Happy Old Year & Thomas Fire Update

The slanted & photogenic Sulphur Spring Canyon en route to the Hurricane Deck
Attention is always focused on welcoming in the New Year (2018) but lets not forget the great achievements from the Old Year (2017).  While there were certainly struggles across the forest over the past year, the Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) had a phenomenal year of accomplishments helping support your Los Padres Forest:
  •  With the help of the Forest Service and partner organizations we maintained over 75 miles of trail across the Los Padres in 2017!  This was accomplished through grant opportunities, private donations and lots of hard work by our phenomenal volunteers.
  • Speaking of volunteers, LPFA volunteers accounted for over 15,000 hours of volunteer time across the forest in 2017.  Amazing, right!  Big BIG round of applause for the volunteers who helped on the 80+ forest-related volunteer projects the LPFA supported in 2017.
  • The LPFA hosted 23 educational events at Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center in 2017 reaching over 1,500 forest-users!  Big thanks to Gordie, Terry and the Wheeler Gorge Crew for another terrific year of work!
  • Perhaps the biggest challenge and best contribution we provided in 2017 was keeping Big Sur Station open even with all the road closures and Soberanes Fire related forest closures.  Tim Bills and crew kept Big Sur Station open for 360 days in 2017 helping over 50,000 visitors in the process!  Amazing work…..
  • And as always the LPFA continued assisting the Forest Service where possible and providing information for you, the forest-user, through our emails, social media and HikeLosPadres.com.

2017 was a busy one with much MUCH more on tap for 2018.  This next year we’ll be continuing our backcountry trail maintenance while at the same time putting a large emphasis of work into the trails damaged by the Thomas Fire (more on that soon).  We are also working with the Forest Service to build a reroute around the infamous Mono Jungle section of the Cold Spring Trail in Santa Barbara County.  We’re looking forward to more trailwork within the Santa Lucia Wilderness of San Luis Obispo County and working hard to continue growth at both Wheeler Gorge and Big Sur Station.

Much of this work is not possible without the help and support of our volunteers and supporters.  We’d love to have you join us on any of our regular volunteer projects and of course donations and LPFA memberships help tremendously.  If you’d like to donate or join the LPFA, check out the THANK YOU button link below:

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Thomas Fire Perimeter, 12-31-2017

The Thomas Fire is currently 92% contained and has scorched 281,893 acres, making it the largest fire in California History!  Included in the Thomas Fire is over 180,000 acres of Los Padres Forest land that unofficially burned 24 campsites, 32 Forest Service system trails, over 125 miles of trail and 100 miles of FS recreational roads.  Yowzers!  With the fire fight downsizing we’ll begin working with the Forest Service and other partner organizations this week to discuss short-term and long-term plans to survey the trails and get them reopened as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately we’re no strangers to fire damaged trails and we’re expecting it to take quite a while before the trails are safe to travel.  There are islands within the perimeter that continue to burn and much of the trail damage is yet to come.  We might even think of this right now as being within the eye of the hurricane.  The initial storm of damage in the form of the fire has come through, we get a few weeks in the eye and then the second wave (and possibly more damaging) will come with the rains.  There is rain in the forecast later this week…..

That being said, yesterday the Forest Service reduced the extent of the closure to the footprint of the fire, see attached closure information.  There is still much suppression repair efforts and BAER activity within the forest.  Please obey closures and don’t drive around barricades.  Patience is not the ability to wait, but rather the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.  Things will reopen and we’ll do our best to keep you posted as best we can.

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Before and After along the Lost Valley Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness, if you’ve hiked this trail in the past year, you know this section.
  • The Los Padres Forest welcomes Kevin Elliott as our new Forest Supervisor!  Kevin will join the Los Padres on January 22 after serving the past 6 years as Forest Supervisor on the Sequoia National Forest.  We’re looking forward to meeting Kevin and hoping to work closely with him over the coming years.  Welcome!
  • We’ve heard many concerns and questions about how the LP wildlife is holding up after the Thomas Fire.  While the full extent of the fire damage is yet to come, there have been a few articles surfacing related to specific instances of wildlife impacts.
  • Not Thomas related but a 250 pound wild boar was struck by a car on Hwy 126 in Ventura County last month.  Wild pigs are not common in that part of the forest.
  • You might notice a blank spot appearing soon above your desk or on the wall in your kitchen.  We still have a few more 2018 Los Padres calendars available in case you’d like to fill that empty space with some Los Padres love!
  • SBMTV just completed a two-week trail project opening up the popular Camuesa Connector Trail outside Santa Barbara.  Check that trail out!
  • The VWA continues to hammer out trail maintenance miles across the Silver Peak Wilderness.  This year their focus has been the Buckeye and Cruickshank Trails.  Good stuff.
  • Highway 33 is currently open across Ventura County.  Many of the popular trailheads remain closed due to the Thomas Fire including all of Matilija (100% burned), Rose Valley, Ortega and Piedra Blanca.