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……. 

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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 pass along!

September 8: Red Rock Cleanup, LPFA – POSTPONED
September 12: Ojai 1st Saturday, Matilija Falls Trail, LPFA – FINGERS CROSSED
September 19: Piedra Blanca Cleanup, LPFA
September 26: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway, LPFA

October 2-4: Alamar Saddle Trail Project, LPFA
October 10 – Nov 8: D-13 Zone General Hunting Season

Pine Mountain Trail Work & Los Padres Updates Galore

Finally, there’s the confounded trail! Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, Before & After, July 2020

Hello Friends,

Amidst all the recent cancellations and tribulations, we wanted to share a story of success and accomplishment.  Did you know that there are only two designated National Recreation Trails (NRT) within the Los Padres National Forest?  NRT’s date back to the 1968 National Trails System Act and are designated to “recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance”.  One of our Los Padres NRT’s is the 18-mile Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail (aka Piedra Blanca Trail) (aka GMPB) which crosses Ventura County’s Pine Mountain within the Sespe Wilderness between Reyes Creek Trailhead and Piedra Blanca Trailhead.  The GMPB is indisputably one of the gems of the Los Padres National Forest.  It’s got everything: high elevation pine forests, swimming holes, a rich history, a variety of camping options, incense cedar lined creeks, massive views, Piedra Blanca (nuff said) and even a pub at the Camp Sheideck finish line.  The GMPB is certainly special and while it sees a good amount of use by LP standards, it unfortunately suffers the same fate as most our trails with overgrown chaparral and downed trees frequently blocking the way.

The Los Padres is no stranger to overgrown trails but a few sections of the GMPB might hold the title as being the most overgrown popular trail in the forest.  This was particularly true of the 3-mile section of the GMPB between Beartrap Camp and Haddock Saddle.  This portion of the trail follows Beartrap Creek and is very susceptible to fast growing riparian bushes and plants such as willows blocking each creek crossing and the dreaded California rose.  In addition, this portion of the GMPB is just far enough from the trailhead (about 5 miles) to make it not practical for volunteer day trips.  While most of the trail between Reyes Creek and Beartrap have been worked by MPRD volunteers, there hasn’t been much trail restoration efforts above Beartrap Camp.  Time for that to change…..

Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, showing where we worked and where we hope to work.

In 2019 the LPFA received a trail grant from REI to help restore some of the damaged trails across the Sespe Wilderness.  We started by leading a winter project down the Sespe Trail from Piedra Blanca to Willett and followed that up with a late winter project working the northern portion of the Red Reef Trail.  We had hoped to complete the grant by hosting a 10-day volunteer Working Vacation on the GMPB but unfortunately this thing called COVID got in the way and we had to cancel.  While we couldn’t coordinate a large volunteer project, we were able to use the final portion of the REI grant in combination with some generous contributions from folks like you and hired the LPFA Trail Crew to work the GMPB.  Thanks to you and REI, the LPFA Trail Crew spent a week earlier this month on the GMPB and were able to brush the hardest and nastiest section of the GMPB and completely opened up a mile of the trail above Beartrap Camp.  Yippee! The trail looks great and but unfortunately it dead ends with more brush ahead.

While our grant funds have run out, we are hoping some of you may wish to contribute to our Sespe Trail fund so that we can put the trail crew back out for another week on the GMPB.  We are optimistic that with one more week of work we can complete the Beartrap Creek section of the trail and have the trail smooth and clear of brush between Beartrap Camp and Haddock Saddle.  If you love this trail, want to hike/backpack/ride/run across Pine Mountain or want to support our trail efforts, please click the link below and help us help the forest.  We are hoping to raise $5,000 to restore the GMPB up through Beartrap Creek and could use your help!  Thank you all for your support and we hope to see you on the GMPB sometime soon…..

LPFA SESPE TRAIL CAMPAIGN

Smoother Sailing GMPB Style

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Western Hurricane Deck Trail, probably a little hot at the moment, but we’ll be helping restore this trail come fall…..photo Ryan Anderson, HLP

FOREST 411

• The biggest news across the forest continues to be the proposed Forest Health Project on Pine Mountain.  The FS has extended the public comment period until August 14 and will be hosting a 90-minute virtual public meeting to discuss the proposal on Monday July 20 at 12:30pm.  We’re hoping the public meeting will be recorded and shared through YouTube or something similar, hint hint…..

• Sadly, the Los Padres made many headlines this week with the tragic drowning of Glee star Naya Rivera who was boating at Lake Piru.  Awful story…..

• The Thomas Fire Trail Fund (TF2), which consists of a partnership between the LPFA, SB Trails Council, Sage, The CREW and REI, have continued our work efforts to restore trails damaged by the Thomas Fire.  Collectively we’ve now repaired the Murietta Trail outside of Ojai and it’s in great shape and ready to hike, backpack, ride or run.  Go check it out!

• Speaking of Murietta, we were shocked last weekend when on our way to a Murietta Trail volunteer project we noticed that Matilija Reservoir was empty!  According to the Ventura River blog, the reservoir was drained over July 4 weekend in “response to safety concerns as well as liability resulting from recreational use of the dam site”.  We all knew the reservoir was silted in but it’s quite shocking how much silt is really behind that dam.  It’s a lot!  The Matilija Dam tory is certainly not over, stay tuned….

• We want to extend a warm LPFA welcome to new Mt Pinos District Ranger Karina Gutierrez.  We’ve already worked with Karina on a few projects, including our GMPB trail work, and look forward to many years of continued collaboration.  Cheers Karina……

• On June 17 the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which if approved by Congress and signed by the President will fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide over a billion dollars annually to help restore national parks, conserve land and build playgrounds and parks. This is a historic moment in environmental conservation for the United States and the bill is expected to be approved and signed. To learn more please Google the Great American Outdoors Act.

• For those of you who enjoy Podcasts, the Los Padres appeared in a recent episode of the Dirtbag Diaries entitled Tales of Terror!  Listen if you dare……..

Santa Paula Canyon remains closed through the end of the month.  Since its closure in early May, there have been over a thousand hours dedicated to the removal of graffiti and trash as well as trail restoration along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail.  Lets hope the community recognizes all that effort and behaviors change.  THANK YOU to everyone who has helped with that effort and in particular super duper volunteer and part time LPFA’er Ellie Mora.

• The La Brea Closure order is expected to be extended another year until August 2021.  This is due in large part to the recent restoration decision and additional time needed for implementing the reopening of the area.  More to come on this as well….

• The recreational shooting ban across the Los Padres has been extended another six months until December 31, 2020.  For more information click here.

• Did you know there has been a fire burning under the Fillmore hills for the past decade?  Amazing, read this for more on the incredible thermal anomaly.

• Earlier this month a California condor was spotted in Sequoia National Park for the first time in nearly 50 years.  Isn’t it fantastic seeing and reading about the condors recovery?

• As mentioned in our last update, Sunset Valley Road is expected to be closed at Cachuma Saddle starting August 3 and lasting through the end of October.  During that time there will be two aquatic organism passage bridges built at the Davy Brown Creek crossings below Davy Brown Campground and just above the lower Manzana Trailhead.  There will be no access to NIRA during this time. We’ll be sure to provide more updates and details as they are available.

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Can’t have a July newsletter without a photo of an inviting pool to cool off in, photo David Whitehair

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 pass along!

July: Adopt-A-Highway, Wheeler Gorge
July 24-26: Alamar Saddle Trail Project, LPFA

August 1: Ojai 1st Saturday, Wheeler Nature Trail, LPFA
Aug 8 – Sep 20: A-Zone South General Deer Season

Los Padres Updates, News, Pine Mountain and Much More…..

Not just another LP Sunrise

The Los Padres Forest Association stands with the collective effort to change the inequalities that persist across our country and the world.  We believe racism has no place in nature, within the forest, on the trails or across society and we are in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.  As as organization, the LPFA has committed to ensuring that we are inclusive and welcoming to diverse communities, while increasing our outreach specifically towards the Black community – LPFA Board

View west across Pine Mountain from high atop Reyes Peak

REYES PEAK FUEL REDUCTION PROPOSAL

The Forest Service recently shared a ‘Forest Health and Fuels Reduction’ proposal that would impact the western spine of Pine Mountain roughly between Hwy 33 and Reyes Peak within the Ventura Backcountry.  The proposal calls for forest thinning (selective clearing of chaparral and trees) along 755 acres of Pine Mountain following the general path of an existing fuel-break.  The intent of forest thinning is to reduce fuel loads in the hopes of minimizing the impacts of future fire events.  We could ramble on and regurgitate statistics about flame length, forest floor accumulation, sensitive species impacts and historic tree densities but we strongly encourage you to read the information for yourself, click here.  Somehow, miraculously, the crest of Pine Mtn has not burned within recorded fire history and opinions vary greatly as to how best to control or not to control wildfires in that portion of the forest.  We’ve had the opportunity to speak with the FS about this proposal and we’ve also heard from individuals and groups who adamantly oppose the idea of fuel reduction.  Some think the best way to prevent catastrophic wildfire damage is through defensible forest thinning and fuel breaks whereas others argue that the prevention efforts are more damaging to the forest and that in the case of a large fire those prevention features won’t work anyway.  We encourage everyone to study up, read the proposal, visit Pine Mountain, fly through on GoogleEarth, browse social media, ask questions, talk to everyone you can and try to attend any of the upcoming Forest Service public online meetings (there will be more). Remember, this is only a proposal and the Forest Service will be accepting public comments until June 30 so please take some time and share your opinions.

Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center, partially reopened and 100% helping educate forest-users, photo J. Stichter

LP FOREST REOPENING UPDATE

The Los Padres Forest has been slowly but surely returning to “normal” and following the lead of both the State of California as well as each of the individual counties in their efforts to reopen.  Here’s the latest and greatest from across the forest:

CAMPING
As mentioned in the last email, most of the campgrounds across the forest have reopened with the remaining Forest Service managed campgrounds scheduled to reopen June 19, just in time for Padres Day Weekend (how appropriate).  We’ve been hearing that many of the campgrounds have been full so please check ahead of time with either Parks Management or the Forest Service to make sure there is availability.  The usual dispersed camping options remain available across the forest other than roadside camping along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.  If you’re not sure if camping is allowed or not, it’s always a good idea to check in with the FS ahead of time.  While the Ranger Stations remain closed to the public, FS staff are answering calls and assisting the public as usual.

HIKING, RIDING & BACKPACKING
The trails continue to be open for backpacking, riding and hiking other than the continued closure of the western portion of the Pine Ridge Trail (Big Sur, reopen Fall 2020?) and the recent closure of Santa Paula Canyon (Santa Paula, reopening July 31, 2020).  We’ve been getting a lot of recent trail/camp reports through HikeLosPadres.com and for the most part conditions remain very good for backcountry trail use. 

OHV & ROADS
Most of the gates, roads and OHV trails across the forest should be open and ready to roll.  The only closures we’re aware of are the continued closure of Dry Canyon and Dome Springs, the continued closure of the La Brea (more on that later) and the continued closure of East Pinery, Pino Alto, Cumbre and Figueroa Mountain Lookout Road.

It’s a good time to be in the forest.  Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and pay special attention for excessive heat and potential thunderstorms.  And of course, please post whatever you find on HikeLosPadres when you return…….

Choose your own adventure, Sespe style, photo Sonia C.

FOREST 411

• The LPFA is hiring for our Program Manager position.  You can read more here but we’re looking for a wonderful person to help manage a variety of our existing programs while also developing and driving new forest programs.  This is a very exciting opportunity for us and we can’t wait to hear from some of you soon.  Please email with questions, thanks!: INFO@LPForest.org

• The LPFA has been allowed to reopen the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center following Ventura County COVID procedures. We’ve been open the past couple Saturdays and have been trying to help the record number of people who have been visiting the Los Padres.  We are greeting all guests outside the Visitor Center, following isolation and face mask practices and attempting to get them answers without having them enter the building.  It’s been really fun helping the public and sharing information about which trails to explore and what camping options might be best in the Ventura Backcountry.  That being said, we could use volunteers to help at Wheeler Gorge.  If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions, please email us at: WheelerGorge@LPForest.org. Thanks……

• We’ve shared this a few times over the past 2-3 years but the bridge construction project along Sunset Valley Road appears to be happening soon.  We’ll share more when details are finalized but it looks like Sunset Valley Road will be closed to all vehicle access at Cachuma Saddle from roughly mid/late July through the end of October while the two bridges are constructed.  Both Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds will be closed and it is unsure if the public will be allowed to hike/ride down Sunset Valley Road in order to access the trails along the north side of Fig Mtn (we’ve been asking for public access).  Access to NIRA or any of the regular Manzana trailheads will likely be prohibited for everyone.  August – October is not the most popular time for Sunset Valley but the closure will certainly impact this years A-Zone hunting season.

• Don’t forget, you can always support the LPFA by shopping at Amazon and donating a portion of each purchase to the LPFA through the AmazonSmile program.  Every little bit counts and we really appreciate the support.  Thank you!

• As California reopens, we are seeing small spikes in reported COVID cases.  Please remain diligent and continue with the now standard trail isolation practices

• Earlier this month the Forest Service shared their final Decision Notice for the La Brea Restoration project. While most of the decision was what we had expected, there were a few aspects of the final decision that were not included in any of the Alternatives that we’d been collectively working on over the past 5+ years.  We’ve got a few questions out to the FS about some of these changes as well as how these changes impact the Condor Trail and we’ll share the whole La Brea enchilada once those details are finalized.  Stay tuned…..

• There have been a lot of wildfires up and down the Central Coast over the past month, some are burning right now. Most of the fires have remained relatively small but please remember that the Los Padres is in fire restrictions and to stay alert and safe with your stoves or campfires where allowed.  Here is a link to get your California Campfire Permit and a list of where and what sort of fires you can have within the forest.

• We’ve been getting a lot of reports of poodle-dog bush explosions within the Thomas Fire scar of Ventura County. Watch out for those beautiful purple flowers!

• The LPFA is looking for a car or truck to help at one of our Visitor Centers.  If you’ve got a car/truck that you’d like to donate, let us know and we can certainly help with a tax write off – email INFO@LPForest.org. Thanks……

Summit of Mt Pinos 1927, LPNF archives

LPFA Hiring for Program Manager

LPFA – Program Manager

Job Description and Person Specification

About LPFA:

Founded in 1979, the LPFA is an official non-profit 501(c)(3) partner of the Los Padres National Forest.  Our mission is to care for the Los Padres Forest through education and boots on the ground restoration work.  Our forest-related activities include managing two visitor centers, assisting the Forest Service with ranger station retail sales, coordinating public educational events and trainings, trail maintenance and restoration, sharing of information with the public and anything else we can tackle in order to help the forest and help people enjoy the forest in a responsible manner.  The LPFA is operated and directed thanks to the help of our Board, Executive Director, Professional Trail Crew, staff and especially our magnificent supporters and volunteers.

Program Manager Position Overview:

The Los Padres Forest Association is seeking a full-time professional to manage, develop and grow our variety of forest-related programs.  These programs include:

  • Managing retail operations at five locations across the Los Padres Forest
  • Developing and scheduling forest-related educational events and programs
  • Managing the LPFA Membership program
  • Assisting with public outreach through social media
  • Working with the Executive Director, Board, staff and the Forest Service on a variety of forest-wide projects and programs
  • Providing general support for all LPFA programs and interests

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Great communication skills
  • Retail experience
  • Social media savvy
  • Basic web design knowledge
  • Reliable transportation
  • Multi-tasking and organization
  • Love of the Los Padres Forest preferred
  • Creativity and pizzazz

Work Locations:

This position will require periodic travel across the Los Padres National Forest but will be primarily working remotely.

Hours: 40 hours/week, work on weekends may be required.

Salary: Negotiable

Contact: Please email INFO@LPforest.org with questions or to apply for this position.

What’s up with the Los Padres…..

LP swimming hole season, the deeper the better, Spencer H. going deep to find this one

Hello Again,

Somewhat lost in the COVID shuffle was the amazing amount of late winter and early spring rain that the Los Padres received this year.  Remember all the snow we had early in the season around Thanksgiving and into early December?  Then no rain during what is historically our wettest months of January and February.  Seems like ancient history but remember our concern back then was the thought of a continued drought?  Then, magically, we were given a 2020 version of a “March Miracle” followed by a huge April of rain accompanied by even more snow.  As of now most of the forest has received around an average amount of rain for the season but what was really different this year is that unlike most years when snow is largely washed away by the next rainstorm, this year we didn’t have next rain storms and much of the early and late snowfall was allowed to melt gradually and percolate slowly into the ground.  So even while our rainfall was around average this year, the slow snow melt might equate to an even better summer season of flowing water.  We shall see…..

What better place to escape the COVID craziness than Lost Valley, photo Wheelwright

What’s up with the Los Padres….  The previous email focused mainly on what the LPFA has been doing during the COVID shutdown but now lets take a look at the latest and greatest changes across the Los Padres NF……..

MONTEREY RANGER DISTRICT CLOSED (mostly)
There have been a lot of FS announcements, closures and issued orders over the past months but the closure of the entire Monterey District was probably the most extreme.  This closure dates back to mid-April and pretty much closes all the trails, camps and forest roads across the Monterey District.  The few exceptions at the moment are Parks Management operated day-use areas along Highway 1 including Sand Dollar, Willow Creek, Mill Creek and Pfeiffer Beach (Arroyo Seco is set to reopen May 22).  This District closure order is set to expire June 1 and we’ll see what happens beyond that.  The Pine Ridge Trail will remain closed.

PARKS MANAGEMENT (PMC) DEVELOPED CAMPGROUNDS
Dating back to March, the Forest Service combated COVID by closing all Developed Recreation Sites across the forest (actually the Region).  The FS has been renewing the closure orders every two weeks or so and the latest order is set to expire June 1.  Starting June 1, the developed campgrounds across the forest that are managed by Parks Management will be reopening.  A list of those campgrounds can be found here.  We’re unsure exactly what COVID precautions PMC will be implementing as the campgrounds reopen but there will likely be some new changes in place.  Imagine that?

FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS
While PMC manages most of the developed campgrounds across the forest, there are some that remain under the management of the Los Padres NF.  These campgrounds have also been closed and are set to reopen June 19.  A list of these campgrounds can be found here, CLICK.

DAY-USE AREAS
In conjunction with the reopening of the campgrounds, many of the day-use areas across the forest are also reopening.  We don’t have exact dates as to when each of the day-use areas will be reopening but most should be open in the coming week or so.  First Crossing off of Paradise was opened this past weekend and along with it access to a number of day-use areas along the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation area.  If you have your heart set on a particular day-use area we strongly suggest contacting the FS, PMC or you can even try emailing us beforehand to see if its open.

FIRE RESTRICTIONS
We’ve covered most of the campgrounds and DUA’s, but there’s more.  On May 12 the LP instituted fire restrictions which now prohibit campfires outside of Designated Campfire Use Sites.  A list of Designated Campfire Use Sites can be found here, CLICK.  Note that all backcountry campfires are now prohibited. The tricky part right now is that most of the Designated Campfire Use Sites remain closed as part of the larger scale COVID closure (see above).  A bit confusing to say the least but it should start to make more sense once the PMC campgrounds reopen June 1, which are most of the Campfire Use Sites.  We’ve heard a lot of grumblings about why we’re going into fire restrictions so early this year with so much water and greenery remaining across the forest.  While this hasn’t been officially stated, some of the decision has to be COVID related and taking extra precautions in order to avoid bringing fire crews together at a time like this.  Makes sense.  Also, with so many people using the forest, many of whom must be inexperienced, it’s probably a good thing to have stricter fire restrictions this year.  Stoves are still allowed in the backcountry and remember to take the 3 mins ahead of time and get a California Fire Permit.  Camping without campfires is fine, give it a try.

SEASONAL GATE CLOSURES
Last one…  Most of the Los Padres seasonal gates usually open May 1 after the snow has melted and FS personnel have had time to survey and repair storm damaged roads.  Believe it or not, this year is a bit different and most of the gates did not open on May 1.  Late last week the FS issued an update on the seasonal gates stating that most of the regular gates and OHV/moto trails will remain closed until May 22.  You can see a map of the closed trails here, CLICK.  That being said, across the forest we’ve seen some gates open that were supposed to be closed and others closed that should be open.  We suggest that if you’re headed out to a trailhead and are not sure if the gate will be open, please reach out to the forest ahead of time.

That should cover most of the current forest orders, established reopening dates and general forest this/that.  There’s a lot to digest right now and we’re certain more unexpected change is yet to come.  Best thing you can do right now is stay safe, enjoy the forest, avoid crowds and remain patient.  Let us know if we can help with any of your forest adventure planning………

One last epic oasis swimming hole picture to cool you down, photo Caliguire

What’s up with the LPFA…..

Change? New normal? Life will never be the same? There’s even a new section of trail bypassing the Mono Jungle? It’s not all bad.

Hello Friends,

First off, we hope you and your loved ones remain safe and continue doing your best to follow COVID procedures. It’s been a while since we’ve sent out a LPFA update and there’s so much information to share that we’ll be sending out two emails this week. The first email will cover What’s up with the LPFA and the second email will focus on What’s up with the Los Padres. Hopefully you’ll find both emails informative, insightful and a bunch of other positive adjectives too. Let’s get to it……

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New trail sign at the junction of Santa Cruz Trail and 19 Oaks,
the old one burned in the 2016 Rey Fire, photo Mike Smith

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE COVID TUNNEL

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” – Robin Sharma

This is not a good time to suffer from metathesiophobia, fear of change. It’s hard to think back two months to when the coronavirus really started changing our lives and then consider all the changes that have occurred during that time. No more shaking hands. No more school. No more toilet paper. No more seeing friends or family. No more traffic (so they say). Shopping nightmares. Home Depot is the scariest place on Earth. Some people wearing masks. Everyone wearing masks. You stop paying attention for an hour, a day, a weekend and the whole world has changed, again. The amount of change has been crazy and our life in and around the Los Padres has been no different. Think back to March and consider all the change the forest has seen. COVID! Work stops. Gyms close. People have time. Outdoor recreation is deemed essential, yippee! People flock to the trails in record numbers. Insanely busy trailheads. Lots of parking tickets. Lots of trash. Most people behave, some don’t. Change needed. Trails close. Forests close. People go to other forests. New rules, change, rules, change, change, change….. As the Sharma quote above states, it’s been hard and it’s been messy. So what about the gorgeous? The gorgeous is there too, it’s the people on the trail and in the forest who usually don’t have time. The gorgeous are the Instagram posts of first time snake sightings and the simple happiness of being outside. The gorgeous is the family planning their first overnight backpacking trip and the gorgeous will hopefully be a new generational appreciation for nature and trails that wouldn’t have existed without the hard COVID change. It’s true that the forest has taken a messy beating in spots with all the people excitedly hiking to see waterfalls and tromping to find swimming holes. The messy has been a black eye on the forest for sure but black eyes heal. We need to believe that as time goes by and the daily reality of hard and messy COVID-19 fades, the gorgeous new societal appreciation of nature will remain. Lets hope, because we certainly need change like that.

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Storm caused rock-slides covering trails have not changed, #BeforeandAfterLP Aliso Trail

WHAT’S UP WITH THE LPFA…..

We miss you volunteers. We miss the volunteer trail projects. We miss the Working Vacations. We miss “COFFEE’S READY, HUHGJH”. We miss meeting new friends and catching up with old friends. We miss Otis, Susie, Kathleen and Richard packing in the food and supplies. We miss Mike Smith and the crosscut saws. Far and away the worst part of this COVID __ has been missing the Working Vacations and missing our volunteers. Since March we’ve had to postpone close to a dozen trail projects from SLO down through Fillmore and while we don’t have any firm reschedule dates, we are still hoping to do a 10-day Working Vacation on the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail based at Beartrap Camp at some point this summer. There will certainly be plenty of water this year, we have Rich the master chef lined up and as long as it’s not TOO hot and the Forest Service gives us approval, we’d love to spend a week working from Beartrap up to Haddock. Stay tuned and hopefully you can join us – imagine that, right?

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While our larger volunteer projects have all been postponed, we’ve been able to schedule smaller “household” types of volunteer projects focused on cleanups, sign installations and even repairing Forest Service gates. Speaking of signs, if you’d like to help, we are raising money to build and install new signs along the Matilijs Falls Trail outside of Ojai and would love your support. We’ve also been helping the Forest by installing over 25 Poo-Poo Project vent screens designed to protect raptors, owls and other birds from flying into vault toilets across the Los Padres.

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Fortunately we’ve been able to continue using the LPFA Trail Crew for trail restoration projects throughout parts of the forest. A tree or a rock-slide comes down across the trail and we’re able to work with the Forest Service and some of our partner organizations to help keep the trails open. We’ve also been able to work on a few select larger projects including the Mono Jungle Reroute, Buckhorn Trail, a bunch of work with Montecito Trails Foundation, a really cool Thomas Fire Trail Fund partnership on the Murietta Trail and our continued work with Santa Barbara County Trails Council.

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Another huge downside of the coronavirus has been the closure of the two Visitor Centers across the Los Padres at Big Sur Station and Wheeler Gorge. While both sites remain closed, we are working with the Forest Service on plans to reopen each center and hope to have them open and once again providing information for the public sooner rather than later. Stay tuned…..

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And lastly we’ve been busy trying to help the public enjoy the forest in a responsible way. You wouldn’t believe the number of emails we get daily asking about trail recommendations. We spend a lot of time helping direct backpackers, hikers and trail-users towards less visited trails or FS admin roads, it’s actually a really fun part of the day. We’ve also seen record number of visitors on HikeLosPadres.com and have been working on some updates within the site with plans for larger updates hopefully coming soon as well.

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As you can see, we’re staying busy and trying our best to help out however we can. You’re always welcome to donate to the LPFA as well if you have the means and appreciate what we do. Thanks for all your support and we can’t wait to see you on a volunteer project hopefully soon……

Expect the What’s up with the Los Padres email soon….. THANKS!

The magic of the Los Padres is never more real than during those encounters with the locals, photo Silas

Los Padres Closures & COVID Trail Etiquette

Ice Cold Figueroa Mountain, photo Jarrett Smith

Hello Friends,

We hope you and your family are safe and doing your part as we deal with coronavirus. A lot has changed since the last LPFA email. California has issued a ‘stay at home’ order and we’ve followed suit by postponing all of our March and early April volunteer projects. We’ll see what happens beyond that and we’ll keep everyone posted as all things continue to change (by the hour).

The government is promoting outdoor recreation as being an essential activity and people are responding by getting out and enjoying their local parks, beaches and trails. While it’s great that people are out enjoying nature, there have been some instances of trail-overcrowding and in some places the overcrowding has led to additional trail closures. PLEASE DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN HERE. We’ve included some safety tips and guidelines below to follow as you head out to enjoy the great outdoors:

  • Do not use the trails if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or if you are feeling sick.
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from other people along the trail. If you see trail-users heading your way, find an area where you can safely walk off the trail and let them pass. It doesn’t hurt to smile and say hello either.
  • Try to time your trail visit away from the typically busy times of the day.
  • Keep in mind that many public restrooms are closed, more on that below, so take care of business before heading out. You should also avoid touching any public drinking fountains, benches, etc… and take the necessary precautions both before and after in the case that you have to use public facilities.
  • Keep your dogs on leash, away from other trail-users or leave at home.
  • Stay in small family groups or alone while on the trail. If the trailhead is packed or parking is hard to find, go somewhere else or come back later. Our collective mission right now is to isolate not congregate.
  • If the trail is busy, then use this as an opportunity to discover lesser known trails. This is the main reason why some trails and forests are being closed. HikeLosPadres.com might be able to help you find a new less crowded trail to explore.

First Crossing is closed due to high water but likely won’t open due to coronavirus

FOREST CLOSURES

In response to coronavirus as well as the California Stay at Home order, the Los Padres Forest has issued a few forest-wide closures:

Again, this information is changing by the hour and we’ll keep everyone updated as soon as we hear anything different. In the meantime, if you have plans to head into the backcountry portions of the forest, we suggest contacting the nearby ranger district and seeking answers directly from the source. These are strange times for sure and we are extremely fortunate to have an incredible forest to enjoy. Be safe, take extra precautions and stay tuned-in as things are changing faster than ever……


Franklin Trail Majesty, photo Noe

FOREST 411

• The Tunnel Trail trailhead above Santa Barbara is currently closed as Southern California Edison conducts repair work to the access road between the trailhead and the Mission Creek bridge. The work is supposed to conclude March 27th but we’ve also heard rumors that there have been some delays. We’ll keep you posted or check social media for more updates……

• The Los Padres Forest has postponed any prescribed burns due to potential smoke impacts to the public.


Nature’s classroom…..

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 pass along!

March 2020: Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training (POSTPONED)
March 20-22: American Canyon Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST (POSTPONED)
March 27: Dutra Flat Project, Toejam Trail Alliance

April TBD: Little Falls & Trout Creek Trail Sign Project, LPFA
April 3-9: Beartrap GMPB Sespe Working Vacation, LPFA (POSTPONED)
April 5: Ojai 1st Saturday (Sunday) Murietta Trail
April 11: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway & Wheeler Cleanup
April 15: Pretty Strong Film, Topa Topa SB
April 16: Aliso Trail Collective, LPFA (POSTPONED)
April 16: Cachuma Lake Wildflowers, SB Library
April 18: Wheeler Gorge Open House
April 18-19: Davy Brown Earthday Trail Project, LPFA
April 25: State Trails Day SB, Jesusita/Tunnel Trails
April 29: LPFA Trivia at Night Lizard Brewing, SB

May 2-10: Big Cone Spruce Manzana Narrows Working Vacation, LPFA
May 2: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA
May 16: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA
May 21: Gaspar de Portola’s Route, SB Library
May 23-31: Indian Creek Working Vacation, Dick Smith, LPFA

June 6: National Trails Day, Location TBD

Sespe Dreams Are Made of This & COVID Cancellations

Dreaming of Cove Camp but thinking of COVID-19

Hello Friends,

Unless you’ve been wandering the backcountry since December, you’re no doubt aware of the coronavirus and all the worldwide precautions that are underway. As a partner of the Los Padres Forest, the LPFA will be following the Forest Service’s lead with regards to our work within their facilities, on forest lands and how to proceed with scheduled projects and events. Earlier this week we cancelled the Volunteer Wilderness Ranger (VWR) Training, which was to be held on Saturday March 14. For the time being we will be keeping the Visitor Centers at Wheeler Gorge and Big Sur Station open and staffed as usual in order to provide information for the forest community. We are also going to continue moving forward with all of our scheduled outdoor trail projects. These are certainly scary times but being in the forest, away from large groups of people might be the least scary place at the moment and for the time being we want to keep those opportunities open. We’ll be sure to share any updates via social media and our regular email. Stay informed and please be safe.

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Sespe views for days and days, McDonald Peak panoramic

WE LOVE THE SESPE

The LPFA has been working to restore many of the trails across the Sespe Wilderness.
Help us out!

Or click here to sign up for our April Working Vacation along the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail based at Beartrap Camp.

We love the Sespe!
This is a great way to give back or support this fantastic wilderness area in the Southern Los Padres.
THANK YOU!

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Remember those shirts that said: GO CLIMB A ROCK ?
Not a bad idea…….

FOREST 411

• We’re hiring for the paid LPFA Trail Crew. Check it out……..

• The Forest Service has been continuing their controlled burns in the Pinos, Monterey and Santa Lucia districts. These burns are designed to “reduce hazardous fuels in order to create healthy landscapes that are more resilient to the impacts of drought, disease, insects and uncontrolled wildfire”.

• Speaking of disease and insects (technically arachnids), the California Department of Public Health has been testing ticks across the Los Padres to see if they carry Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the causative agent of Lyme Disease. From what’s been shared to date, they’ve collected nearly 350 ticks from over a dozen different locations and none have tested positive. There are more tests scheduled and we’ll share more information at the conclusion of this program.

Los Padres Trails Recently Maintained, Restored or Worked: Agua Blanca, San Ysidro, Jesusita, Rattlesnake Cyn (SB), Pine Ridge, Matilija, Santa Paula, Matias, Buckhorn, Santa Cruz, Buena Vista, Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca, Lottie Potrero, Red Reef

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While we weren’t fast enough with the camera to get a photo of this bear as it ran away from us last week,
we were fast enough to photo its tracks in the rapidly melting snow drifts – Big Pine Mtn, SB County

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 pass along!

March 14: Volunteer Wilderness Ranger (VWR) Training (CANCELLED)
March 14: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway, LPFA
March 14: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA
March 20-22: American Canyon, Machesna Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST
March 21: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA
March 27: Dutra Flat Project, Toejam Trail Alliance

April TBD: Little Falls & Trout Creek Trail Sign Project, LPFA
April 3-9: Beartrap GMPB Sespe Working Vacation, LPFA
April 5: Ojai 1st Saturday (Sunday) Murietta Trail
April 11: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway & Wheeler Cleanup
April 15: Pretty Strong Film, Topa Topa SB
April 16: Aliso Trail Collective, LPFA
April 16: Cachuma Lake Wildflowers, SB Library
April 18: Wheeler Gorge Open House
April 18-19: Davy Brown Earthday Trail Project, LPFA
April 25: State Trails Day SB, Jesusita/Tunnel Trails
April 29: LPFA Trivia at Night Lizard Brewing, SB

May 2-10: Big Cone Spruce Manzana Narrows Working Vacation, LPFA
May 2: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA
May 16: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA
May 21: Gaspar de Portola’s Route, SB Library
May 23-31: Indian Creek Working Vacation, Dick Smith, LPFA

June 6: National Trails Day, Location TBD

Sespe Trail News & Your Late “Winter” Los Padres Update

Have you seen the rain? I ain’t seen the rain! Where’s that confounded rain? photo Kail

Hello Friends,

What happened? We got off to such a nice start this season. Do you remember the bomb cyclone around Thanksgiving and all the low elevation snow storms we had for much of December? I think I remember but ever since then the water valve just shut off. We’re not supposed to be doing trail work in January and February, it’s supposed to be too wet but this year we’ve been able to work all but one day (January 16). As of right now Salinas is at 73% “normal-to-date rainfall”, Paso Robles is at 82%, Santa Maria 54%, San Marcos Pass 53%, Camarillo 72% and no substantial rain is in the forecast through at least the first week of March. I hate to say this, but the days are going by and our window is starting to close. Yikes! And we’re not even going to talk about the early wildflowers already popping up around the forest. Maybe we’re due for a late “March Miracle” or an “Astounding April” but if not we’re looking at another dry year, a potentially long wildfire season and what might be a very short backcountry season for water. That being said, lets not give up on the season, positive thoughts everyone, get your rain dance ready. The good news is that the snow pack remains from the early season storms and that’s excellent for ground water percolation and recharge. Positive thoughts. Anyway, lots of great stuff going on around the Los Padres Forest, read on for details and we hope you’re enjoying the trails and that we get to see you soon on an upcoming volunteer project. Read on…..


Sespe Trail Projects Collage, photos Marcie, Myke & Ari – special thanks to REI and Sespe Wilderness Outfitters

SESPE WILDERNESS TRAIL WORK

The trails across the Ventura Backcountry have been neglected over the past decade probably more than anywhere else across the Los Padres. Enough’s enough, it’s time for that to change….. In 2019 the LPFA applied for and was awarded a grant from REI to lead a series of volunteer projects across the Sespe Wilderness. We started in January 2020 working the Sespe River Trail from Piedra Blanca to Willett and followed that with a February 2020 project working the Red Reef Trail up from Sespe Creek. Our next scheduled project is a week-long Working Vacation in April 2020 on the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca (GMPB) Trail working up from Beartrap Camp. The work we’ve done so far has been incredible, with great volunteer turnout and everyone we’ve met along the trail has been so supportive and happy to see these trails getting worked once again. The response has been so positive that we want to keep the momentum going and continue our progress working trails in the Sespe. With that in mind, the LPFA is launching a fundraiser for the Sespe trails with the hopes of raising $15,000 to put towards future trail projects in the Sespe. We’d love to schedule one more week-long project working the GMPB in spring 2020 and host a 10-day Working Vacation in fall 2020 working the Alder Creek Trail from Cow Springs to the Sespe Creek. These are some of the most spectacular trails across the Los Padres but they are in such bad shape at the moment. We’re hoping the trail community can help by raising some funds for the Sespe trails. For more information and a short video about our proposal, check the link below – thank you:

SUPPORT SESPE TRAIL WORK

HELP THE SESPE TRAILS


Perfect camping morning: get your coffee, climb a rock, find that perfect view and watch the sunrise……

FOREST 411

  • The LPFA is working with the Los Padres Forest and other LP trail groups to host a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training on March 14 at the Los Prietos Compound off of Paradise Road.  We are finalizing the agenda and details will be shared soon.  If you are interested in learning more or would like to attend, please email us and we’ll be sure you are on the list: Volunteer@LPForest.org
  • There are A TON of volunteer trail opportunities coming up across the forest over the coming months. Check it out below and we hope to see you swinging a tool with us soon……
  • We’ve been getting a lot of questions about gate closures and why gates are closed when the roads are dry.  The answer is that most of the LP gates are closed due to predetermined seasonal road closures.  Most of the seasonal closures kick in either November 1 or when it starts to rain and are reopened May 1 or when the roads have been fixed after the rain season. This has been a weird year due to the lack of rain and depending on how the weather shapes up over the coming month, some of the gates may open early.  Our best advice if you are planning a trip through a seasonal gate closure is to contact the appropriate Ranger District and check to see if the gates are open.  And then if the gates are closed, you can always remind the FS politely that you’d appreciate the gates opening as soon as practical so that you can better access your forest.  We’re of course happy to help as well if we can: INFO@LPforest.org
  • Speaking of closures, the Pine Ridge Trail remains closed between Big Sur Station and Redwood Camp but lots of great work is being done by the Forest Service and Ventana Wilderness Alliance in the hopes that it will be reopened soon.  Stay tuned…….
  • Enough about closures, the Cold Spring Trail above Montecito has reopened after being closed for over two years due to the Thomas Fire.  We’re all very proud of the work that’s been accomplished along Cold Spring!  In particular the Don’s Wall.
  • Along those lines, we wanted to remind everyone about the Trail Yield Triangle and to share the trail appropriately with other users.  That’s all….
  • The Cave Fire, which burned 3,126 acres above Santa Barbara in November 2019, was officially called out on January 27, 2020.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
  • The Forest Service has extended the forest-wide target shooting restrictions through June 30, 2020.  Check this link for more details and locations you can legally discharge a firearm.
  • Lots of condors in the news of late.  Last month the Santa Barbara Zoo welcomed three new California condors to their large enclosure.  If you’ve not visited the SB Zoo, they now have 14 condors and provide a great opportunity to see these birds up close.  And in December there were three more condors released above San Simeon, joining 25 others which have been released there since 2016.
  • More condor in the news, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199) passed the House of Representatives earlier this month bringing it one step closer to providing additional protection of nearly 250,000 acres of land in and around the Los Padres Forest.  Included in the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would be the designation of the Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail.  Up next for the bill is a visit with the Senate and potentially a signature from the President. Side note: Skopos gives the bill a less than 20% chance of becoming law, but this is the first time in the nearly 10 year history of this bill that its passed the House and the Skopos odds have increased over 10% since November 2019.
  • The Los Padres Fire Crews are continuing a series of prescribed burns across the Los Padres with scheduled burns over the coming week in the Mt Pinos and Figueroa Mountain areas
  • Trails worked across the Los Padres over the past month or so include: Lottie Potrero Trail, Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, Red Reef Trail, Sespe River Trail, Buckhorn Trail, Camuesa Connector Trail, Matias Trail, San Ysidro Trail, Blue Canyon Trail, Romero Trail, Matilija Trail, Potrero John Trail, Santa Cruz Trail, Baron Trail, Franklin Trail, Buena Vista Trail, Cold Spring Trail, Ocean View Trail, Pine Ridge Trail, Agua Blanca Trail and probably a few others too…..

Snow Better Time to Snow Camping Than Right sNow, photo TWilder

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 pass along!

February 19 – April 8: Sierra Club Wilderness Basics Class, Ventura
February 22: Winter Trails Day, Rattlesnake Canyon, Santa Barbara
February 22 – March 22: SB Botanic Garden Fire Recovery Mapping
February 22: Lower Pine Ridge Day Trip, VWA
February 22: Arroyo Burro Trash Cleanup, ForestWatch
February 29: Agua Blanca Trail Project #4, A.Coles
February 29: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA

March 7: Ojai First Saturday, Chorro Grande Trail, LPFA
March 8: Santa Paula Canyon Graffiti Removal, LPFA
March 14: Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training, Paradise Road
March 14: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA
March 14: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway, LPFA
March 20-22: American Canyon, Machesna Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST
March 21: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA

April TBD: Little Falls & Trout Creek Trail Sign Project, LPFA
April 3-9: Beartrap GMPB Sespe Working Vacation, LPFA
April 18: Wheeler Gorge Open House
April 18-19: Davy Brown Earthday Trail Project, LPFA

May 2-10: Puerto Suelo Trail Working Vacation, Dick Smith Wilderness, LPFA
May 23-31: Indian Creek Working Vacation, Dick Smith, LPFA

June 6: National Trails Day, Location TBD