Thankful for the Los Padres Sneaker Snow Storm

Remnants of the sneaky November 2020 snow storm, Pine Mtn, Ventura Backcountry, Tuesday November 10

Hello Friends,

Welcome to fall in the Los Padres.  We’ve been seeing peak fall colors this past week across most of the LP with sycamores, alders, maples and cottonwoods all dazzling in their fall bests.  Fall has been especially dramatic this year thanks to the sneaky snow storm that came in a couple weeks back.  If you remember that first storm, it was predicted to be light and cold with very little precipitation.  The storm came and went but instead of light and cold we surprisingly found most of the high country covered in a solid blanket of 6 inches of snow.  A sneaker storm for sure and it was very nice getting out over the past week and seeing the mountains drinking up some much needed moisture.  Hopefully a good sign of things to come…..

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Maybe I’ll just hold it after all, Santa Barbara Backcountry, Sunday November 8, photo Bates

LPFA TRAIL UPDATES

The LPFA has been busy with our fall – winter program of trail work and we’re hoping the recent shift in COVID tiers doesn’t slow us down too much.  The LPFA Trail Crew is currently helping the Forest Service with some BAER work in the Dolan Fire but we’ve spent much of the past months working some of the trails in and around the SLO Backcountry.  We cleared the lower portion of the Lopez Canyon Trail, brushed the worst section of American Canyon and cleared trees along the Castle Crags Trail in the Machesna.  Lots of work left to do in SLO and we’re hoping to get back out there soon.  Our main focus this fall and early winter will be in the deeper parts of the SB Backcountry working primarily on the Santa Cruz and Mission Pine Trails while also strategically hitting Poplar, Alamar, Madulce and the upper Sisquoc.   We’ll share more details and potential volunteer opportunities but we should be out there as much as we can until the rains come and shutdown access. 

We had a great volunteer projectlast week and cleared about 0.4 miles of some of the nastiest wilderness chaparral you can imagine along the Mission Pine Trail, it was great to get out there!  In addition, we’ll be continuing work on the Mono Jungle Reroute of the Cold Spring Trail and should also get started on restoring the North Franklin Trail out behind Carpinteria.  As the weather changes we’ll plan to move closer to paved roads and should spend some time working the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, North Fork Matilija, Sulphur Spring Trail, Blue Canyon, lower Santa Cruz while also organizing triage projects where needed to help clear storm caused trees and slides.  We certainly have a lot of trail work scheduled and our collective fingers are crossed that it all goes as planned.  Thanks everyone for the support and as always, if you come across any bad sections of trail, downed trees or slides, take pictures and post to HikeLosPadresand email the Forest Service or your favorite trail group – things change so quickly across the trails and any information you can share is always appreciated!  See you on the trails….

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The aforementioned nastiest wilderness chaparral you can imagine, Mission Pine before and after photos by KVarga

FOREST 411

• Despite the recent rains, the forest remains in fire restrictions which prohibit campfires across the forest and camp stoves are only allowed in designated campfire use sites.  These restrictions generally stay in place until the forest has collectively received a few inches of rain.  The Forest Service is monitoring and checking moisture levels weekly and we’ll be sure to share when any changes occur in the fire restrictions.

• We are officially within the Seasonal Gate Closure season where some of our favorite trailheads and campgrounds become harder to get to as the FS swings the gates for the winter.  As of right now the only closed seasonal gates outside of the MRD that we’ve heard of are Dough Flat outside of Fillmore, Cherry Creek in the upper Sespe and the Upper Santa Ynez gate at Romero (which has now been closed for 3+ years).  Everything else should be open at least until the next big storms.  If you find any locked gates, please let us know so we can pass along the news.  It’s also very wise this time of year to check with the FS ahead of time to see if the gates are closed.  Nothing worse that trying to get to Santa Barbara Canyon (or wherever you want to go) and finding the gates closed 4 miles before the trailhead.

• The Monterey Ranger District remains in a hard closure due to the Dolan Fire, which is currently 98% contained and is holding at 124,924 scorched acres.  The cause of the fire was verified earlier this month as arson related to an illegal marijuana grow.  There is no set date as to when the MRD will reopen but as we’ve seen in years past, it might be a while due to very valid post-fire safety concerns.  Stay tuned….

• In case you missed last months LPFA Seven Minute Story Night, never fear, it’s on YouTube, check it out…  Oh yeah, and if you’d like to sign up to present in the future, we’ll likely be hosting another one in January.  Let us know….

• Four condors were released earlier this week into the wilds outside San Simeon.  Another great step for our beloved California condor!

• The Los Padres National Forest is hiring!  They are looking for a Forestry Technician in Santa Barbara and a wilderness/stock program manager in the Monterey RD, check it out and good luck!

• The Forest Service is also looking for volunteers who might be interested in helping treat and eliminate non-native noxious weeds within the Santa Barbara front and backcountry areas.  You’d be working with the FS biologist.  If this sounds fun or for more information email us at Volunteer@LPForest.org.

• Thanks to everyone who submitted photos for the 2021 Los Padres Calendar.  We are just about done with the layout and the calendars should be ready in plenty of time for the holidays.  To learn more or purchase your very own 2021 Los Padres Calendar, CLICK HERE…..

• Some slight changes in the West Cuesta closure order: the Forest Service revised the closure so that bicycles and hikers are once again permitted along West Cuesta.  The closure remains in place for vehicles and dispersed camping.

• If you Amazon, remember that you can always use Amazon Smile and choose the LPFA as your charity of choice so that you not only shop but also help the forest, all in just a few clicks.  Check it out – thanks

• And last but certainly not least, our latest volunteer spotlight features the great Bardley Smith.  You know the saying about a tree falling in the woods, right?  Well, it should be changed to if a tree falls across the trail in the Ojai Ranger District…. yes, Bardley will most likely cut it out.  Thanks for all you do Bardley!

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The ever-elusive Los Padres maple, looking good enough to almost not notice the Hurricane Deck.

7 Minute Stories, Kendra and Much Much More Los Padres Goodness…

Machesna Mountain Wilderness, so nice to see an area that has not recently burned….. knock knock.

Hello Friends,

On Thursday, LPFA hosted Seven Minute Storytelling! This was our first virtual Zoom event and based on how all things COVID are trending at the moment, it’ll probably not be our last – it was really fun! We wrangled 6 different presenters from across the Los Padres who each gave seven minute presentations about their favorite LP trails, exploits and adventures from around the forest.  Topics included exploring the Ventura Backcountry, Santa Barbara thru-backpacking, off-trail Santa Ynez Mountains, Condor Trail, SLO Backcountry and more…

Click out the presentations on our youtube channel!

Thank you to all our excellent presenters and audience members for a great evening of learning and sharing! Let us know what you thought of this event: info@lpforest.org

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Kendra Moss – our new Program Manager

WELCOME KENDRA!
We have some more great news to share from the LPFA front.  Earlier this summer we had the pleasure of welcoming Kendra Moss to the LPFA team as our new Program Manager.  Kendra has a background in retail, education, and social media management, but most of all she’s a well organized, good person with a passion for helping the forest.  For those of you who haven’t interacted with Kendra yet, she’s terrific and we’re very lucky to have her helping our efforts across the Los Padres.  Three cheers to Kendra and welcome aboard!  

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One of three new wilderness signs the LPFA recently installed in the SLO Backcountry.  
Shout out to SLOPOST and the Forest Service for the support!

FOREST 411

 Faster than a speeding car along Hwy 33.  More powerful than 50 graffiti’ers in Santa Paula Canyon.  Able to destroy person-made creek dams in a single swoop.  Look!  Down in that creek!  It’s a salmon.  It’s a newt.  No, it’s Ellie Mora!  Our latest Volunteer of the Month is one of our favorites, Ellie Mora!  HOORAY!  Ellie has become a true Los Padres superhero, tirelessly championing the efforts to cleanup Santa Paula Canyon and leading her army of fellow volunteers anywhere and everywhere across Ventura County chasing the dastardly hoards of graffiti’ers and trash throwers who dare to damage our public lands.  Ellie is also helping the LPFA with our monthly Ojai First Saturday trail projects and somehow still finds time to be a tremendous role model for her young son.  Like we said, a superhero!  Thank you Ellie for all you do and we think you’re just scratching the surface!  Cheers…..

• Looks like another busy year of illegal marijuana eradication efforts across the forest.  Ventura County has already reported seizing nearly 75,000 plants with 11 suspects being arrested.  Be careful everyone and here are some tips for staying safe should you come across a grow site…..

• Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures or the 2021 Los Padres calendar.  We’re currently going through the hundreds of photo submissions and finalizing the layout for the calendar.  We’re planning on having the calendar to the printer soon in hopes of having the final calendars ready to go by December 1.  To learn more or to order your 2021 LP calendar, click the link here.

• Wherever you find yourself, please be sure to VOTE!  And then treat yourself to a hike or rideafterwards……

• Reminder that the Los Padres remains in fire restrictions that prohibit campfires across the forest and camp stoves are only allowed within Designated Campfire Use sites, meaning no stoves of any kind in the backcountry.  The Forest Service is reviewing these restrictions weekly and we’ll provide updates as they become available.

• The Dolan Fire has had a few recent flare ups from within its perimeter but is holding at 124,924 acres and is currently 98% contained.  BAER efforts are underway to help protect the trails, roads and resources from upcoming rain damage.  The Monterey Ranger District remains closed due to the Dolan Fire although some of the dayuse areas along Hwy 1 have reopened.

• Speaking of Dolan, there is a scheduled release of 7 California condors along the central coast in order to help re-population efforts after the fire related condor deaths earlier this summer.

• If you’re a Santa Barbara Frontcountry trail user, you’ll like to see a recent short film that Montecito Trails Foundation produced called For the Love of the Trails.  Lots of great scenery and even a few cameos.  Check it out…

Can you tell the difference between the poison oak and skunkbrush?



Los Padres Reopens


Good news, most of the Los Padres reopened on Friday, more details below

Hello Friends,

As of Friday morning, the Los Padres Forest has finally reopened!  Woot woot…..!!!  It’s been a challenging month and a day since the first closure was announced and we’ve certainly heard quite a few complaints about not being able to enjoy the mountains and trails.  While the closure wasn’t fun, it did appear to work.  We collectively did our part, obeyed the closure, no new fires and now we’re mostly back.  Thanks everyone…..

That being said, there are some additional fire restrictions, extended regional closures and more information you need to know before packing up and heading for your favorite trailhead.  Here goes:

I. MORE FIRE RESTRICTIONS:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. there are additional fire restrictions in place.  Effective this morning, there are no campfires allowed anywhere in the Los Padres and cooking stoves are allowed only in designated campfire use sites.  Please read the Regional Order here.  This means no stoves in the backcountry (cold food & coffee only) and again no campfires anywhere in the LP.  Moving forward, the fire restrictions will be reviewed each week but it’s likely, especially with more hot weather on the horizon, that these fire restrictions will remain in place until we receive enough rain.  Remember, last year the Cave Fire started in November and the Thomas Fire famously started in December.  Stay tuned and we’ll share updates when available…..

II. PATIENCE PLEASE:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. that doesn’t mean all gates and campgrounds will immediately be open as well.  Both Forest Service and Parks Management staff are in the process of opening gates, dayuse areas and campgrounds along with changing out signs but it’s unlikely that everything will be completed this weekend.  If you are heading to the forest this weekend please be prepared for the possibility that your favorite road or camp may still be closed.  Patience might be needed and we’d expect that everything should be opened by sometime early next week.

III. DOLAN FIRE REMAINS ACTIVE:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. the area around the Dolan Fire remains closed.  The Dolan Fire is currently 98% contained but the area is likely to remain closed for some time.  The Dolan Closure includes most of the Monterey Ranger District including the Silver Peak Wilderness and all forest areas south of the Pine Ridge Trail.  Check out the closure map here.

IV. WEST CUESTA CLOSED:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. West Cuesta Road above San Luis Obispo remains closed due to resource damage.  The West Cuesta Closure went into effect in early September just before the larger fire closures and is expected to last until December 6.

V. TUNNEL TRAIL SANTA BARBARA CLOSED:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. the Tunnel Trailhead above Santa Barbara remains closed due to SCE road maintenance.  The closure is expected to last until October 30 and includes closing the main Tunnel Trailhead and all mid-slope Edison roads between Rattlesnake Canyon and Seven Falls.  There should be signs posted at all the major trailheads leading to and from Tunnel.

We realize some of these additional closures may not be too popular and we hate to put a damper on the excitement of the reopening but sharing information is part of the job.  We’re happy to be back and respectful at the same time….  Thanks…..

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After years of bearing the brunt of the overgrown Sulphur Spring Trail, this friendly fellow came by to lend the LPFA Trail Crew a helping hand, or rather paw….
“Does this take 40:1 or 50:1?”  –  photo JMorris

FOREST 411
• We want to send a HUGE thank you to our buddy Kevin Cody who has once again setup a birthday fundraiser for the LPFA.  We’re so thankful to not only have Kevin looking after the forest and trails (he literally runs the trails with a Silky Saw) but also thankful that he values our contributions and is willing to help keep us chugging along.  Very cool, thanks Kevin!  And if anyone else would like to contribute on behalf of Kevin, check it out…..

• The opening of the forest also coincides with opening weekend of general deer hunting season in Zone D-13.  D13 lasts through November 8 and includes most of the Ojai and Mt Pinos Ranger Districts.  Check out the map here.  If you’re venturing into that neck of the woods you should expect to see quite a few hunters dispersed camping along the roads and pullouts.  Remember that most hunting occurs around sunrise and sunset and it’s always nice to chat with folks at the trailheads and share information.  Be safe everyone and remember no campfires.

• More good news, HikeLosPadres mastermind John Ziegler took advantage of the closure to clean and enhance the HLP website.  It was a race between getting the site back up and having the forest reopen and thankfully John won the race.  HikeLosPadres.com is back up and running!  Thanks John and look forward to seeing more new updates and reports from everyone soon…. 

• The LPFA will be hosting a virtual Zoom Seven Minute Storytelling night on October 29.  We’re looking for talented storytellers to share 7 minutes of slides documenting their adventures, exploits, history, studies or insights covering any Los Padres topics.  The presentation format should be really fun with each presenter having 21 slides and 20 seconds per slide.  It works out to be 7 mins per presenter and it’s a great way to cover a lot of material in a quick and entertaining structure.  If you’d be interested in presenting, please email us at INFO@LPForest.org and you can learn more about or sign up for the event here.

• We’ve had a few people ask about the Annual LPFA Used Camping Gear Sale that we’ve hosted over the past 4-5 years.  We’ve continued to receive fantastic donations from the public as well as Gossamer Gear but based on the current COVID regulations we’re going to postpone the sale for the fall and hope to reschedule in the spring.  Please stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you have any experienced camping gear you’d like to donate, let us know and we’d be happy to help find it a new home in the spring: INFO@LPForest.org

• The days are getting shorter and mornings cooler – meaning it’s time for the 2021 Los Padres Calendar!  Once again, if you have any great Los Padres photos from the past year you’d like to contribute, we’d love to include your photos in the calendar.  If any of your photos are selected we’ll send you a calendar and credit you as well.  This will be our 6th, 7th or 8th year of calendars and they’re always fun.  Thanks in advance…..

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The 2020 Los Padres Calendar, just about in the rear-view, thankfully, right?

Los Padres Forest Closure Extended Again

Hi Mountain casting a late August pyramid shadow across the smoky Garcia Wilderness. 
Maybe not as spectacular as some of its larger siblings but still pretty cool looking……

FOREST CLOSURE EXTENDED

Hello Friends – let’s cut to the chase but remember, don’t shoot the messenger…..

Earlier this week the Forest Service extended the closure of nine California Forests, including the Los Padres, through October 1.  Here’s a quote from the Regional Forester:

“Continued closures are based on extreme fire conditions, critical limitations of firefighting resources, and to provide for firefighter and public safety,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “We understand how important access to the National Forests is to our visitors.  Our aim is to prevent any new fires on the landscape.”

We’re now in week 3 of this large-scale fire closure and to our knowledge there have been no new fires within any of the closed forests (fact check please).  We know that these closures aren’t very much fun but they do appear to be working.  We do have some hotter weather headed our way next week that should peak on Wednesday and Thursday with inland temps reaching into the mid / high 90’s.  Fingers crossed that the long-term forecasts start to cool and that the forests can safely reopen towards the end of this week (knock knock).  If anyone knows how to perform a rain dance, now’s the time, please.  Wish we had better news and we’ll keep you all posted as events unfold and decisions are made……

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Big Sur Station, saying a big THANK YOU to all the Firefighters, Crews, Support & Families impacted across California

FOREST 411

• The Dolan Fire in the Monterey Ranger District has slowed down a lot over the past week and has been holding at just under 130,000 acres burned.  It is currently 46% contained with an expected full containment date of October 13.  While the forest remains closed around Dolan, for a few different reasons, Highway 1 did reopen earlier last week after being closed for about a month during the fire fight.  Lastly, some more tragic Dolan new; it was reported that nine California condors perished during the fire.  We all hate hearing that but thankfully nine more condors are expected to be released above San Simeon before the end of the year.

• In case you hadn’t heard from earlier this summer, the Esselen Tribe from Monterey County was able to purchase over 1,000 acres of land along the Little Sur River.  This is a special story some 250 years in the making.  Check out more details here.

• Thanks in large part to a grant from REI in addition to some extremely generous public donations, the LPFA Trail Crew was able to spend a week earlier this summer clearing a mile of the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail just above Beartrap Camp.  Once the forest closure is lifted we’d like to head back and complete the remainder of the trail up to the top of the switchbacks and down to Haddock Camp.  In case you’re interested in helping, we’re about $1,000 short of our fundraising goal that would send the crew back out for another week.  If you are interested in donating or to learn more, please click here.  THANK YOU!

• Of course none of us are in the forest right now but if you’ve spent any time exploring the LP you’ve no doubt come across the remnants of illegal marijuana grows.  October is generally harvest time for grow operations within the LP and it can be pretty scary if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Here are some tips and clues about illegal forest grows and what you should do in case you come across a site.  The forest might be closed but they’re still out there.

• It seems that black bear sightings outside of the forest are becoming more and more common.  Last week there was a particularly photogenic bear seen outside of Solvang, another Solvang bear in April, another in LompocSimi Valley and yet another outside Carmel.  There was even a bear attack reported outside of Santa Paula.  We’ve heard a few theories as to why bears appear to be coming out of the hills more than ever.  Is it that phones (cameras) are everywhere these days and it’s much easier to share (social media) photos of bears who happen to wander into the streets?  Some say that the Los Padres has become the new home of humanized Sierra ‘problem bears’ who were sent packing after tasting one too many picnic baskets in Sequoia or Yosemite?  Others reasons might include drought, competition, easier food sources or that they were here before us anyway (or were they?) ?  It’s always exciting to see a bear in or around the Los Padres and if you’re a podcast person, Outside Podcast shared an entertaining episode earlier this year about “the wrong way to fight off a bear” – check it out.  And if you’re interested in some more information about black bears and what to do if you encounter a black bear, click this link.

• The Los Padres National Forest Supervisors Office (SO) has moved from Goleta to Solvang.  At the moment the offices remain closed due to COVID and we’ll share more information including address and hours once the SO reopens.

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Speaking of bears….
this mamma and her two cubs (see them?) were spotted earlier this year safely within the Los Padres,
taking the high road to avoid Spencer & Leslie – thanks for sharing!

Los Padres Forest Wide Closure & Dolan Update

Hello Friends,

First off, we hope you are all staying safe and cool with all the recent wildfires and heat around the area.  We’ve got a lot of information to share from across the Los Padres but this blog post will be focused primarily on the recent wildfire related closures.  We’ll post again later this week covering more of the fun stuff but for now, lets get to it…..

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TEMPORARY HARD FOREST CLOSURE

As of 5pm on Monday September 7, the Los Padres Forest, along with 7 other California Forests, has been closed to all activities. This includes “being upon National Forest System lands”, “being on a National Forest System road” and “being on a National Forest System trail”.  The closure comes as a result of a combination of the fires currently raging across California (Creek, Dolan, etc, etc, etc….), the upcoming weather forecast (heat & winds), the scarcity of fire fighting resources (lots of fires already using lots of resources) and COVID (need to protect the fire fighters).  The last thing we need right now are more fires and the intent of the closure is to limit the potential for more fires.  There are additional measures enacted as well, please read the full order here or watch the video announcement here.

We shared this information on social media on Monday and received quite a few complaints.  Of course, no one likes closures and we all understand how closures can impact our plans to enjoy the forest.  We get that but we also need to acknowledge and understand that the greater good of Californians and the safety of the fire crews working to keep us safe needs to take precedence.  Looking through the history of the Los Padres, there have been previous large scale fire safety closures including portions of 1942-1944 during World War II.  Seeing that is just another reminder of how crazy and historic 2020 has been and continues to be.

There are moderate Santa Ana winds in the forecast for the first part of this week and the temps across California are expected to drop significantly as well.  While no one is sure as to when the closure will be lifted, we’re hopeful the forest will reopen quickly as the fire weather diminishes.  We’ll keep you posted as usual and until then be safe and please be part of the solution.

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The Dolan Fire doubled in size on Monday September 7 while tearing through the Ventana Wilderness

DOLAN FIRE

While Northern California suffered through a horrendous mid-August onslaught of 12,000 dry-lightning strikes that resulted in over 500 wildfires, the Los Padres for once appeared to escape the storm unscathed.  That all changed though on Tuesday August 18 when a pot grow related arsonist set fire to a hillside in Dolan Canyon along the southern Big Sur coast.  Since then, the Dolan Fire has chewed up a reported 73,000 acres including doubling in size on Labor Day, and appears hungry for more as it heads deeper into the Ventana Wilderness.  At the moment Dolan is being reported as 40% contained (which is unlikely after yesterday’s blowup) with an expected containment date of September 28.  Fire crews have made great progress on the west and northern flanks of the fire but the record heat from this past Labor Day weekend was not helpful on the east side of the fire.  We don’t have current maps as of yet but please check the InciWeb map portal as well as Big Sur Kate for the latest information.

There are quite a few Dolan Fire related closures including the closure of Hwy 1 between Ragged Point and a short distance south of Big Sur.  In addition, all State Parks along the Big Sur coast are closed, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is closed as is a large portion of the Monterey Ranger District.  There are evacuations in place for many areas affected by the fire and there is no known date as to when the closures might be lifted.  Dolan has burned many of the slopes just above Hwy 1 and CalTrans has already been busy clearing fire related rockfall across the Highway.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Highway fares this winter during rain events.  Never a dull moment…..

One Dolan story worth monitoring has been the destruction of the Big Sur condor sanctuary and the subsequent search for 13 missing condors.  Fortunately, some of the condors have been recovered while the Ventana Wildlife Society continues their quest to locate the others.  You can follow along by checking the Ventana Wildlife Society Twitter feed and lets all hope for a happy ending here for sure…..

The map below shows the extent of the Dolan Fire as of September 6, not including the Labor Day blowup.  The scatter dots of recent hot spots and fire activity should indicate the direction of the fire and we think today’s perimeter map will look quite a bit different, shockingly different…….