Soberanes burn area remains closed and will most likely stay closed through next spring.  For more information on all the fire openings and adjusted closures, check this link here and see the attached map showing the current Soberanes Fire closure.

Want more?  On November 29 the Forest Service downgraded the fire restrictions from Level IV to Level II.  Level II allows portable stoves across the forest, campfires at Designated Campfire Use Sites and target shooting at designated locations.  Check the links for more details.

The changing of these closures is somewhat unexpected but it is good news, at least for most of us.  Please remember that the hillsides and trails within the burn areas are still settling.  Be careful, tread lightly, avoid during rain, listen to your internal ‘common sense meter’ and have a backup plan in case the trail you’d like to explore is impassable.  Otherwise, have at it!

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2017 LOS PADRES CALENDAR
The 2017 LPFA wall calendars are done, they’ve been sent to the printers and we should have them in-hand and ready to distribute by December 15!  Thank you to everyone who contributed photos for the calendar.  We had over 125 photos submitted by almost 30 different photographers.  It was hard work paring down the photos and selecting the final pictures that would appear in the calendar but we think the calendar turned out really nice.  We’ve got a good collection of photos from across the forest and covering themes from wildlife to wildfire, flowers to trailwork and sea level to almost 9,000ft.  If you like the Los Padres, we think you’ll love the calendar.  If you’d like to purchase a calendar, pre-sale is still available at the following link.  Thanks so much again to everyone who helped out and have a great 2017!
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Cottonwood Fallburst, photo Heidi Anderson
UPCOMING EVENTS

We spent some time this past week scheduling the 2017 LPFA volunteer trail projects.  2017 will hopefully be highlighted by a Working Vacation based at Manzana Schoolhouse in April and a second Working Vacation at Madulce in May – we’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, our next backcountry trail project is December 16-18 working down the Judell Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness.  We’ll be car-camping at the trailhead and working down from the top removing fallen trees and brush from the trail corridor.  We’re also working on some sort of holiday theme for the weekend, so you might want to get your ugly Xmas sweaters out of the closet and primed for action.  If you’re interested in helping that weekend, email us at INFO@LPForest.org or email project leader Mike Smith at TrailSmith@LPForest.org.

And lastly, if you enjoy these email updates and appreciate the information we provide, become a LPFA member and support the cause.  We’ll send you a sticker and perhaps a few other goodies but more than anything else your membership helps drive the ship and keep us doing what we do best – working the trails, educating the public and helping the forest along the way.  You can click here for the membership page and thank you for reading this far along – perhaps we should become members of you……

MISSION: Mission Pine

Mission Pine View, September 2016
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MISSION PINE WORKING VACATION
October 21-30
    The LPFA will be hosting our next Working Vacation along the Mission Pine Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness from October 21-30.  We’ll be driving up from Cachuma Saddle to McKinley Saddle and backpacking 8 miles from there to our basecamp at Mission Pine Basin.  While the project will cover 10 days, we’ll have multiple entry-exit windows to choose from that will allow volunteers to participate for shorter periods of time.  The project will be supported with pack stock and all food will be provided.
The ‘WORK’ will consist of crosscutting any downed trees off the trail and clearing brush from the trails that radiate out from Mission Pine Basin.  These include the uppermost part of the Santa Cruz Trail and our primary objective of brushing the Mission Pine Trail east from the Basin towards West Big Pine.  There is plenty of work to be done.
The ‘VACATION’ portion of the trip will be spending time outdoors, with friends while enjoying this incredible slice of pine-studded Santa Barbara Backcountry awesomeness.  Mission Pine Basin is over 5,000 ft in elevation and has tremendous views of the Channel Islands to the South, Big Pine to the East and the Sisquoc Valley to the North.  It really is a great spot to hunker down and work the trails.
    We are looking for volunteers to help with the trail work as well as someone (or team of someone’s) to help with the cooking.  If you like backcountry cooking, I can assure you there will be plenty of hungry volunteers happy to have you there.
Space is limited, you must be able to backpack 8 miles, if you are interested in volunteering/cooking or would like to learn more, email us (INFO@LPForest.org) and hope to see you out there in late October.  More photos are on the LPFA Facebook page here.


Top of the Forest, photo Beemanpinosbeeman

SOBERANES UPDATE & MORE

• The Soberanes Fire continues to make history within the Monterey District of the Los Padres.  We’ll get into more details when it’s officially snuffed but for now it’s racking up some pretty horrifying statistics:

  • 132,069 acres, 94,875 of those are within the Los Padres Forest.  That’s the 16th largest wildfire in California history.
  • 92% containment with estimated 100% containment being October 15.
  • Today marks the start of the 11th week Soberanes has been burning.  71 days!
  • Soberanes is the most expensive fire to fight in history!  Well over $200,000,000 has been spent fighting the fire.  That does not include damages.
  • Good news is that both Church Ranch and the famous Jack English Cabin in Pine Valley survived!  Both were wrapped in fire-resistant foil and cleared before the fire came through.
  • Most evacuation orders have been lifted and life is starting to return to normal for some people affected by the fire.
  • That being said, life around Soberanes is certainly not back to normal for everyone.  The LP within Monterey County remains closed, this includes all campgrounds other than the few along Hwy 1.  All California State Park campgrounds remain closed as well.
  • We remain optimistic that portions of the forest will reopen once Soberanes reaches 100% containment and we’ll certainly keep you posted as things unfold.

RAIN?  Yes, rain.  This past week saw almost a half inch of rain fall in some parts of the Southern Los Padres, mostly in the Mt. Pinos and Ojai Ranger Districts.

• And don’t forget the LPFA Used Camping Gear Sale tomorrow, 10am at Tucker’s Grove in Goleta!  It’s not too late to donate as well.  Just bring your used camping gear to the sale at least 30mins before the sale starts.

That’s it for now folks…..  Coming soon we’ll share an update from National Public Lands Day on the Lion Canyon Trail, some exciting news about Matilija, the year in Wheeler Gorge, hunting season, upcoming campground changes and more…..  Hang in there and have a great weekend!

What Dog Days?: Madulce Trail Project, Soberanes and much much more…….

Madulce Peak & Trail
MadulceTrail
Hi Everyone – Happy Thursday,

Even though we’re in the dog days of summer, there is no shortage of activity across the Los Padres.  We’ve got a jam-packed email focusing on many of the events and incidents within the LP; lets get to it!  If there is anything missing or you’d like included in future emails, please let us know……..

MADULCE TRAIL PROJECT
The LPFA is leading a trail project along the Madulce Trail in the Dick Smith Wilderness on the weekend of August 12-14.  We’ll be driving in to Alamar Saddle and setting up basecamp at Alamar Camp.  It will be a car-camping trip with a short drive up to the Madulce Trail to work both Friday afternoon and Saturday.  The work will be mainly logging and tread work along the top 2 miles of the Madulce Trail.  The work site is around 6,000ft, on the north side of Madulce Peak and mostly shaded by pine trees.  It should be a good location for working even in hotter temperatures.  Mike Smith is the project lead and we’re hoping for 15-20 volunteers.  Food and tools will be provided by the LPFA.  It’s going to be a great time and a nice opportunity to get into the backcountry to help any NDD issues you might be suffering from.  If you are interested in joining please email INFO@LPForest.org or check Facebook or Meetup for more details.  Hope to see you there………

Soberanes Fire – August 4, MappingSupport.com

Soberanes160804
SOBERANES FIRE
Quick update on Soberanes in the Monterey Ranger District.  The fire continues to grow and is primarily burning south into the Los Padres and Ventana Wilderness.  The fire has currently burned 51,000 acres and is 27% contained.  The FS just issued a new closure order, see attached PDF map for details.  The cause of the fire was revealed yesterday as being an illegal campfire in Garrapata State Park.  Twitter remains the best source for up-to-the-second information and Inciweb is the place for official information related to the fire.  There is some good news and bad news that also surfaced this week.  Good news is that there is a large-scale weather change in the forecast that will bring higher humidity and cooler temperatures to the area starting this weekend.  That will help.  The bad news is that fire personnel have been mentioning that Soberanes has the potential to burn over 170,000 acres before it’s all said and done.  The steep terrain and inaccessible country that we all love about the Ventana is making constructing fire lines virtually impossible.  Everything to the immediate south of the current fire perimeter is within wilderness, which means that very few man-made structures are at risk.  Mix in the cost and safety concerns associated with fighting fire in the difficult to access portions of the Ventana and it appears that the current strategy might be to construct fire lines around much of the Ventana and let the backcountry burn inside those fire lines.  This is the same approach that was used in the 2007 Zaca Fire.  If you look at the image above, red indicates the current fire perimeter and the blue lines are the projected fire lines.  We’ll keep you posted as the fire progresses and lets all be sure to thank the fire and support crews and wish them the best of luck as they continue to get the upper hand on Soberanes.

FOREST 411
Reyes Peak (aka Pine Mtn) Road has reopened in the Ventura Backcountry.  Along with the road reopening both Pine Mtn and Reyes Peak Campgrounds have also been reopened.  Note: Reyes Peak Trail towards Haddock remains closed as does the Piedra Blanca Trail between Upper Reyes and Pine Mtn Lodge.  These closures were a result of last months Pine Fire.

• The Los Padres National Forest is hiring within the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program.  Interested candidates can apply at www.USAJobs.gov starting 8/11 – 8/25.  Additional information available here.

SLO based VWR’s Bill and Sandy Obermeyer, Debbie and Ron York & Ashley and Joe Dillard
worked the access road for Rinconada Trailhead making it drivable for equestrian trailers once again.  A+!
RangerBill
UPCOMING EVENTS
A few upcoming dates, events, projects, presentations or things you might want to know.
If you have any forest-related events to add to this list, let us know and we’re more than happy to pimp your event!


August 7: West Fork Cold Spring Trail Maintenance, SBMTV, Santa Barbara Frontcountry
August 11: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Chumash Trails
August 12-14: LPFA Madulce Trail Sawyer Project
August 13: A-Zone South Hunting Season Starts

September 8: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Walking El Camino Real
September 11: Island View Trail Race
September 14: LPFA Backpacking Fundamentals Class
September 20: LPFA Trail Talk Series, History of Los Padres Lookouts by Craig Carey
September 24: National Public Lands Day Trail Project, Lion Canyon Trail, Ojai

October 13: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Rangers of the San Rafael Wilderness
October 16: D-13 Hunting Season Starts
October 22: LPFA Used Gear Sale
October 29: LPFA First Aid & CPR Training

SOBERANES

Good Afternoon Everyone,

Hope you are all doing well and that you and your loved ones are safe and sound.  We’ve had a busy few weeks across the Los Padres with two new devastating fires affecting the forest.  No sooner was the Pine Fire wrapped up in Ventura County, when two new fires broke out, both starting Friday July 22.  The Sand Fire, in Angeles National Forest, has burned just over 41,000 acres with 98% containment.  While Sand won’t burn into Los Padres soil, much of the far southern portion of the Los Padres has been affected by the smoke and ash from the fire.  Good luck to the fire crews and everyone involved with the Sand Fire.

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The Soberanes Fire started the morning of July 22 just south of Carmel within Garrapata State Park near Soberanes Canyon.  Over the past 11 days the fire has spread quickly, burning over 40,000 acres with only 18% containment.  Soberanes has destroyed 57 homes, 11 outbuildings and continues to threaten over 2,000 additional structures.  The fire has burned south into the Los Padres and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon with estimates of full containment being August 31. 

The LP is currently closed north of Nacimiento-Ferguson Road and all state parks along Hwy 1 are closed between Point Lobos and Julia Pfeiffer Burns.


Soberanes Extent within the Los Padres, as of August 1
SoberanesPerimeter
There is no shortage of information throughout the World Wide Web documenting the devastation, current evacuation orders, maps, first hand accounts, photos, etc….  Below are a few links to keep an eye on:

Twitter: #SoberanesFire
Inciweb
Big Sur Kate blog
Mapping Support Interactive Map
Los Padres National Forest

Smoke from Soberanes has been seen as far away as Reno, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.  There’s quite a few families displaced as a result of the fire and tragically one death caused by a dozer rolling.  If you are interested in helping donate to the families affected by the fire, here are some options:

How to help the fire victims
Donations via Big Sur Kate site
Go Fund Me in memory of dozer operator Robert Reagan

In addition, the Nature Store at Big Sur Station has been re-purposed as a donation and distribution center for Big Sur based people who have been affected by Soberanes.  For more information on how you can contribute please reach out to Tim Bills at BigSur@LPForest.org

In the meantime, the fight against the fire continues.  Fire lines are being built where they can but the steep terrain is making it tough to get the upper hand on Soberanes.  With wilderness to the south, it could be a while before Soberanes stops burning.  Thank you to everyone involved in the fire, please be safe…..