We hope you had a nice weekend and despite the heat and ever increasing lack of water, found some Los Padres exploration time. We always love seeing your photos of shaded trails, higher elevation peaks, and secret oases that many of you post on social media (remember to tag us!), email, or share on Hike Los Padres. Thank you as always and please keep sending them in, they are fantastic to see! As you know, there is rarely a dull moment here in the Los Padres and we’ve got some more news to share below including new closures, new characters, the onset of A-Zone hunting season and of course some upcoming events and projects that you no doubt can’t wait to hear about. Pins and needles for sure. Thanks everyone for following along and let’s get to it!
A-ZONE GENERAL HUNTING SEASON
We’re expecting another busy A-Zone deer season across most of the Los Padres. A-Zone starts Saturday August 14 and lasts through Sunday September 26. During A-Zone you can expect most of the forest roads and trailheads to be quite busy, especially on opening weekend. Hunters and forest recreationalists usually get along fine, but it is certainly busier than normal at many of the normally un-busy locations. Good luck and be safe!
HOT OFF THE PRESS:
The LPFA will once again be hosting our annual members Used Gear Sale on Saturday November 6! For those of you who know, you know. For those who have not been, we’ll have an incredible assortment of used camping gear available highlighted by tons of packs and tents from Gossamer Gear.
We’re also looking for used gear donations so if you have any gear (tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, mattresses, cook gear, etc…) collecting dust in the garage or closet, we’ll gladly take it off your hands and try to get it to folks who can breathe new life back into it. All proceeds go towards the LPFA Trail Care Program. Email us at INFO@LPForest.org if you’d like to donate anything or help out with the event. Hope to see you there, if not before!
SUNSET VALLEY – NIRA CLOSURE
While this isn’t new news, we have heard complaints from quite a few people who didn’t realize the extent of the Sunset Valley Road Closure. Effective July 31, Sunset Valley Road and the Catway OHV (Old Catway) are closed due to bridge construction and repaving. The closure is expected to remain in effect until the end of March 2022 and includes both NIRA and Davy Brown Campgrounds. We realize this is going to impact a bunch of your recreational plans. For more information please click here.
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- NEW CHIEF OF US FOREST SERVICE: Randy Moore, former head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region in Vallejo, CA., was recently named chief of the U.S. Forest Service by President Biden. Moore, who will become the first African-American to lead Forest Service, will oversee twice as much land as all national parks. “Randy has been a conservation leader on the forefront of climate change, most notably leading the region’s response to the dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires in California over the last decade,” said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service. Randy takes the reins as previous Chief Vicki Christiansen will retire from federal service in August after a 40 year career in forestry. We are excited to see what a Californian Forest Service leader will do for the Forest Service. Congratulations, Randy!
- CURRENT DOLAN & WILLOW FIRE CLOSURES: The Forest Service has made a few revisions to the the fire closures within the Monterey Ranger District for the 2020 Dolan Fire and the 2021 Willow Fire. If you’re headed in that direction, be sure to familiarize yourself with what is and is not open. Thanks!
- CONDOR NEWS: 2020 was a difficult year for many populations, including the endangered CA Condor. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 42 condor deaths in 2020, including 34 in California. That’s nearly triple the dozen deaths recorded in the state a year earlier.” While lead poisoning was the number one cause of death for condors in CA, the Dolan Fire in Big Sur was a close second. You can support the care and protection of condors through the Ventana Wildlife Society and/or Friends of the California Condor.
- ROSE VALLEY LAKES PROJECT: The Los Padres National Forest is proposing to restore Rose Valley Creek to its historical stream function, form, and habitat to benefit native aquatic species as well as provide streamside recreation. Check out the recording of the Public Workshop the Forest Service hosted on May 13th.
- TARGET SHOOTING BAN EXTENDED: The ongoing and increasing danger of wildfire prompted Los Padres National Forest officials to extend the recreational shooting ban on forest lands for six months, until Jan. 31, 2022. Recreational target shooting is prohibited in all areas of the National Forest except in the two shooting ranges under special use permit: Winchester Canyon Gun Club and Ojai Valley Gun Club; however, hunting with a valid State of California hunting license during open hunting season is exempt from this restriction.
- LPFA VOLUNTEERS PREP FOR HUNTING SEASON: With intense fire restrictions in place and A-Zone hunting season starting later this week, LPFA volunteers drove out along the Buckhorn Road to place flagging over the fire rings, post the current fire restrictions along all the camps and trailheads between Upper Oso and Alamar Saddle, and check the status of the locked gates. Meanwhile, another group of volunteers headed out to the Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area to do fire clearance at the campgrounds and day-use areas and helped the FS remove an old, broken sign. Many thanks to our amazing volunteers! Want to get involved? Email VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org!
- DISPERSED CAMPING ETIQUETTE: While one of the best thing about the Los Padres is the ability to find great dispersed camping, there definitely are some unspoken rules for how to make sure you are enjoying yourself while being respectful to others and nature. Check out the Dispersed Campers Guide to Etiquette before you head out on your next adventure. Getting out in the forest around the New Moon is a great time to practice your night photography skills!
- WHEELER GORGE VISITOR CENTER: We are open every weekend in summer, helping forest users by providing information and supplies. The Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail was also recently been worked by our LPFA volunteers and our photo contest to find a new cover for the brochure reprint resulted in some beautiful photography! Come on by!
- WELCOME FOREST SERVICE STAFF TO SBRD: The LPFA would like to extend a warm welcome to new District Ranger Daryl Hodges and Recreation Technician Alyssa Thornburg for the Santa Barbara Ranger District! We are so excited to have you on board, welcome to the SBRD!
- SLO LAND PURCHASE & FOREST TRANSFER: The Wilderness Land Trust has just purchased 148 acres of private land to be transferred to the Los Padres National Forest near Hi Mountain and the Santa Lucia Wilderness. This purchase will provide an important wildlife connection between the existing Santa Lucia Wilderness and a proposed wilderness to the northeast, and is also a key link to the planned California Condor Trail, a 400-mile route connecting the southern and northern parts of the Los Padres National Forest.
- CHERRY CREEK CLOSED: Due to the road being damaged and overgrown, the gate at Cherry Creek Road in the Ojai Ranger District will remain closed until it can be repaired. While you can’t drive on the road, it remains open for hikers and bicycles. Contact the FS with questions.
- LA BREA CLOSURE RENEWED: The existing closure of the La Brea Fire Area has been renewed and extended. This includes the closure of the La Brea Road between Buckhorn and down to the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon. We’ll share the official closure order next time or through social media.
CLOSED: Sunset Valley Road from Cachuma Saddle to NIRA, both NIRA and Davy Brown Campgrounds and the Old Catway OHV road / trail will be closed from July 30, 2021 through March 30, 2022
The Forest Service has been working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and other partner groups to schedule the construction of two bridges which would replace the existing ‘Arizona crossings’ along Sunset Valley Road. When completed, the bridges will help assist aquatic organism passage within the Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Manzana and Davy Brown drainages. Sunset Valley Road is located in Santa Barbara County behind Figueroa Mountain and is most commonly used to access NIRA and the Manzana Trailheads. This bridge project has been in the works since at least 2017, with construction being delayed a few times due to COVID, etc…
In order to construct the bridges, the Forest Service will need to close both Sunset Valley Road and the Catway OHV (Old Catway) to all traffic including vehicles, bikes and hikers and as a result of the closure, both Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds will be closed.
While the initial reaction after hearing about this closure has been overwhelmingly negative, the long-term effects from the closure will be very positive. Obviously the bridges will greatly benefit fish passage along the Davy Brown, in addition the bridges will improve year-round access to NIRA and as an added bonus the Forest Service will be repaving Sunset Valley Road during the construction as well. This repaving might be worth it all by itself as that road has won the distinguished honor as the “worst road in the Los Padres” over the past couple years due to car-eating potholes.
NIRA is closed? Now what…..???
NIRA and the Lower Manzana is the main gateway to the San Rafael Wilderness and by far the busiest backcountry trailhead in Santa Barbara County, if not the entire Los Padres National Forest. There is no doubt that this 8 month closure is going to impact a lot of backpackers, hikers, equestrians and hunters who rely on NIRA and the Manzana for their backcountry access as well as Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds for somewhat easy and remote car-camping.
Forest-users tend to have favorite trails and camps that they revisit frequently and while that is terrific, this might be a good excuse to find a new favorite spot or search out that peak, camp or trail you’ve always wanted to visit. There are certainly plenty of other backcountry trailheads, trails and campgrounds worth exploring. We’re very fortunate in the Los Padres to have miles and miles of backcountry trails for all fitness and experience levels and quite a few other remote campgrounds worthy of loading up the larger tents and coolers.
If you have any questions about what other spots to check out, WE’D BE HAPPY TO HELP: check out HikeLosPadres or email us at INFO@LPForest.org and we can suggest a variety of trails and camps based on the time of year, what you are hoping to find and of course any of the current forest restrictions or closures.
And for those willing to hike the extra mile and push through some extra brush, just think how uncrowded the Narrows and Horseshoe Bend will be this year……
Hello Friends & Fellow Forest Users,
We hope you are enjoying your summer and still mixing in some Los Padres time, despite the heat and waning water. As we all know, summers are tough around here but there are still great pools, camps and shaded trails this time of year for those who know where to go and plan appropriately. This is probably the quietest time of year in the Los Padres but don’t let the calm fool you, there’s been plenty of news around the forest of late. Let’s get to it…
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FIRE RESTRICTIONS & UPDATES
The biggest news has been the new fire restriction order, which was announced July 15. The new restrictions prohibit campfires anywhere across the forest and camp stoves are allowed only within Designated Campfire Use Sites. The fire restriction order is effective through December 31, 2021and again:
– NO CAMPFIRES ANYWHERE
– STOVES ONLY IN DESIGNATED CAMPFIRE USE SITES
Click the links above for more details. We realize that fire restrictions, which essentially ban hot coffee in the backcountry, are usually met with disapproval but please understand that there are over 170 drought-aided fires burning at the moment across the Western United States and most of the forests across the west are in similar fire restrictions as well. We’re all in this together and let’s hope for more rain in the coming years and certainly a slow remainder of the 2021 wildfire season. BE SAFE, everyone. Speaking of fires, the Willow Fire in the Northern Los Padres is now 100% contained after burning nearly 3,000 acres within the Ventana Wilderness. While the fire has come and gone, please check the most recent Willow Fire closure order to see what is closed and what remains open. If you know that part of the forest and enjoy reading about local fire history, you need to check out a book called Fire Monkswhich chronicles how the Tassajara Monks fought back the 2008 Basin Complex Fire. It’s a great read and while the book is terrific and the Willow Fire made a similar run this summer, we’re very fortunate and thankful that there won’t be a Fire Monks Willow Fire sequel.
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FREE HERBAL MEDICINE WEBINAR
TUESDAY, JULY 27th
Join Emily Sanders, local clinical herbalist and founder of the Artemisia Academy of Herbal Arts & Healing, for a FREE webinar on the magic and medicine of the Artemisias. These local plant species, Sage brush, Wormwood, and Mugwort, have been used for thousands of years for both their medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Learn how you can make your own medicine! Click HERE to Register!
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SUNSET VALLEY – NIRA CLOSURE
The Forest Service has been working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and other partner groups to schedule the construction of two bridges which would replace the existing ‘Arizona crossings’ along Sunset Valley Road. When completed, the bridges will help assist aquatic organism passage within the Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Manzana and Fir Canyon drainages. Sunset Valley Road is located in Santa Barbara County behind Figueroa Mountain and is most commonly used to access NIRA and the Manzana Trailheads. This bridge project has been in the works since at least 2017, with construction being delayed a few times due to COVID, etc…
That being said, the FS announced late last week that bridge construction will begin this coming week with an expected closure of Sunset Valley Road as well as the Catway OHV (aka Old Catway) through the end of March 2022.
While the FS is working to finalize the closure order, we’ve been asked to share that the public will not be permitted along Sunset Valley Road between July 26, 2021 – March 30, 2022. This is a full closure, meaning no access along Sunset Valley Road or the Old Catway to Davy Brown Campground, NIRA Campground and both of the Manzana Trailheads. Hikers and bikes are also expected to not be permitted along the road during the closure. Again, closure details are being finalized and we’ll share final details as soon as they are available.
While the bridges will definitely help with creating safer fish passage, this 8 month closure is going to impact a lot of backpackers, hikers, equestrians and hunters who rely on NIRA and the Manzana for their backcountry access. We’ve already shared a list of concerns and suggestions with the FS and we’ll be sure to share the final closure details when available. In the meantime, if you have any plans to visit the Manzana or lower Sisquoc, you should start looking at other entry points and/or trail options. HikeLosPadres.com is a great resource for planning trips into the LP, check it out or feel free to email us with any Los Padres-related questions.
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TRAIL WORK UPDATE
While many of us spend our summers vacationing in the Sierras or working on our beach tans, the LPFA volunteers and Trail Crew have remained busy working strategically on many of our favorite trails here in the LP. Here’s a quick rundown on what we’ve been doing trail-wise over the past few months:
- GENE MARSHALL – PIEDRA BLANCA TRAIL: We wrapped up a busy spring and early summer of work on the GMPB with a fantastic 10-day Working Vacation and followed that up with a week of work by the LPFA Trail Crew. We’ve now collectively worked every inch of trail from Reyes Creek to Three Mile Camp and then from Piedra Blanca TH to Twin Forks. Great work by so many different people and groups, it sure does take a village!
- BLUE CANYON TRAILS: Thanks to a generous SCE grant, the LPFA made a big push in 2021 to reopen the network of Blue Canyon Trails. We hosted volunteer days, volunteer weekends, worked with Laguna Blanca School for a week and wrapped it up with a couple weeks of work by the LPFA Trail Crew. We still have a little bit left to do but the trails from Forbush to P-Bar and out beyond Upper Blue Canyon haven’t looked this good in a long time…
- COLD SPRING NORTH & MONO JUNGLE: We’ve also kept busy working the north Cold Spring Trail from Cold Spring Saddle down through Forbush and continuing through the new section of trail near the Mono Jungle. Work continues on the new section of trail and we were able to brush most of the trail from Forbush to the junction of the Gibraltar Trail. Work will continue out here through most of the summer and we’re hoping to schedule a few volunteer days out here as well.
- MISSION PINE TRAIL: Thanks to support from the SB Trail Runners and the FS, we’ve been working hard to reopen an incredibly brushy section of the Mission Pine Trail out near West Big Pine. We hosted a couple of 4-day volunteer weekends and another week with the LPFA Trail Crew, and at the moment we have only 0.3 miles remaining to brush before punching through the worst of it. We’ll likely be back out there this summer should we get a cool-ish weekend to finish it up. Stay tuned…
- LITTLE FALLS TRAIL: Thanks to some additional FS support we were able to put the LPFA Trail Crew on the Little Falls for a week of brushing and sign maintenance. Still lots of brushing needed in the upper parts of the canyon, but we were able to make a nice dent in the worst sections.
- SANTA CRUZ TRAIL: Santa Cruz is a tough place to work in the summer, but we did spend a week in early June clearing brush and restoring tread out near Little Pine Spring. This will be a large focus of our fall/winter 2021 work as we continue working through the 40-Mile Wall and on down to Santa Cruz Station.
- MATILIJA TRAIL: Thanks to some remaining Thomas Fire trail restoration funding, the LPFA Trail Crew has spent the past two weeks working the Matilija Trail outside of Ojai. We’ve been slowly chipping away at the Matilija Trail for the past three years, with the emphasis this summer being the section of trail between Middle Matilija and Upper Matilija. It’s slow going in this canyon, but thankfully there is good water along the way. More to come…
While the green of Spring certainly has felt short-lived this year, with 100% of the state of CA experiencing drought and 41 (out of 58) counties experiencing a drought emergency, we were glad to get out in the Los Padres to enjoy all the brief but beautiful spring moments we could. After our Santa Cruz Working Vacation at the beginning of May, we have stayed busy with work on the North Cold Spring trail, Mission Pine Trail, Blue Canyon Trail, Little Falls Trail and more work on the Santa Cruz Trail, and are headed out this next week to Beartrap camp to tackle sections of the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail for our next Working Vacation.
With the low rainfall the state has seen this year, we were not surprised when the Forest Service announced Fire Restrictions on backcountry campfires that went into effect earlier this week. No open fires, campfires or charcoal fires will be permitted outside of developed recreation sites or designated Campfire Use Sites, even with a valid California Campfire Permit. Lanterns and regular gas camping and backpacking stoves will be permitted, but only with a valid California Campfire Permit, which are available free-of-charge on the Forest website. We cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to these campfire restrictions, and in general the importance of fire safety during these dry, dry times. The state is gearing up for an intense fire season and while most of the Southern CA counties were not included in the emergency drought proclamation from the governor’s office, it is on all of us to make sure that the lands we cherish remain safe from human-caused fires. Please be safe, follow the rules and do your part to help protect your Los Padres National Forest. We all love a good campfire, but it’s definitely not worth the risk. Besides, camping without a fire can definitely be fun and a great way to connect to different aspects of nature at night. There are lots of great things that camping without fire can include, like more time for stargazing, playing cards or music, listening to the sounds of nature, and getting some extra sleep! Enjoy your time in the forest and let’s all stay safe!
SANTA CRUZ WORKING VACATION PT 2
Weather permitting, we’ll be headed back out to Santa Cruz Guard Station the week of June 12-20 to continue work on the Santa Cruz Trail. This time we’ll be based at Santa Cruz and working up towards Little Pine along the legendary “40 Mile Wall”. Most of the work will be cutting tread until it gets too warm and then retreating to spend the hotter hours relaxing under the oaks or in the nearby Santa Cruz Creek pools. The exact dates will be weather dependent and we’d love to have any of you help out and join the fun. If interested in either signing up or to get some more information, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org. We will be driving in to Santa Cruz Station – hope to see you out there!
- Senator Alex Padilla introduced companion legislation to Representative Carbajal’s Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives in February. This bill will protect special places in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument for their ecological, cultural, and recreational values. Rep. Carbajal’s bill will also designate the Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail. The senate version also prohibits future oil drilling in certain places, improves equitable access to the outdoors, and benefits local and statewide economies. Thank you Senator Padilla and Rep. Carbajal!
- Condor populations are healthily growing and expanding their range! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service announced a new initiative that calls for releasing four or six juvenile condors each year for 20 years throughout Redwood National Park, which is about an hour’s drive from the Oregon border. Partnering with the Yoruk tribe, conservationists hope to boost populations of these endangered birds, which suffered great losses during the Dolan fire. Good luck, condors!
- The Los Padres National Forest is proposing to restore Rose Valley Creek to its historical stream function, form, and habitat to benefit native aquatic species as well as provide streamside recreation. Check out the recording of the Public Workshop the Forest Service hosted on May 13th.
- Volunteers are returning again this year as citizen smoke watchers at the 92-year-old Chews Ridge lookout tower south of Carmel. This commanding vantage point has given spotters the ability to detect and quickly report new wildfire starts before they get large and destructive. If you’re interested in becoming a Chews Ridge volunteer, visit the Chews Ridge Fire Lookout FB page or email Scott at PalomarTowers@gmail.com for more information.
- LPFA-Operated Visitor Centers are open and ready to help you navigate the Los Padres! With Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center serving the Southern Los Padres and Big Sur Station serving the North, our visitor centers are a great place to stop before you head into the forest. Come by to learn about the ecology of the area, pick up a map and supplies, or get your Los Padres-related questions answered by our friendly staff and volunteers. LPFA members receive a 15% discount on all purchases (exception for Adventures Passes) at Los Padres Ranger Stations and Visitor Centers.
- Graffiti removal efforts have been advanced by local Boy Scouts. Members of Troop 26 helped remove over 30 pieces of graffiti on Tunnel Trail in the SB Frontcountry. Great work, Scouts! We hate to see graffiti in the forest, so please let us know if you find any – email INFO@LPForest.org.
- National Trail Day is coming up on June 5th! This is a great day to give back to and enjoy the many trails we love. Click here to find a volunteer event near you!
- SB County Parks & Recreation is hosting a National Trail Day event on June 12th at Tunnel & Jesusita Trails. Email Sbiddle@SantaBarbaraCA.gov to RSVP and get more information.
- Volunteer Trailhead Ambassadors Needed for the popular Pine Ridge Trailhead in Big Sur! Trailhead Ambassadors will help visitors understand how they can enjoy the public lands of the Big Sur coast safely and responsibly. To learn more, please email email@example.com
- SBRD Biologist Valerie Hubbard is seeking volunteers for noxious weed removal. The initial work would include mapping high priority weeds on the East Camino Cielo and also manually treating spotted knapweed. Future work might be assisting with herbicide treatment of tamarisk in the Santa Ynez River, manual treatment of yellow star thistle on Zaca Ridge road, manual treatment of pampas grass on the Happy Canyon allotment, manual treatment of medusahead grass at Happy Hollow camp and mapping and manual treatment of yellow star thistle on the Buckhorn road. Email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org to get involved!
- Help collect seed to restore areas invaded by Spanish broom along East Camino Cielo in Santa Barbara! Saturday volunteer seed collection dates are: 5/22, 6/5, 6/19, 7/10, 7/24, and 8/7. There are sign-up 10 slots for each date, with a limited number of vehicles allowed to park along East Camino Cielo Road. We will announce additional dates for the fall. Please email Josie Lesage at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sign up.
The work we do would not be possible without the support of our community! Please consider donating or becoming a member of the LPFA to help ensure that we can continue to care for the Los Padres National Forest.
Since 2020 was pretty much a lost year for forest projects, we’ve been trying hard the past few months to catch up on some of the todo’s from last year while also moving forward with our 2021 program of work. We’ve been busy providing education opportunities and information for forest-users while also tackling graffiti removal, forest restoration projects and of course trying to keep the trails open and passable. A lot of our trail focus has been trying to clear downed trees that have fallen across the trails. The combination of missing a year of trail work (deferred maintenance), plus two seasons of heavy snowfall, plus drought and mix in a windier than normal spring and we ended up with what might be a record numbers of downed trees across the forest. We really appreciate all the trail-user reports of downed trees either via email or HikeLosPadres.com, please keep those coming.
All that being said, it’s certainly a great time to be in the Los Padres…. The creeks are still flowing, the grass is mostly green, the flowers are as good as they’re going to get, the temps still cool’ish and the seasonal gates will be opening soon…. prime Los Padres time. We hope you’re all of good health and making time to explore some new LP trails or revisit your old favorites….. and of course, gearing up to help on some upcoming volunteer projects!
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PINE MOUNTAIN WORKING VACATION
Speaking of volunteer projects…. as COVID continues to back down here locally (knock knock), we are once again allowed to host constricted volunteer projects. We’re currently wrapping up a Working Vacation on the Santa Cruz Trail and have another Working Vacation scheduled for late May / early June along the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail (GMPB) in the Sespe Wilderness. The Pine Mountain Working Vacation will be based at Haddock Camp along the headwaters of Piedra Blanca Creek and the work will be focused on clearing the trails pretty much from Reyes Peak down to Haddock and then both directions towards upper Beartrap Canyon and out to Pine Mountain Lodge. There should be a great variety of work ranging from crosscut to brushing and some fun tread sections mixed in as well. The Working Vacation will be stock (horse & mule) supported and we should be able to provide all the food for the week. We’ll be out there between May 28 and June 6 and would love to have any of you help out and join the fun. If interested in either signing up or to get some more information, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org. Hope to see you out there……
Lots of news to cover from across the forest. Strongly suggest refilling your coffee and settling down…..
• May 1 is the preset date when the seasonal road closures reopen. This is a big day across the forest as people can once again drive into places like Grade Valley, Dough Flat, Pine Mountain and many others… We’ve talked to the FS and they are planning on opening the seasonal gates in time for this coming weekend. That being said, there are a lot of gates across the forest and we strongly recommend calling the FS to ensure your gate will be open before heading out this weekend. Enjoy…..
• Speaking of reopening, CalTrans did a great job and was able to reopen Hwy 1 at Rat Creek well ahead of their initial target date. As of now you can clearly drive Hwy 1 from SLO to Carmel and access most of the Monterey Ranger District.
• Speaking of reopening once again, after being closed since July 2016, the Pine Ridge Trail out of Big Sur Station reopened earlier this month. This is a huge accomplishment with the lions share of thanks going to the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. Enjoy responsibly, please…..
• While the PRT has reopened, the portion of the forest south of there remains closed due to the 2020 Dolan Fire. The closure is set to expire in late May and we’ll keep you posted if the FS decides to extend the closure.
• While most the gates will be swinging open, East Camino Cielo above Santa Barbara remains closed due to road repair. The closure is just east of Cold Spring Saddle and is expected to remain closed through the end of May. Contact the SB Ranger District with more questions…..
• Hopefully you’ve heard of OR-93 by now. If not, there may very well be a wolf cruising the Los Padres right now. We haven’t received an official update from Fish and Wildlife in a few weeks now but last we heard OR-93 was headed for the SLO backcountry. We’ll be watching for updates daily, stay tuned…..
• The LPFA Trail Crew has been busy working to keep trails open. Over the past month or two we’ve led trail restoration efforts on the following trails: Sellers Potrero, Hi Valley, Florence Hart, Trout Creek, American Canyon, Jesusita, Tunnel, Tunnel Connector, Rattlesnake Canyon, Madulce, Santa Barbara Canyon, Alamar, Sisquoc, Santa Cruz, Cold Spring, Blue Canyon, Blue Canyon Connector, Matilija, Mission Pine, Lion Canyon, Indian Creek, Hurricane Deck, Baron, Midland and Sulphur Spring. Big shout out to our supporters, friends and partners who have helped make all this possible: SLOPOST, MTF, SB Trails Council, Athletic Brewing Co, REI, SCA, SCE, NFWF, LPNFand of course many of you who have donated to the trail restoration fund – thank you all!
• In addition to trail work, we’ve also been busy hosting a series of virtual events ranging from Rattlesnake Myth-busting to Seven-Minute Storytelling to Lunchtime Trail Talk and iNaturalists Training with the SB Botanic Garden. In case you missed any of these, you can check them out on the LPFA YouTube Channel.
• Earlier this month the Los Padres NF announced plans for a Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project along Mount Pinos. You can read more about the project proposal here on the FS site and additional information here as well. Similar to other fuels reduction proposals, there are a lot of differing opinions on how to best protect these higher elevation conifer zones. If interested, please take the time to scour the internet, research, listen to the different voices and share your thoughts with the Forest Service before May 7.
• One of our favorite local authors Craig Carey, he of red beard fame, has released a second edition of his epic Hiking & Backpacking Santa Barbara and Ventura book. This is a huge accomplishment for Craig (congrats!) and a must have resource for any LP explorer. Check it out……
• Due to continued resource damage, the FS has permanently closed Colson Campground located just outside Santa Maria.
• As mentioned in a photo above, the new Pothole Trailhead outside of Lake Piru is now open and being used. This is the Southern Terminus of the Condor Trail and provides much easier access to the Agua Blanca and other nearby haunts.
• The Forest Service is in the process of looking at options to restore the Rose Valley Creek and Lakes located off Hwy 33 above Ojai. See the invitation below to an upcoming workshop where some of the different proposed options will be discussed. If interested, please attend and make your voice heard.
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For those of us who resorted to rain dance rituals in order to break our mid-January drought, remember what you did, cause it worked and in some cases might have worked too well! This latest atmospheric river event certainly delivered and as seems to be the case around here, the hardest rain was unfortunately attracted once again to the recently burned areas. The 2020 Dolan Fire area within southern Monterey County took the brunt of the storm with two-day rain totals above 15″ in many places. The resulting damage was extensive, causing Governor Newsome to declare a State of Emergency for both San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. As we know all too well, recently burned areas and excessive rain don’t mix too well and there were a series of debris flows spewing out of the Dolan Fire. The most notable was at Rat Creek where Hwy 1 was completely washed away. No timetable has been established as to when Hwy 1 through Big Sur will reopen and it is currently closed between Post Mile 34 and Willow Creek.
The rest of the Los Padres received a good dousing over the past week as well with rain totals primarily between 2-6″ with some areas seeing upwards of 12″. We did see some parts of the forest receive monster downpours of close to 0.75″ of rain over a 15-min time period. Snow levels were consistently in the 4,500 – 5,000′ range and we’ve seen some spectacular photos of Los Padres winter wonderland from this past weekend. Most of the larger creeks and rivers around the forest are now flowing but many of the smaller creeks have not quite been activated just yet. While this past storm was a good one, we certainly could use more rain. That being said, please adjust your dance routines to focus on lots of snow and light consistent rain, we don’t need anymore debris flows or declared emergencies……
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FOREST OPENINGS & CLOSINGS
While it might be prime Los Padres season, there are still some closures and restrictions to be aware of and some changes too:
- The Los Padres fire restrictions which have been in place since May 2020 were lifted on February 1. This means that campfires are once again allowed in all open and legal areas of the forest. You will need a California Campfire Permit so please take a few mins to get your permit and take a refresher on how to be fire safe.
- The COVID related regional campground closure order also expired on January 29. This means that all the accessible campgrounds are once again open. That being said, some of the previously closed campgrounds remain closed due to storm related road closures and we’re also hearing that Parks Management is a little behind on restaffing after the 6+ week closure. We suggest that you contact Parks Management or the Forest Service if you are looking to camp over the coming weeks just to make sure ahead of time that your favorite campgrounds are open.
- The Dolan Fire closure area within the Monterey Ranger District was revised on January 22 and now includes mainly the burn area perimeter. See link here for more information including closure maps and language. Remember that the Pine Ridge Trail remains closed through the winter and please take into account that many of the roads into the MRD remain closed due to fire and storm damage.
- Along those lines, all of the seasonal road closure gates should be closed after last weeks storms, this includes Mt Pinos Snow Play. If you are heading out to your favorite trailhead, be sure to call the local ranger district and confirm where the gates might be closed. We’re happy to try to help as well if you’d like to email us. Nothing worse than unexpectedly finding out that your 7 mile backpack trip is now 11 miles due to a road closure.
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- The last weekend of January has long been reserved for the annual Los Padres Volunteer Wilderness Ranger (VWR) Training. This year would have been the 24th annual VWR Training. Unfortunately we aren’t able to host the training this year due to COVID but we’re certainly missing the 80+ volunteers who regularly attend these trainings. We’re looking forward to seeing all the great volunteers later this year on trail projects (as COVID restrictions hopefully ease) and we’ll throw an even bigger celebration (we mean training) next year for the 25th annual VWR Training. Can’t wait….
- The Los Padres NF extended the forest-wide target shooting ban through June 30, 2021. No target shooting outside of Winchester and Ojai Valley Gun Clubs. For more information, click here…..
- The Neverland Ranch sold recently for a reported $22 million. Neverland is located near Figueroa Mountain on the edge of the Los Padres.
- Back by popular demand, the LPFA will be hosting another virtual SEVEN MINUTE STORYTELLING event on February 11 at 7pm. Click this link or email if you’d like to sign up to present or attend and click this link to see our first virtual storytelling event from October. These events are a lot of fun and we have a great list of presenters from around the forest! Should be great and hope to see you there…..
- Our buddies from the Ventana Wilderness Alliance are in the process of looking for a new Executive Director. Click the link for more details and tell ’em the LPFA sent ya…..
- Our buddies from the Channel Islands Restoration are looking for some good volunteers to help with some of their upcoming Santa Ynez River volunteer trips. Check em out here…
- Our buddy Chuck Graham, who frequently writes about adventures across the Los Padres, recently released a photo book featuring the sights and splendor of the Carrizo Plain. It’s called Carrizo Plain “Where the Mountains Meet the Grasslands”, you can check it out here and congrats Chuck, so cool!
- In late 2020, officials with the CDFW cleared out over 3,000 lbs of trash from an illegal marijuana grow site in the Los Padres above Ragged Point. We hate seeing grow sites, it’s no fun and so destructive to the environment. If you come across a grow site in your explorations, get out of there as quickly as you can and please report it to the Forest Service.
- For us condor lovers, there’s a couple interesting articles you might want to check out. The first is about wind farms applying for take permits for incidentally killing condors and the second is an article about increasing wildfire impacts on the condors.
- We’re working on our winter-spring trail work schedule and have a lot of catching up to do after much of our 2020 program of work was COVID derailed. Trails we’ll be focusing on include: Hurricane Deck, Santa Cruz, Red Reef, Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca, Blue Canyon, Red Reef, American Canyon, Madulce, Sisquoc, Mission Pine, Lion Canyon, Matilija and likely more… The LPFA Trail Crew will be focusing on the eastern Hurricane Deck Trail for the next few weeks with the hope of punching through to connect with Lost Valley. Exciting for sure!
- Last but not least, when you get out into the forest over the coming weeks please be sure to let us or the Forest Service know if you come across any downed trees or slides blocking the trails or roads. We’ll collectively do our best to get them cleared as soon as we can. Be safe out there…..
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Obviously COVID can and will adjust some of our upcoming volunteer opportunities but we wanted to share what we have scheduled and hope for the best. We’ll be providing signup links and updates when we get green-lighted for the projects. In the meantime, if you’d like to sign up for any specific projects, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org and we’ll get you on the list.
February 11: Seven Minute Storytelling Virtual Talk, LPFA 7pm
February 19-22: Red Reef Trail / Sespe Trail Project, LPFA
February 27: Agua Blanca Trail Project, TBD
February 27-28: Blue Canyon Trail Project, LPFA
March 6: Red Reef / Sisar 1st Saturday Trail Project, LPFA
March 6-7: American Canyon Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST
March 13: Agua Blanca Trail Project, TBD
March 13-14: Blue Canyon Trail Project
March 19-21: Upper Sisquoc Project, LPFA
April 3-11: Indian Creek Working Vacation, LPFA
April 10: Ojai 1st Saturday, TBD
April 23-25: Madulce Trail Project, LPFA
May 1-9: Red Reef / Lady Bug Working Vacation, LPFA
May 15: Ojai 1st Saturday, TBD
May 15-23: Santa Cruz Trail Working Vacation, LPFA
May 28 – June 6: Pine Mtn Haddock Working Vacation, LPFA
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.
Children Need to Spend More Time Outdoors
Learn about the risks of too much time inside and why your kids should spend more time in nature.
To start enjoying the benefits of nature, all you and your family need to do is open the door and step outside.
Set Up an Adventure!
Time in the backyard is great, but you can really immerse yourself in nature with these ideas.
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.
Article by Jenny Miller – StopNND.org
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.
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LOS PADRES UPDATE
California issued the latest regional COVID Stay at Home Order on December 6 and shortly thereafter the Forest Service released additional forest related regional closures and restrictions. While the forest remains open, all developed campgrounds across the Los Padres will be closed through January 6, 2021. Here’s a list of the developed Los Padres campgrounds, in general they are the ones you might consider car-campgrounds. That being said, the trails, trailheads, picnic areas, day use areas, OHV routes and dispersed camping remain open for us to enjoy across most of the forest.
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.
• The Monterey Ranger District remains in a hard closure due to the Dolan Fire, which is currently 98% contained and is holding at 124,924 scorched acres. The cause of the fire was verified earlier this month as arson related to an illegal marijuana grow. There is no set date as to when the MRD will reopen but as we’ve seen in years past, it might be a while due to very valid post-fire safety concerns. Stay tuned….
• In case you missed last months LPFA Seven Minute Story Night, never fear, it’s on YouTube, check it out… Oh yeah, and if you’d like to sign up to present in the future, we’ll likely be hosting another one in January. Let us know….
• Four condors were released earlier this week into the wilds outside San Simeon. Another great step for our beloved California condor!
• The Los Padres National Forest is hiring! They are looking for a Forestry Technician in Santa Barbara and a wilderness/stock program manager in the Monterey RD, check it out and good luck!
• The Forest Service is also looking for volunteers who might be interested in helping treat and eliminate non-native noxious weeds within the Santa Barbara front and backcountry areas. You’d be working with the FS biologist. If this sounds fun or for more information email us at Volunteer@LPForest.org.
• Thanks to everyone who submitted photos for the 2021 Los Padres Calendar. We are just about done with the layout and the calendars should be ready in plenty of time for the holidays. To learn more or purchase your very own 2021 Los Padres Calendar, CLICK HERE…..
• Some slight changes in the West Cuesta closure order: the Forest Service revised the closure so that bicycles and hikers are once again permitted along West Cuesta. The closure remains in place for vehicles and dispersed camping.
• If you Amazon, remember that you can always use Amazon Smile and choose the LPFA as your charity of choice so that you not only shop but also help the forest, all in just a few clicks. Check it out – thanks…
• And last but certainly not least, our latest volunteer spotlight features the great Bardley Smith. You know the saying about a tree falling in the woods, right? Well, it should be changed to if a tree falls across the trail in the Ojai Ranger District…. yes, Bardley will most likely cut it out. Thanks for all you do Bardley!
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