While nature conservancy and various environmental organizations continue to take steps to curb nature-deficit disorder, parents often still feel at a loss in how to help their children connect. Not every child is born into a family that hikes or camps regularly, and then there’s the struggle with limiting screen time since most kids are loath to put away their devices.
To help kids connect with nature more,
especially if you’re a family that isn’t particularly outdoorsy, it’s going to
take some creative thinking and some exploration on everyone’s part. And it’s
also going to require parents to let go a little. This means allowing your kids
to climb a tree, go for a hike or find ways to help them connect with animal
life. If you find the right activities, you can all get comfortable with nature
and learn to enjoy the great outdoors.
This list is barely the tip of the iceberg on ways to help your family connect with nature. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but don’t let a bad encounter or experience turn you off. Be open-minded and try everything. Before you know it, you’ll all be avid outdoor enthusiasts.
As we near the end of 2020, the saying ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ has never been more applicable or felicitous. While 2020 will live in infamy for so many reasons (no LPFA Working Vacations – BOO), we sure hope it hasn’t been without at least a few silver linings. Looking back, COVID hit and we saw record numbers of people visiting the forest. At the time, it was overwhelming and many of the trailheads, camps, creeks and canyons were inundated with people seeking time outside. While the infrastructure wasn’t ready for this onslaught, the silver lining was that people were getting out and enjoying the forest. Of course, it would have been nice had many of these people known more about Leave No Trace, forest etiquette or been better at dispersing, but at the same time, let’s hope that these people, in particular the forest newbies, were able to establish an appreciation for the outdoors and that they continue to carry that appreciation with them into the future. We can teach the curious, but we can’t teach curiosity. Life will get back to the next newest normal and group activities will commence again, but we have to believe that the world is a better place with as many people appreciating nature as possible. Maybe, if we’re lucky, that will be a positive lasting legacy when looking back, hindsight on 2020.
The Monterey Ranger District remains closed due to unsafe conditions as a result of the Dolan Fire. This closure is expected to last until the Dolan Fire is 100% contained which is dependent on getting more rain. This is a bit of a conundrum, as more rain should lead to the full containment of the Dolan Fire, but it’s that same rain that causes more unsafe conditions in and around recent burn scars. It’s likely that once the Dolan Fire reaches full containment, the Forest Service will keep the fire scar closed, but reopen other parts of the District. Time will tell and please remain patient. We need rain….
An additional closure was extended for the Pine Ridge Trail which is also within the Monterey Ranger District. This most recent closure lasts through May 21, 2021. A quick little backstory, the Pine Ridge Trail was severely damaged in the 2016 Soberanes Fire and subsequent 2017 storms. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance has been working with the Forest Service to restore the trail but have had unforeseen 2020 COVID related and fire delays that have pushed the reopening back. From what we hear, the trail is looking great to a certain point but a few more weeks of work is needed. Hang in there…..
And last but not least, the regional fire restrictions remain in place through December 31, 2020 for the Los Padres NF. Again, this means no campfires anywhere and the use of camp stoves only at developed campfire use sites, which are mostly closed due to the above mentioned COVID closures. We have come full circle…. While the northern Los Padres has seen some rain, there has been very little rain across most of the forest. Santa Barbara is currently at 2% of County-Wide Percent-of-Normal Rainfall, whereas historically we should have received around 30% of our rainfall totals by the end of December. That’s a lot of catching up to do – might need a January, February and March miracle this year. Anyway, the fire restrictions should remain in place until the forest receives a couple inches of rain and good news is that there is rain in the forecast…. Fingers crossed and remain safe everyone….
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• Thanks everyone who has ordered the 2021 Los Padres calendar. The calendars are set to arrive very soon and we’ll have them shipped out or delivered hopefully in time for Christmas but certainly before the end of the year. We went with a local printer this year and they are looking great! If you’d like one, click here. Happy New Year!
• Quick volunteer update, all non-emergency or non-prioritized work across the Los Padres has been cancelled through January 6 as part of the regional COVID stay at home order. This includes our volunteer projects and Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center. As a result, there’s not much scheduled right now as far as volunteer projects but we’re planning 2021 with the hopes of Working Vacations and regular volunteer trail projects. See below for more…..
• Seems like ancient history already but it was officially released that arson was the cause of the November 25, 2019 Cave Fire.
• Some of the seasonal gates have been closed across the forest while some gates that usually close in November remain open due to the lack of rain. At this point in time, we suggest that if you’re headed into the forest to a place where gate access might be a concern, be sure to contact the local Ranger District ahead of time to see if the gates are open or closed. We do know that Pine Mtn gate closed earlier this month and should remain closed until spring.
• Speaking of roads and gates, the Forest Service was able to repair the severely damaged and rutted section of road just before Thorn Meadow off Grade Valley Road. Great to see that work accomplished!
• MONOLITH/ˈmänəˌliTH/ a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into or serving as a pillar or monument. If you missed the recent monolith craze, it’s worth a Google search and some time while drinking your morning coffee. Interestingly enough, the Los Padres made the news earlier this month when one of the monoliths made a cameo near the summit of Hi Mountain above Arroyo Grande. We found it very interesting that the aliens who planted the Hi Mtn monolith chose to plant it where they did. I guess aliens don’t have the needed FS keys to get to the actual summit either.
• For those of us procrastinators (it’s not a bad thing) who still have some last minute shopping to take care of, remember that you can always use Amazon Smile and choose the LPFA as your charity of choice. Help the forest and shop at the same time, what could be better – maybe being done with shopping of course. Thanks for choosing to help the LPFA!
• Show of hands, who has sat in a rock art site and been baffled by trying to figure out what is being represented within those amazing lines, colors, curves and images? There might be an answer after a recent study found evidence of psychedelics at a nearby painting site. It’s amazing how science continues to uncover information about the native people of these lands. Be sure to practice proper etiquette when visiting these sacred sites!
• Momentum continues to grow with the restoration of the Rose Valley Lakes and Sespe Creek Watershed. While still at the conceptual design phase, the idea is to remove fish passage barriers including the three man-made Rose Valley Lakes. For more information check the link here and we’ll keep you posted as more information is available.
While it’s impossible to predict or schedule anything right now, we’re really hoping to put together some extended volunteer projects this season. Stay tuned, fingers crossed!
February 2021: Blue Canyon Volunteer Weekends, LPFA March 2021: Sespe Volunteer Weekends, LPFA April 2021: Santa Cruz Trail Working Vacation, LPFA May 2021: Puerto Suelo Dick Smith Working Vacation, LPFA May 2021: Upper Sisquoc Working Vacation, LPFA June 2021: Haddock Camp Sespe Working Vacation (GMPB Trail), LPFA
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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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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• 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.
• 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….
• 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.
• 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!
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…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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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• 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……
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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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…..
“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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• 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.
• 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.
We wish that we had better news to share but it was announced earlier today that the Los Padres, along with eight other California Forests, will remain closed through Thursday September 24 as a result of wildfire safety. As of this morning there were 27 major fires across California with over 18,500 firefighters engaged on the fires. While the weather has certainly cooled as compared to earlier this month, red flag and heat warning remain in the forecast for much of California. Resources (crews, support, air attack, etc…) are spread incredibly thin between California, Oregon and Washington and we collectively cannot afford to have any new fires with the resources being what they are. Once again, this forest closure forbids all access into the forest including trails and forest roads. We realize the inconvenience this has caused, especially for A-Zone hunters who have missed the last two weeks of the season, and hope people will remain patient as this too shall pass (favorite saying for 2020). We’ll provide updates as they are made available. If you have any questions please contact your local Los Padres Ranger Station.
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There is so much news from around the forest that doesn’t make sense to share at the moment due to the larger scale closure. We’ll save most of that for when the forest reopens but we’ve still got a bunch of things that remain relevant. Let’s go….!
• The largest (and only? knock knock) fire burning in the Los Padres remains the Dolan Fire within the Monterey Backcountry. Currently, Dolan has burned 127,724 acres and is 46% contained with an estimated full containment date of September 28. Some tragic news from the fire is the death of two condor chicks as reported by the Ventana Wildlife Society. And if you hadn’t heard, on September 8th the fire overtook 15 firefighters while they were fighting to protect Nacimiento Station. Fortunately all 15 survived but three did suffer significant injuries. You can read a spine-chilling account here as well as a link to the Big Sur Dolan Fire Relief Fund. #TrueHeroes
• Word on the beach is that sensors are showing La Niña ocean temps forming across the Pacific. La Niña winters are usually on the drier side and lack the large major winter rains that we’ve seen during some of the El Niño events. It’s early, but something worth keeping an eye on, especially after all the fires.
• The major LP news last month was the Reyes Peak Forest Health Project Proposal which received over 16,000 public comments. We talked with the Forest Service and they are currently reviewing the comments and will be sharing those comments with their specialists in order to assess if changes are needed within their proposal. There is no hard time-frame as to when the final decision will be made but we were told it would most likely come in late 2020 or early 2021. If you’ve not read the Reyes Peak Proposal, you really should take a few minutes and look it over. We may not all agree with all aspects of the proposal but we should all agree that we don’t want Pine Mountain to end up looking like Sewart. Stay tuned……
• We’ve started a new monthly feature where we highlight some of the extraordinary volunteers who dedicate their time to the trails, critters, habitat and heritage of the Los Padres Forest. Up first is the dynamic duo husband/wife tandem of Maureen and Kevin Wallace. Read more on our Instagram page and we’re looking forward to highlighting more volunteers in the months to come…
• Many of you (we’ve been getting the emails) have noticed that HikeLosPadres has been down over the past few days. We’ve been working with the web guru himself to use this forest closure downtime to perform some site updates and maintenance. It’s a race, we’re hoping to get the site back up before the forest reopens. Thanks for your patience….
• Camp Scheideck Lodge (aka Reyes Creek Bar & Grill) shut its doors last month. You can read more here. We’re not sure what’s next for the Lodge/Grill but we’re certainly going to miss coming off the Piedra Blanca Trail and having tasty burgers (today happens to be National Cheeseburger Day) and cold drinks. Hope it get resurrected again soon….
• Last but not least, we’re still looking for a car donation in case any of you have an extra vehicle looking for a new home. We can promise it will be well cared for, fed as often as needed and will have access to some of the best views around the Los Padres. Let us know……
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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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…..
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…….
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…..
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…..
• 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…..
• 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.
• 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.
• 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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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