Los Padres Fire Restrictions & Lots of Good News

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that ____ mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
Black Canyon of the Los Padres, November 2019, photo M. Wallace

Hello Friends,

The big forest news this past week was the Forest Service announcing that the Los Padres is going into Extreme Fire Danger restrictions until at least December 31, 2019.  We’ve all seen the recent devastating wildfires across California.  The raised restrictions are intended to help prevent similar wildfires here in the Los Padres.  Under Extreme Fire Danger restrictions:

  1. Wood and charcoal fires are prohibited in all areas of the Los Padres Forest.
  2. Camping stoves are allowed only within Designated Campfire Use Sites and with a California Campfire Permit.
  3. No camp stoves are permitted outside of the Designated Campfire Use Sites, meaning no camp stoves in the backcountry.
  4. No smoking outside of a Designated Campfire Use Site or inside an enclosed vehicle or building.

That being said, current conditions across the Los Padres are prime for hiking, exploring, riding, backpacking and/or wandering.  While the idea of camping without a fire or backpacking without a stove might sound unpleasant, give it a shot and you might end up liking the weight savings, extra sleep or simplicity that “cold camping” provides.  There’s an old saying that challenges are opportunities for improvement or when life gives you lemons make lemonade.  With that in mind, here are a few tips you can try in order to turn your fire’less camping into a safe, fun and memorable camping experience:

The weather has been great, there’s still good water in the usual good water places and remember that HikeLosPadres.com has lots of current camp and trail condition reports to help with your trip planning.  Regardless of fire or stove, we hope you find some time over the coming weeks to visit your favorite trail, check out that hidden canyon you’ve always wanted explore or grab a friend and seek out those fall Los Padres colors.

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2020 LOS PADRES CALENDAR

The LPFA will once again publish a wall calendar for 2020 featuring the vistas, mountains, waterfalls and plants/animals we love from across the Los Padres. This will be our 8th year organizing LP calendars and we are looking for photos from you to include within the calendar. The calendars should print in early December and be ready in time for the holidays. If we use one of your photos, we’ll of course credit you within the calendar and also send you a calendar to hang up in your kitchen, gear nook or office. The calendars will be available online as well as at your local LP Ranger Station or Visitor Center.

If you have a photo you’d like to submit, please email INFO@LPForest.org or you can check the link below for more information. Thanks in advance and looking forward to hearing from some of you soon…..

https://lpforest.org/2020-los-padres-calendar/

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Grapevine Sunrise & Moonset, LPFA Working Vacation, October 2019

FOREST 411

• Over the past month sections of the following Los Padres trails have been maintained by the Forest Service or your friendly neighborhood trail group: Madulce Peak Trail, Big Pine Spring Camp Trail, Deal Connector, Rancho Nuevo Trail, Matilija Falls Trail, Pine Ridge Trail, Arroyo Burro Trail, Santa Cruz Trail, Gridley Trail, Camuesa Connector Trail, Cold Spring Trail, Hot Springs Trail, Romero Trail, San Ysidro Trail, Baron Trail, Fishbowls Trail, Jesusita Trail, Tunnel Trail, Cedar Creek Trail, Grapevine Trail, Sisquoc Trail, Big Cone Spruce Trail and Matilija Trail.

• As we approach the rainy season expect to see some of the gates across the Los Padres swing shut due to the seasonal gate closure regulations.  We’ve not heard of any closures as of yet but all the Ojai area gates will close by December 15 and the other gates should shut as storms begin approach.  If you’re heading out to a trailhead and you’re unsure if the gate might be open or closed, we strongly suggest contacting the local Ranger District before you head out.  We’ll keep you posted as gates start to shut.

• For those of you who hike the far Southern Los Padres or plan on doing the Condor Trail, we’ve heard a rumor that the Pothole and Agua Blanca Trailhead will be moving before the end of the year from the Lake Piru Campground to right next to the start of the Pothole Trail.  This will mean that the public will be able to drive all the way to the start of the Pothole Trail rather than having to walk miles along the paved Piru Lake Road.  The plan to move the trailhead has been in the works for a few years now but it’s looking like it might actually happen by late 2019.  We’ll keep everyone posted on this as well.  This will be terrific……

More Condor Trail, it was announced earlier this week that 800 acres of the Trout Creek properties above Arroyo Grande were transferred from the Wilderness Land Trust to the Los Padres Forest.  The Trout Creek properties were purchased by the Wilderness Land Trust earlier this year from private sellers and as a result are now protected for public enjoyment.  The Condor Trail passes through Trout Creek.

• Speaking of condors, the population of California condors has now surpassed 100 across the central California region.

• CalTrans announced that they will continue the preemptive closure of Hwy 1 during large storm events for the 2019-2020 winter season.  The closures will be south of Big Sur, keep this in mind if you have plans to visit the area over the winter months.

• Speaking of Big Sur, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance has been working hard to reopen the Los Padres portion of the famed Pine Ridge Trail.  They have trail crews scheduled to work the trail for much of the fall and again starting back up next spring.  Three cheers – hip hip hooray for VWA!  In the meantime we want to remind everyone that the Pine Ridge Trail remains closed to the public due to dangerous trail conditions.  If all goes according to plan, the PRT should reopen sometime in the next year or two.  We’ll keep you posted…..

• And speaking of awesome people doing awesome things for our trails, the 5th Annual Turkey Trot fundraiser for the Franklin Trail successfully launched earlier this month.  The Franklin Turkey Trot is an excellent example of trail lovers finding creative ways to support the trails they love most. Very cool……

• For years and years people have been enjoying the famed mountain biking trails along West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo.  While the trails were in good shape and frequently used, they were never officially part of the Forest Service inventory of System Trails and as such were technically illegal trails.  Thanks to the local SLO trail community and the Forest Service working together, the NEPA process has begun to adopt and legalize many of these West Cuesta trails.  The Forest Service is accepting comments regarding the West Cuesta Trails through November 24.  Click here for more details.  This is a terrific example of the FS and the trail community working together towards a mutually beneficial goal.  Cheers again!

• The Forest Service issued a forest order on October 22 to close Dry Canyon and Dome Springs Campground in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District due to potential live explosives and artillery.  Read more here and closure map here.

Dave Weaver Award Winners (L to R): Mickey McTigue, Jasonn Beckstrand, Otis Calef, Mike Smith. Missing from the photo are Rik Christensen and Bob Burtness
Photo Dan Najera

• LPFA President Jasonn Beckstrand was recognized earlier this month as the 2019 winner of the coveted Dave Weaver Wilderness Award.  The Dave Weaver Award is named in honor of the late Dave Weaver who helped start the Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Program here in the Los Padres Forest.  Dave was a huge advocate for volunteers working with the Forest Service to accomplish mutual goals. Dave’s spirit lives on in so much of what we do across the Los padres and his award is given annually as a lifetime achievement for outstanding Los Padres volunteers.  Jasonn is the 6th award winner joining Rik Christensen (2014), Mickey McTigue (2015), Mike Smith (2016), Bob Burtness (2017) and Otis Calef (2018).

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The Infamous Devil’s Slide, Upper Sisquoc Trail
Recently restored by the LPFA Trail Crew and LPFA Volunteers as part of a NFWF Trail Grant, photo J. Morris

The Los Padres is ALIVE!

The Los Padres is ALIVE right now!  photo Humphrey

Hello Friends,

I spent some time earlier today writing an entirely too long paragraph which I was hoping would open this LPFA Newsletter.  It went on and on about how “alive” the Los Padres is right now and how that’s both good and bad.  I got pretty deep, by my standards, looking at this years extreme seasonal plant growth, the impacts that growth is having on our trails and theories as to why we’re experiencing so much “life” this year compared to previous years.  I compared this years rainfall totals with earlier years (we had more rain in 2011 & 2017), rambled on about theories as to why there are tens of thousands of oak seedlings covering the lower Sisquoc this year and prophesied about why the bear have been so active.  After all that writing, all that research and all that theorizing…….  I changed my mind.  It’s the start of a beautiful weekend, let’s save the rambling for another time, a Tuesday or Wednesday perhaps.  For now, let’s focus on pretty forest pictures and getting out and enjoying your forest.  Go for a hike, go for a ride.  Explore, bushwhack, swim.  We can worry about overgrown trails another time, perhaps next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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It’s out there…… photo JLiu

FIRE RESTRICTIONS

Effective June 29, the Los Padres Forest raised fire restrictions for the season.  You can read all the details at the link below but essentially campfires are permitted only in Designated Campfire Use Sites, think official FS car-campgrounds.  Backcountry campfires are prohibited at the moment but camp stoves are still legal across the forest.  Again, more details at the link below, learn it:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lpnf/home/?cid=stelprdb5401877

Be safe everyone……

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Summer Sespe Splendor, photo DHall

FOREST 411

• There have been quite a few trails maintained over the past month or so across the Los Padres by the FS and your local volunteer organizations.  Here’s a quick list, remember you can visit HikeLosPadres.com for more information about these wonderful trails: Aliso Canyon, Arroyo Burro (north), Baron, Cold Spring, Deal, Devils Canyon, Franklin, Manzana, Matilija Falls, McMenemy, Poplar, Rancho Nuevo, Raspberry Spring, Rattlesnake Canyon, Romero, San Ysidro, Santa Barbara Canyon, Sisquoc, Terrace Creek

• We’ve been hearing about a lot of poodle-dog bush sightings in the Ventura County portions of the Thomas Fire.  Poodle-dog is a fire-follower with beautiful head-high purple flowers this time of the year.  Don’t let the beauty fool you as the plant can cause very similar reactions to that of poison oak.  Learn what poodle-dog looks like and do your best to avoid it, but take lots of pictures because they sure are pretty, wouldn’t you say?

A field of poodle-dog on Howard Creek Trail, photo HLP

• The Buckhorn OHV Road off of Paradise Road reopened on July 4 after being closed for nearly three years following the August 2016 Rey Fire.  Ride safe everyone…..

• The Forest Service has been busy over the past month cleaning up some backcountry pot grow sites.  You can read more here and here.

• For those of us interested in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FS is proposing some revisions to their current NEPA regulations.  There are pros and there are cons to potential revisions.  If you’d like to learn more or share your thoughts, click the link above.  We have until August 12 to provide comments.

• The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act made news this week as it was presented by Salud Carbajal at a congressional subcommittee hearing in Washington DC.  If approved, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will designate nearly 250,000 acres of land across the Los Padres and Carrizo Plain as wilderness, create two new Wild and Scenic Rivers and designate the Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail.  You can watch the subcommittee hearing here.

Backflipping for summer deep in the LP Backcountry, photo BStevens

Los Padres Swing the Gates & National Trails Day

Is that ‘June Gloom’, or yet another wave of storms headed our way?  Silver Peak Wilderness, photo Toejam

Hello Friends,

It sure seems like every time we’re ready to call an end to our 2018-19 rainy season, another storm or two pops up on the Doppler.  It’s not often we get any significant rain in May.  Yet this year, on top of all the rain we’ve already had, we made a serious run at the all-time record for rain in the month of May.  Even this past week we had some odd early season thunderstorms which caused flash flood warnings across much of the Los Padres.  As a whole, the LP is well over our seasonal average rainfall totals with most stations across the forest recording 115-140% of annual rainfall totals.  It’s certainly been an exciting year for weather but we all know the heat will be coming soon so until then lets be sure to enjoy all the overcast, dreary, precipitation filled days we can.

Speaking of precipitation and rain delays, the Forest Service has done a good job over the past few weeks of getting most of the seasonal road closures open across the forest.  Here’s the latest and greatest on gate closures and openings:

I know many of us have been waiting patiently (some impatiently) for the gates to swing open this year.  Now is the time, most of the gates are open and the forest is yours to enjoy responsibly!  Many flowers are still blooming, some of the protected hillsides remain green and water is still flowing across most of the drainages.  Get out and enjoy your forest and if you come across anything interesting, dangerous, a trail impediment or have any questions please share on HikeLosPadres.com, email us (INFO@LPForest.org) or contact your local district ranger office.  Have at it and as always be cautious and safe!

Trail work is ________!  Fun?  Rewarding?  Radical?  Necessary?  Fill the blank in for yourself during an upcoming NTD trail project LPFA, Thomas Fire Trail photo D Najera

NATIONAL TRAILS DAY 2019

National Trails Day (NTD) is an annual day of trail celebration where thousands of hikers, bikers, riders and trail users across the country donate their time to help protect and maintain the trails they love.  While NTD is technically the first Saturday of June, NTD hosted projects usually spill over a few weeks before or after the actual National Trails Day.  This year is no different with a few NTD projects still scheduled on both June 8 and June 15, see list below.  While it would be great for you to make it to a trail project this month, the essence of National Trails Day is much more than just a singular day each year.  Dedicate every month, every week and every day you spend on the trail to the spirit of a NTD event.  It can be as easy as picking up a few pieces of trash along the trail, helping clear a downed branch from the trail corridor or simply sharing what you found with your local trail organizations or agencies.  And of course, you can always step up your game and try adopting your favorite trail as well.  Every bit helps!  Hope you can make it to an upcoming trail event near you:

Deep Emerald Gems Around Every Corner, the Lower Sisquoc – LPFA Working Vacation this week!

FOREST 411

– The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center summer series of weekend interpretive events is off and running.  In June we have presentations and talks covering the Wonderful World of Bees, the Last Days of Dinosaurs and Saving the California Condors.  Always something going on at Wheeler!  Hope to see you soon….

– Speaking of the condor, our local 400+ mile Los Padres thru-hike, the Condor Trail has been seeing some activity this season.  There are currently at least three people hiking the CT and another few who have already completed it this year.  The CT made an appearance on a recent Backpacker Radio podcast and rumor has it that a guide book is in the works as well.  Stay tuned, we’re certain to be hearing more about the Condor Trail in the years to come….

– And along those lines, Piper (Diane) from Santa Barbara successfully connected the Los Padres with the PCT backpacking from NIRA to Agua Dulce.  This was Piper’s second time completing this epic hike.  You can follow her journey through a series of YouTube videos she put together.  Check it out…..

– If you’ve ever driven up Hwy 33 you’ve probably noticed the remains of Matilija Hot Springs on the left across from what used to be the U.S.A.’s Smallest Post Office.  The VC Star recently ran an article discussing the future of the hot springs along with a small video tour of how it fared during the Thomas Fire.

– The Partnership for Resilient Communities steel ring net project above Montecito is in full swing.  There are 6 nets currently being installed across West Fork Cold Spring, East Fold Cold Spring, Buena Vista and San Ysidro canyons.  If you’re in the neighborhood, go check them out, they are not hard to spot.

East Fork Cold Spring ring net, lying in wait…..

– From sediment capture to sediment flow, the San Clemente Dam was removed in 2015 along the Carmel River in large part to help restore local steelhead populations.  Reports this spring are showing that steelhead numbers along the Carmel are way up from previous years.  You can read about it here and here. This is potentially a good sign of things to come for other failing Los Padres area dams including the Los Padres Dam and the Matilija Dam.

– The Los Padres National Forest is seeking public comment on a recently proposed forest-wide Invasive Plant Treatment ProgramPublic comment can be submitted to the Forest Service before either June 19 or June 27 (conflicting reports).  You can read much more on this proposal here.

– This is pretty cool, the Forest Fire Lookout Association in conjunction with the Los Padres National Forest will be training volunteers to spot smoke from the Chews Ridge Lookout tower (36.312201, -121.568204) in Monterey County.  If interested, please see flier.  This is a neat concept for a few different reasons.  Can you think of any other lookout towers across the Los Padres that would be worthwhile to reactivate and setup similar volunteer programs?  Lets do it!

– Do you shop at Amazon?  If so, please shop through the AmazonSmile program and choose the LPFA as your charitable organization.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of all eligible purchased back to the LPFA.  It adds up quick and goes right back towards the forest and trails you love!  You can start shopping right now by clicking this link or choosing the Los Padres Forest Association within the AmazonSmile program.  Thanks in advance and happy shopping!

Otis, Susie, Beth, Kathleen and String Packing the May 2019 Upper Sisquoc Working Vacation, Judell Trail, photo Beckstrand

Thomas Fire Closure Update & NTD 2018

Naked Matilija Wilderness
THOMAS FIRE CLOSURE LIFTED
The Forest Service unexpectedly lifted their Thomas Fire closure last week.  This reopens all of the Los Padres portion of the Thomas Fire burn scar to most of its normal use.  While the majority of the public should be rejoicing at the chance to get back into the forest, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  Here are a few tweaks and warnings you should be aware of before relaunching into the forest:

  • While the Forest Service has reopened their previously closed land, both the City and County of Santa Barbara have decided to keep their portions of the burn area closed.  You can read more details on the Noozhawk article by Ray Ford.  The City and County of SB control much of the lower portions of the Santa Barbara Frontcountry, including the trailheads at Cold Spring, San Ysidro and Hot Springs Canyon.  This means that while the upper Frontcountry within the Los Padres is open, people cannot access the trails through the more popular lower trailheads.  This has created a bit of a conundrum as stakeholders and trail-users attempt to figure out the best ways to legally enjoy the trails.  We’ll keep you posted as news develops……..
  • The LPFA has been busy over the past days installing yellow warning signs at the trailheads around the Thomas burn area, see photo below.  Please do be careful if you are within the burn area.  There are many loose rocks and hazard trees that have not succumbed to gravity quite yet.  Pay special attention on switchback sections where people above might trigger a loose rock on trail users below.  Also, if you plan on camping in the burned area, be really careful of hazard trees and limbs that might fall.
  • Portions of the town of Montecito remain in a state of disrepair as they continue to deal with repercussions from the Thomas Fire and January 9 debris flows.  There is still a lot of heavy equipment moving rocks and pushing dirt, and some shocking house damage remains within the community.  Please be mindful and respectful.
  • The Romero Camuesa Road from Romero Saddle down towards Pendola remains closed to vehicles/motorcycles as does Divide Peak OHV.  Hikers and bicyclists are able to use these roads.  No timetable has been set as to when the road and OHV route might reopen but don’t count on it happening anytime soon.
  • Both Rose Valley Campground and Middle Lion Campground remain closed.  No news as to when they might reopen.
  • While the forest is open, most of the trails have received little or no trail work since the winter rains.  You should plan on the trails taking significantly longer to travel than normal and be careful attempting shuttle trips as there may be some impassable sections of trail that may cause changes in your plans.
  • There have been some reports from within the burn area of the dreaded fire-follower plant called the Poodle Dog Bush.  Our unfriend, the Poodle Dog, causes human reactions similar to poison oak.  It’s a very picturesque purple flower that can grow in large robust fields that look like something you should dance through rather than skirt around.  Google search it please…….

Other than that, the forest has been reopened from the lower Sespe out to Gibraltar Road and up to Hwy 33.  Enjoy, be safe and please let us know if you come across any downed trees or horrible sections of trail that need significant work.  We’re helping compile a list of trail issues and any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Please share your reports on www.HikeLosPadres.com.  THANKS and be safe!

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This was (is) Matilija Camp? NATIONAL TRAILS DAY

National Trails Day is this coming Saturday, June 2 and the Los Padres has four trail projects scheduled within our forest:

MATILIJA TRAIL, Ventura County
The LPFA is organizing a trail project into the Thomas Fire burn area and focusing on restoring the lower portion of the Matilija Trail from the trailhead up to Matilija Camp.  The trail is covered in downed trees (crosscut sawyers needed) and burnt brush that we’ll be clearing from the trail corridor and if time allows we might work to uncover Matilija Camp, which was buried in boulders.  We’ll be meeting Saturday at 8am at Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center and working until 2pm.  REI will be joining us back at Wheeler Gorge with their famous “CHILL ZONE” and we’ll have a quick BBQ for the volunteers around 3pm.  It should be a special day and a lot of fun.  For more information check us out here or email INFO@LPForest.org

DAVY BROWN TRAIL, Santa Barbara County
The LPFA will also be hosting a trail project on June 2 along the Davy Brown Trail, off of Figueroa Mountain near Los Olivos.  We’ll be meeting at the upper Davy Brown Trailhead at 8am and from there working down Davy Brown and perhaps out the Willow Spur Trail.  Work will be mainly clearing downed trees and brush from along the trail.  Mike Smith is the project leader and we’ll work until the afternoon before returning to the trailhead.  Davy Brown is one of the more scenic trails in the area providing ocean views from the trailhead as well as views of Hurricane Deck.  It’s also home to a great variety of plants and flowers that make Figueroa Mountain so famous.  We hope to see you there.  Please RSVP if you can make it (INFO@LPForest.org) and click here for more details.

BOULDER CANYON TRAIL, Ventura County
Mark Subbotin will be leading a sawyer assault down the Boulder Canyon Trail along the northern slope of Pine Mountain.  There is an estimated 20+ trees down along the trail and we’re fairly certain they’ll get them all!  This is also part of the Condor Trail.  Details will be provided by Mark and the Mt Pinos Volunteers, you can reach Mark at: MSubbotin76@Gmail.com.

HORSEPASTURE TRAIL, Monterey County
The VWA is hosting a car-camping potential multi-day project along the Horsepasture Trail.  They’ll be working hard on Saturday and then playing equally hard on Sunday.  Sounds like a great project and a terrific way to get to know the area and the people who help keep the trails open.  RSVP required, please click here for more details.

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The Quick Gray Fox Jumps Over the Newly Restored Trail, photo Humphrey
FOREST 411

• As if this weekend wasn’t busy enough, the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center is hosting a special talk on Saturday at 11am by local hiking author Dr. James Caballero entitled “Hiking Be Prepared”.  It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned hiking stud or a trail newbie, you’re assured to learn something new!  See you at Wheeler……. and stay for the REI BBQ!

GREAT NEWS!  The Ojai Ranger District released a scoping letter last week outlining an environmental proposal to approve all the ORD trails for Level 1-2 trail maintenance.  See attached letter to learn more and please respond if you’d like to see the Ojai trails improved.

• This weekend marked the launch of a temporary shuttle service that shuttles visitors from the Big Sur Station parking lot down to Pfeiffer Beach and back.  Beach access to Pfeiffer and overcrowding has been a serious problem over the past decade and the shuttle service is a pilot project to see if a shuttle can prevent traffic jams along Sycamore Canyon Road.  By most accounts the first weekend was a big success.  We’ll share more information on this in a future email.

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Pay Attention to the Thomas Fire Warning Signs, and Especially Pay Attention to the Signs of Thomas Fire Warnings, photo Gordon J.

Late Spring Volunteer Projects

Here Pollywog Pollywog, photo Humphrey

LATE SPRING 2018 TRAIL PROJECTS

Hi Everyone,

Here’s a list of some upcoming LPFA and non-LPFA trail projects and specific contacts in case you’d like to volunteer.  Hope to see you out there……..

May 16 – White Rock Trail Work: The LPFA continues work clearing brush along the Figueroa Mtn network of trails.  Up next is White Rock Trail.  Led by Bryan Conant, we’ll be focused on brushing a middle 1/2 mile section of the trail.  Please RSVP via email: INFO@LPForest.org

May 18-21 – Bluff Camp Sawyer Trip: Led by Mickey McTigue, we’ll be driving in to Bluff Cabin via the Buckhorn Rd and Upper Oso.  From Bluff we’ll be day-tripping up to both the Mission Pine and Sisquoc Trails (part of the Condor Trail) to cut out fallen trees across the trail.  Work will be primarily crosscut with some brushing intermixed.  This work is within Santa Barbara County within the San Rafael Wilderness.  For information or to sign up please contact Mickey at: mickey.joecache@gmail.com

May 19 – Santa Barbara Canyon Crosscut: Join Mark Subbotin as he leads a project to cut out two large oak trees along the Santa Barbara Canyon Trail (along the Condor Trail).  The first tree is 3.2 miles from the trailhead while the second is 4.1 miles.  To sign up please email Mark at: msubbotin76@gmail.com

May 20 – Tumamait Trail Crosscut: Mark will be at it again, this time working the Tumamait Trail high atop the Chumash Wilderness.  They’ll be cutting out three downed trees about 2.5 miles out from the trailhead.  Mark can be reached at: msubbotin76@gmail.com

May 26 – Sulphur Spring Sawyer Project: Bob Burtness has been caring for the Sulphur Spring Trail since the 1970’s.  It’s become impassable due to fallen downed trees.  Bob will be leading a project on May 26 to help cut out the downed trees along the trail.  The work will either be using chain saws or crosscut, depending on PAL fire levels.  Sulphur Spring Trail is located off of Figueroa Mtn Rd near the San Rafael Wilderness.  For more information please contact: INFO@LPForest.org

June 2 – Chorro Grande Trail: The LPFA will once again celebrate National Trails Day by hosting a much overdue trail projects.  This year we’ll be working the Chorro Grande Trail within the Ojai Ranger District.  Chorro Grande is a lovely trail nestled between Hwy 33 and Pine Mtn ranging in elevation from 4,000ft to over 6,000ft.  We’ll be primarily brushing the middle portion of the trail.  Jasonn Beckstrand will be leading the efforts.  For more information email: INFO@LPForest.org

June 2 – Boulder Canyon Trail: Mark Subbotin will be leading a chain saw or crosscut project down the Boulder Canyon Trail (Condor Trail) focused on clearing an estimated 20+ trees.  This will also be part of the National Trails Day celebration.  For more information or to sign up, please email Mark: msubbotin76@gmail.com

June 8-10 – Alamar Trail Sawyer & Tread: The LPFA will be hosting one last project this year focused on clearing the Alamar Trail (part of the Condor Trail) within the Dick Smith Wilderness.  Led by Bryan Conant, we’ll be driving to Alamar Saddle and working from the Saddle down 3 miles into the canyon.  The majority of the work will be crosscut with some brushing and tread work mixed in for good measure.  INFO@LPForest.org to sign up or learn more.

June 15-18 – Upper Sisquoc Trail Project: Mike Smith is leading another assault on the Upper Sisquoc.  The exact location of this project is TBD but it will be somewhere between Alamar Saddle and Heath Camp.  For more information or to sign up please email Mike at: TrailSmith@LPForest.org

Alamar Downed Tree, Snow No Longer Included

 

 

 

Condor, Sycamore and Baer……. OH MY!

BAER Trail Protection, San Ysidro Trail, photo Carr
Hello Friends – We hope you are doing well and finding some time to splash in the puddles!

If you’ve been anywhere near a fire over the past few years, you’ve probably heard the words “BEAR WORK” and might not know exactly what that means.  We get asked about it all the time and it’s BAER WORK (pronounced BEAR).  So what is BAER?  This is directly from the Los Padres NF website:

The US Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team’s purpose is to assess threats to life, property, and cultural and natural resources from fire-induced changes to the watershed that can cause erosion, sedimentation, flooding, and debris flows.
Basically what happens is that after any larger scale fire, the USFS dispatches a team of specialists to study and survey the future impacts that fire might play within the downstream communities and to the resources within the forest.  This team is called the BAER team (see acronym above) and they’re usually the first people on the ground as the flames die down.  The BAER team studies all the potential risks from the fire, generates reports outlining those risks, prescribes treatments designed to mitigate those potential risks and then performs those treatments within the forest.  BAER studies include archaeology, road engineering, trail protection, fisheries, soils, hydrology and more.  All the Thomas Fire reports are published on the FS website in case you are interested in the details.  So remember, the next time you hear a post-fire BAER reference, you can amaze your friends by telling them it has nothing to do with Smokey or Boo-Boo and then for bonus nerd points follow that up with a NIRA reference (National Industrial Recovery Act).
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It just feels like Burkittsville, along the Condor Trail
CONDOR TRAIL TALK
Is the Condor Trail on your bucket list?  Do you fear you’ll kick the bucket if you attempt the Condor Trail?  Do you enjoy exploring new places across the Los Padres?  If you answered YES to any of those questions then you have to come to the Condor Trail Talk on Friday March 23 at the Balboa Building in Santa Barbara.  The Trail Talk is being hosted by the Condor Trail Association, LPFA and REI and we’ll be welcoming 4 sets of hikers who either finished the CT in 2017 or came really really close.  Each set of hikers will share stories from their journey across the Los Padres and it should be really cool hearing how different each journey was based on time of year and what they encountered along the way.  The talk is free, doors open at 6:30pm, we’ll have a raffle, silent auction, maybe a game or two and some beverages to kick your weekend off in style.  Come one, come all – as long as space allows!  Hope to see you there……
Condor Trail 2017 Hikers
Friday March 23 – Doors Open 6:30pm
Balboa Building – 735 State Street – Santa Barbara
*parking can be tough, suggest Paseo Nuevo*
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Toejam Taking in the Lower Sisquoc, January 2018
LOWER SISQUOC WORKING VACATION
Sycamore Camp, April 14-22
We’re happy to announce our latest and greatest LPFA Working Vacation, this time along the Sisquoc Trail, based at Sycamore Camp in the spectacular San Rafael Wilderness.  The plan is to drive in to the Jackson Trailhead along the Sierra Madres on Saturday morning April 14.  From there we’ll backpack 4 miles down to Sycamore Camp, which will be our camp for the week.  We’ll be joined by the usual cast of mule packers and exquisite backcountry cooks that make camping life so enjoyable while on a Working Vacation.
Our mission for the week is to clear the trail from Sycamore Camp downstream to Big Bend Canyon. As mentioned, we’ll have mule support to bring in tasty food and cold sudsy beverages while Rich Scholl will once again be cooking up a storm, providing the best in wilderness camp cooking, including the now infamous “COFFEE’S READY, HUH!”.  No joke, some people come just to hear coffee’s ready, huh!  Or is it the Woot Woot that they come for?  Either way, all food is provided for volunteers and we promise you’ll never leave hungry.
While we’ll be at Sycamore for a whole week, there will be plenty of opportunities for shorter stays and we’ll make room for you if you can spend 3, 4, 5 or more days on the Working Vacation. Let us know what works for your schedule and we can most likely make it work for us.  You will have to backpack in 4 miles to the camp, including a hard steep hike back out at the end of the WV.  We usually work from 8am – 3pm but we’ll take however many hours you’re willing to give.  Most of the work will be using loppers to cut back the brush, the occasional sawing of a branch and clearing ravel from the trail corridor.
The Working Vacations are always a great time! It’s a terrific way to give back to the trails you love, explore some new parts of the forest, get into a backcountry groove and meet great friends along the way.
To sign up or to learn more please email: INFO@LPForest.org

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Doesn’t that look a whole lot more inviting!

FOREST 411
– There has been a bit of controversy surrounding post-fire reseeding and if it’s beneficial or not, in particular with the recent Thomas Fire.  We reached out to the FS as well as the California Chaparral Institute to learn about what their recommendations are.  Attached you’ll find some notes and letters with opinions.  Enjoy……

– Tragically, on February 15 there was an accidental self-inflicted gunshot caused death at the Glass Factory target shooting area along East Camino Cielo.  Due to the investigation of the shooting, the Glass Factory will remain closed until March 27.

– Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast remains closed just north of Salmon Guard Station at Mud Creek.  There have been a few additional slides that have caused delays and/or closures due to the recent storms but all of those have been cleared.  If Hwy 1 is on your radar, be sure to check CalTrans or BigSurKate ahead of time.

– Even with the recent “March Marvel” (we can’t call it a miracle just yet), we remain well below the average rainfall totals across the forest for the season.  We’re still fighting to overcome a February that had single digit percentages of average rainfall across most of the Los Padres.  Figueroa Mountain received only 2% of their average rain in February, Three Peaks in the Silver Peak region only 7%.  By comparison, Fig Mtn is 174% of normal for March so far and Three Peaks is a whopping 757% of normal!  March is off to a good start and fortunately the storms have been light and steady within the fire areas.  Lets pray for more of the same……

– In case you hadn’t heard, the Whittier Fire closure has been lifted and West Camino Cielo is once again open, barring temporary rain closures.  Please tread lightly.  While West Camino is open, the Tequepis Trail remains inaccessible due to the closure of Circle V Ranch.

– Speaking of the Whittier Fire, the cause of the fire was released last month, read here for more information.

– The Thomas Fire closure remains in effect with all of the burned areas (the black) still closed to public access.  This includes access east of Gibraltar Road along East Camino Cielo and all the trailheads accessed via Rose Valley (yes, even Piedra Blanca Trailhead).  There has been no timetable set as to when the Thomas closure will be lifted.

– There’s been some good news coming from the Thomas Fire specifically related to fire impacted animals surviving the fire.  Here’s one about the use of fish skin bandages to help repair burns and the release of two of those bears and a mountain lion cub.  And this article talking about condor #871’s first flight across the Sespe.

– Thanks to the fantastic work of CalTrans, Highway 33 has remained open through all the past series of storms.  Those guys are amazing!  Thanks CalTrans!  That being said, if you plan on driving Hwy 33, please be aware that it could close at any moment and especially around rain events.

– The Los Padres Forest is requesting comments to reissue power-line permits through the forest.  For more information start here.

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Smokin Hot, Cold Spring Sunset

Condor Trail Talk: CANCELLED

Cold Spring Trailhead, Montecito, January 9.  
Where’s the trail?  For that matter where’s the road?  Like a giant spoon was drug down the canyon.
Photo
Ray Ford

CONDOR TRAIL TALK: POSTPONED

Due to yesterdays tragic debris flows that ravaged the Thomas Fire and communities downstream, we’re postponing the Condor Trail Talk tonight and will reschedule for early February.  Words can’t describe the devastation that was witnessed yesterday, mainly throughout the Montecito community.  As I’m sure you all know, access along Hwy 101 is closed from Ventura to Santa Barbara and most of the side streets remain closed due to piles of debris, downed trees and everything else stacked up along the creek banks and roadways.  Much of the community remains isolated and it seems likely even more devastation and loss will be uncovered as crews work to regain access.  While most of the news understandably has been focused on Montecito, there has to be similar mudslides and flows in other communities as well.  From what we’ve heard, Ojai seems to have fared okay but Hwy 33 is closed due to road damage above Wheeler Gorge (see photo below).  We’ll certainly hear more in the coming days and lets hope for better news than we received from Montecito.  It’s even scarier that this storm won’t be our last and most likely won’t be the largest either.  Round 1 is in the books, Mother Nature 1, People 0.

The promising news is that warm drying weather is in the forecast for the next week or more.  Access in and around the Los Padres will remain limited with closures occurring yesterday on just about all the Highways used to access the LP from Hwy 1 in Big Sur to Hwy 166, 150, 33 and of course 101.  Be safe everyone and we hope to see you at the Condor Trail Talk in February.

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Highway 33 Undercut, photo CalTrans

Lets Talk Condor Trail & Winter Storm Warning

The Thomas Fire Didn’t Burn Everything, It Just Feels Like It Did
CONDOR TRAIL TALK
Wednesday January 10 – 6pm – Balboa Building – 735 State St – Santa Barbara
The LPFA and Condor Trail Association are partnering this Wednesday (Jan 10) to host a special Trail Talk focused on the Class of 2016-17 Condor Trail hikers.  We’re really fortunate to have 4 groups of hikers at the event this Wednesday to share stories and photos from their individual exploits along the Condor Trail.  While each of them hiked the same miles, their journeys along those miles are very very different.  It doesn’t matter if you’re dreaming of one day doing the CT or happy just weekend warrior’ing around the Los Padres; you’ll enjoy hearing the fun and sometimes sketchy adventures of these brave CT hikers.  421 miles across the Los Padres – that’s a long way!  Come on out to the Balboa Building at 6pm on Wednesday to hear their tales from the Condor Trail.

In addition we’ll dedicate some time to discuss the Thomas Fire and what the fire means to the Los Padres Forest.  We’ll also have a raffle, some frothy beverages to enjoy compliments of Hollister Brewing Company and enough time to catch up with old fiends and hopefully meet some new ones too.  We hope to see you there.

Any questions or inquiries, please email: INFO@LPForest.org


The Class of 2016-2017 CT Hikers
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Matilija Trout, Facing Some Rough Days Ahead, photo Humphrey
THOMAS FIRE UPDATE
Speaking of the Thomas Fire, the predicted containment date of January 7 has come and gone with the fire holding at 92% containment and having burned 281,893 acres.  The containment % should see an increase over the next few days as most of the Los Padres braces itself for the first large storm of the season.  The storm is currently hitting the Northern Los Padres and has dumped close to two inches already along the Big Sur Coast.  The majority of the storm will hit this evening into tomorrow morning with forecasts predicting 2-6 inches of rain in select locations with downpours potentially at the rate of one inch per hour.  Due to the potential for flash flooding within the fire areas and subsequent debris flows downstream from the fire areas, mandatory evacuations have been issued for most communities under the burn scars covering over 60 miles east to west from Santa Paula Canyon to Refugio including the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn areas.  It’s crazy that less than a month ago the Thomas Fire was threatening to burn houses and now those same houses are threatened from flash flooding.  Good luck to everyone and your homes, be safe……

The closure order for portions of the Los Padres remains intact, closing all forest entry into areas that burned during the Thomas Fire.  There has been a lot of confusion and frustration regarding the closure, including the temporary closing of some of the trails outside the burn area.  Suppression repair is wrapping up and BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) teams remain on the ground working to protect resources in advance of winter storms.  It’ll be a while before the Thomas closure is lifted, please remain patient and obey the closures.

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Thomas’ Final Gasp?  Lion Canyon, January 2
FOREST 411
• Nearly 6 months after starting on July 8, 2017, the Whittier Fire was officially declared “out” on January 1, 2018.  While flames and smoke stopped months ago, there were a few hot spots that remained in portions of the canyons that were too steep and access too difficult to fully extinguish.  An IR flight team flew the Whittier Fire en route to the Thomas Fire and no heat was sensed from within Whittier.

• Sadly, a 40lb bear was euthanized earlier this week along the Sisar Trail.  The bear was burned during the Thomas Fire and was unable to recover.

• Much of the access to the Los Padres is in jeopardy at the moment due to the oncoming storm.  Slides are expected along forest access roads from Hwy 1 in Big Sur (Soberanes Fire) to 154 in Santa Barbara (Whittier Fire) and down through Hwy 192, 150 and 33 (Thomas Fire).  If you have plans to travel through the forest over the coming week, be sure to check access before you head out.  The CalTrans website is a great resource.

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Great work by VWA volunteer sawyers along the Spruce Creek Trail in the Silver Peak Wilderness, photo Cypher

LP Trivia Night & Wilderness Bill Update

Shall We Play A Game? – Los Padres Trivia Night
LP TRIVIA NIGHT – DRAUGHTSMEN – 6PM

Hello Friends !

In case you haven’t heard, the LPFA is hosting a Trivia Night tomorrow 10/18 at Draughtsmen Aleworks microbrewery and taproom in Goleta – 6pm.  Draughtsmen chose the LPFA as the non-profit benefactor for the month of October offering a donation of $1 for each Karma Tap beer consumed over the course of the month.  As part of the month-long celebration, we decided to try a Los Padres themed Trivia Night that should be a lot of fun.  It’s going to be typical barroom style trivia format where teams of 2-6 players compete for prizes over four rounds of questions.  What’s a little different about our Trivia Night is that our questions will all be Los Padres related and we’ve lined up 4 Los Padres VIP’s to host each of the rounds.  Our VIP’s are SB mountain bike guru Chris Orr, backcountry packer extraordinaire Susie Thielmann, Los Padres historian and author Criag Carey, and Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith.  We’ve reviewed most of the questions and it’s going to be tons of fun.  There are some softball questions but also some a few that will challenge even the most seasoned Los Padres explorer.  Each of the VIP’s incorporated questions based on their background within the forest so there will be plenty of answer opportunities for all types of different forest users.  Bring your A game and come play with your team or come alone and join on with another team, it’s going to be great!  See you there……..

 

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Cairn For the Condor Trail, Get it?
CENTRAL COAST HERITAGE PROTECTION ACT
Earlier this week U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal and Senator Kamala Harris reintroduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which if passed would designate nearly 250,000 additional acres of wilderness in the Los Padres, create two new scenic areas, over 150 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and designate the Condor Trail as a National Recreation Trail.  2017 marks the third attempt for this bill with previous introductions in 2014 and 2015.  Here is a link from KEYT showing the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act introduction on Monday at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens and the link above is the actual language of the bill.  It’s not exactly clear if this iteration of the bill will be more successful than the previous two, time will tell.  Stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled for updates……..

 

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Manzana Trail Cribwall, Before and After, Spring 2017

FOREST 411

• The WHITTIER FIRE was officially declared fully contained on October 5.  Whittier started on July 8 and while the the acreage has not grown over the past couple months, a few pesky hot spots kept the fire from 100% containment.  While the fire is contained the closure order remains in effect within the fire perimeter along West Camino Cielo from Lizard’s Mouth to Refugio including the Tequepis Trail.

• Deer hunting general season started this week in Zone D13, which covers much of the Ventura backcountry mostly within the Mt. Pinos Ranger District.  Click here for a map of D13 and here for general information.  D13 started October 14 and ends November 12.

Fires Wrap Up & Condor Trail Talk

Condor Trail View, SLO Backcountry
BryanConant_SLO2SB_1600x400
TRAIL TALK: Condor Trail with Brittany Nielsen

Don’t forget that the 2nd LPFA Trail Talk event is this Thursday at 6:30 in Santa Barbara.  We’ll be welcoming CT Thru-hiker Brittany Nielsen to talk about her journey and time along the Condor Trail.  Space is limited so be sure to sign up ahead of time.  More information can be found here and you can get your tickets here.  We’ll have a raffle featuring items from Patagonia and REI and some other fun and surprises.  Hope to see you Thursday night!

Also, Brittany will be appearing on KCSB radio 91.9 today at 5:00pm.  Check it out on the air or streaming.

Pine Fire Drop, Ventura County Sisar Peak Camera PineFireSisar

FIRES ON THE MOUNTAIN

The skies are currently clear but it’s already been a busy 2016 fire season.  It seems that as soon as one fire is under control, another one is just getting started.  Lets hope that trend stops with the Pine Fire.  Currently all three major LP fires are over 90% contained with mostly mop-up duties remaining.  While some closure orders remain active, the FS has been reopening some previously closed portions of the forest.  See below for more information regarding each incident and remember that the Los Padres remains in Level III fire restrictions.

COLEMAN FIRE – Started June 4 – 2,520 acres – 96% contained – Monterey County
Inciweb Information
Map Image

SHERPA FIRE – Started June 15 – 7,474 acres – 100% contained – Santa Barbara County
Closure Order
Inciweb  Information
Map Image

PINE FIRE – Started June 30 – 2,304 acres – 93% contained – Ventura County
Closure Order (and attached)
Inciweb Information
• Map Image (see attached)
Article about mules supporting fire crews

See, there still is some water out there!  Big Sur Cascade
Remember to check HLP for more recent water information

BigSurCascade
UPCOMING EVENTS

A few upcoming dates, events, projects, presentations or things you might want to know.
If you have any forest-related events to add to this list, let us know and we’re more than happy to pimp your event!


July 21: LPFA Trail Talk Series, Condor Trail
July 24: REI Trail Run Series, Elings Park

August 11: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Chumash Trails
August 11-13: LPFA Madulce Trail Sawyer Project
August 13: A-Zone South Hunting Season Starts

September 8: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Walking El Camino Real
September 11: Island View Trail Race
September 14: LPFA Backpacking Fundamentals Class
September 24: National Public Lands Day Trail Project, Lion Canyon Trail, Ojai

October 13: Santa Ynez Valley Historic Museum, Rangers of the San Rafael Wilderness
October 16: D-13 Hunting Season Starts
October 22: LPFA Used Gear Sale
October 29: LPFA First Aid & CPR Training