Condor Trail Talk Series & Pine Fire


Hi Everyone,

We’ve got some exciting news to share about the LPFA Trail Talk series of events.  Brittany Nielsen will be coming up to Santa Barbara on July 21 to give a talk about her 2015 experience thru-hiking the 421 mile Condor Trail from Lake Piru (Ventura County) to Bottcher’s Gap (Monterey County).  This is our second Trail Talk Series event and will once again be held at the Santa Barbara Veterans Hall off Cabrillo Blvd right across from the beach.  The talk is free for LPFA members or $10 for guests and includes a complimentary social happy half-hour both before and after the talk.  We’ll top it off with a few additional speakers, some trivia games and a raffle.  You can learn more on, become a LPFA Member here or get your tickets directly at EventBrite.  If you have any questions about your LPFA membership, please contact  Thanks everyone, Brittany has a great story to share and we hope you are interested in attending.  Looking forward to seeing you there……..

Another wildfire started Thursday morning along Pine Mountain in the Ventura Backcountry.  The exact location of the fire is still being worked out but the map above is the best information we could find as of now.  The Pine Fire is along the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail (also part of the Condor Trail) in the vicinity of Haddock Camp and the upper reaches of Beartrap Canyon.  This is a very steep and rugged portion of the forest in the neighborhood of 6,000ft elevation.  The area features large rock outcrops with patches of chaparral around predominantly pine trees.  The Pine Fire is currently at 300 acres and is being hit hard with air tankers and fire crews.  The weather forecast for the weekend is promising as winds should be light and temperatures are going to be on the lower side.  There are road closures as a result of the fire and both Hwy 33 and Lockwood Valley Rd are scheduled to be closed to thru-traffic this weekend.  If you’d like to keep an eye on the fire, your best bet is to use Twitter and follow #PineFire or on Inciweb.  Both the Wolf Fire (2002) and Day Fire (2006) burned near here but we don’t know when the last time this area specifically burned.

Best of luck and thanks to everyone involved in fighting the Pine Fire!

Los Padres is Large

Santa Barbara Canyon Washout, photo Humphrey

Hello Everyone,
The photo above was taken last week along Santa Barbara Canyon in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District.  This was the area hit hardest by the micro-burst tropical storm from three weeks ago.  Just up-canyon from here received over an inch of rain in less than an hour.  This resulted in a flash flood that wiped out the road.  Sort of ironic that too much water is causing problems for the Los Padres this summer.
Left, Brittany May 13 at the iconic Piru Condor Tree
Right, Brittany June 19 wearing a few pounds of dirt at Bottcher’s Gap
The idea of the Condor Trail started just about 20 years ago with the dream of creating a hiking route that connected trails from Lake Piru to NIRA through Ventura and SB Countues.  Since then the dream has grown and the Condor Trail now spans over 410 trail miles covering the entire length of the Los Padres from Lake Piru (southern Ojai Ranger District) up to Bottchers Gap (northern Monterey Ranger District).  While hikers have done large chunks of the Condor Trail (CT) over the years, no one had ever hiked the entire thing, until now.  Brittany Nielson became the first finisher of the Condor Trail earlier this month when she completed the hike from Lake Piru to Bottcher’s Gap.  She solo-hiked the trail and finished in 37 days.  It was interesting talking with her before and after her hike.  I think she gained an appreciation for the Los Padres and a respect for how challenging our forest can get.  She tackled long sections with no trail, heavy bushwhacking in deep canyons, temps ranging from freezing to triple figures, 15mile stretches with no water and day after day without seeing a single person (less than 20 people along the entire trail).  But, she also hiked under old growth redwoods, covered elevations from over 7,000ft to sea level, saw incredible wildlife, ocean views, deep pools and got to experience the solitude the LP is famous for.  She basically took a crash course in Los Padres Backcountry, learning things in a month that many of us took years and years to learn.  Speaking on behalf of everyone involved in supporting her journey, we’re all so proud of Brittany for her resiliency, tough skin, happy go-lucky attitude and ability to fight through the hard times.  This is quite an accomplishment and one that will no doubt put her somewhere in the LP hall of fame.  What’s next for the Condor Trail and/or Brittany?  She would like to return next season and do the hike again.  Perhaps when she does there will be some other thru-hikers following in her footprints along the Condor Trail as well.
Happy Trail Workers
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  The Sierra Club offers a variety of service outings that are organized through their national charter.  These service outings take their volunteers across the country doing volunteer work with various agencies and organizations.  When the Sierra Club was told that their service outing to pull non-native plants at El Capitan State Beach was going to be cancelled due to the Gaviota oil spill, they quickly changed their plans and instead spent a day doing volunteer trail work in the Los Padres.  The LPFA got an email saying there were 13 volunteers needing a trail to work, and we knew right where to put them.  Last week we led the 13 volunteers up the Davy Brown Trail in the Santa Lucia Ranger District.  While the temps were hot, we were able to work about 2miles of trail.  It was great seeing people from outside Central California spending their free time helping our forest.  They were impressed with the Los Padres and we’ve already started a dialog where we’re hoping to lead future projects with the Sierra Club service outings throughout the Los Padres.  Lemons into lemonade for sure.

Thunderstorms, Thru-Hikers and National Trails Day

Old Man Thundercloud

Hello Everyone!

What a crazy weather week we enjoyed last week, especially in the Santa Barbara and Ventura backcountry areas.  It started with a tropical storm last Tuesday that dropped significant rain across the forest.  Most of the Forest got rain with the highest concentration (one inch) occurring on the frontcountry above Santa Barbara.  The weather changed on Wednesday and brought in some incredible thunderstorms that blanketed the backcountry through the weekend.  There were reports of flooding along the Cuyama River and Santa Barbara Potrero recorded an inch of rain in just over an hour – that’s a lot!  We had some of the more impressive storms that we get to see around here.  We even heard comparisons to thunderstorms in New Mexico and the south west.  Pretty cool stuff and we’ll certainly take every bit of rain we can get.  The weather has settled back down and most of the interior is HOT with coastal regions displaying the typical June gloom.  Always nice to see some exciting weather………
There were three trail projects across the Los Padres on Saturday June 6 for National Trails Day.  The LPFA hosted an event along the North Cold Spring Trail.  Our focus was to fix a particularly nasty slide section of the trail that has been causing problems for hikers for most of the past two decades.  We had a great time and did a fantastic job cleaning up the slide.  Big thanks to REI, Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Los Padres Trail Riders, Jack’s Bagels and the Forest Service for their support of the project.  They say a picture tells a thousand words, check the movie below:
Most of you have probably heard about the Condor Trail.  For those who have not, it’s a route of connected trails that cross the Los Padres Forest from the Ventura/Los Angeles County line in the south up to Bottcher’s Gap in Monterey County.  The total length of the trail is 411 miles long.  The concept of the trail has been around for nearly 20 years, headed up by the Condor Trail Association.  Over the years we’ve had a few people attempt to hike large sections of the trail but no one ever attempted to hike the entire thing….. until now.   In mid-May a solo female hiker name Brittany started on the trail from Lake Piru.  She has now been on the trail for nearly 5 weeks and is on pace to complete the trail later this week and become the first Condor Trail finisher.  It’s been a roller coaster journey for Brittany.  She’s had to endure snow, heat and lost trails but along the trail has met new friends and had some amazing experiences.  We’ll keep you posted as the she gets close to finishing.  I’m sure she’ll have some great stories to share.  Most amazing in my opinion is that before she started this hike, she had never set foot in the Los Padres.  Good luck Brittany on her last 60miles of trail.

Some quick updates on access issues across the Forest:

The gate to the Romero Camuesa Rd at Divide Peak is scheduled to reopen Wednesday of this week.  A combination of rain and a crew working on the road has led to the closure.

The retaining wall construction continues along the Dough/Squaw Flat Rd in Ojai.  The road is scheduled to reopen June 19 but until then the road will be closed from 8am – 12pm and again from 1pm – 5pm.  Call the Forest Service for more information.

There is continued retaining wall construction along Highway 1 near the Monterey/SLO County line.  There seems to be weekly changes as to when the road will be closed or open.  Currently the road is closed at night time for construction and open during the day.  If heading along Highway 1 either to or from Big Sur, you’ll want to contact CalTrans to get the most up-to-date information on closures.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the week………..

Tar Creek and Biddle Park

Thunder Clouds in April
What season is it…?  It’s been rather hard to figure that out of late.  This past week we had June gloom, temps in the high 80’s, rain, wind, showers and most surprisingly some rather large summer’esque thunderheads.  There’s been reports from around the Forest that most of the backcountry potreros have turned brown and that the poison oak is already starting to turn red.  We’ve also heard of springs going dry that haven’t done so in decades.  The creeks are still flowing due to the marginal rain season we’ve had but the deep springs are going dry as a result of the 4 years of drought we’re enduring.  That has flipped compared to what we had last year where the creeks were dry but the springs had water.  It’s going to get real interesting once summer truly kicks in and the creeks go dry.  Water will be real scarce.  Until then, almost all the creeks have water at the moment so get it while you can.We’ve got a couple updates and notes to share today.  As always, if you have any information to share, we are more than happy to spread the news……….
T A R   C R E E K   C L O S U R E
There are quite a few designations for protected lands within the Los Padres.  These include wilderness areas, biological and botanical reserves, recreation areas and Condor Sanctuaries. Of all the designations, the one that offers the most protection is the Condor Sanctuaries. Protected and enforced by federal law, Condor Sanctuaries prohibit any human entry onto those lands. There are two Condor Sanctuaries in the Los Padres, the larger being the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Ventura County. Back before the sanctuary was designated in the mid 1900’s, people would access lower Sespe Creek along a road that dropped down the Tar Creek drainage through what is today the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. When the sanctuary was established, the road was obviously closed. While people stopped driving the road, it was not completely abandoned. The road transitioned into an unofficial trail and continued to be used by recreationalists seeking the water along Tar Creek and the Sespe. This went on for decades even though it was technically illegal to enter the Condor Sanctuary. Unfortunately, over time, Tar Creek gained a bit of a cult following due to its spectacular waterfalls, cliffs and pools. You might say it got discovered – word spread – and it became overrun. Loads of trash, bottle-caps and broken glass accumulated throughout the creek. Sadly, the poop hit the fan in 2009 when a condor was found dead in Tar Creek after getting caught up in some abandoned climbing rope. Not okay. The sanctuary was designed to protect the condor yet it obviously was not working. Something had to give, and now it has. The Forest Service is now enforcing the closure of the Condor Sanctuary and ticketing people who pass along Tar Creek within the Condor Sanctuary. This has been going on for the past months and quite a few tickets have been issued. “Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000 and/or six months in jail”. You can browse the world wide web and find all sorts of information about the Tar Creek closure and how its being perceived by the public. The Forest Service has created a page that explains the plight of the condor and the closure of Tar Creek, linked here:
G I B R A L T A R   C L O S E D

Speaking of closures, for those who have plans to access East Camino Cielo and the Upper Santa Ynez River area within SB County, we have some either good or bad news for you. Gibraltar Rd, which is the main artery for accessing this portion of the forest, is closed for repaving and will remain closed until May 25. This is certainly great long term news for cyclists, who will eventually have fresh pavement to ride, but in the short term the closure may put a damper on some of your backpacking, OHV and camping plans. You can still access East Camino via 154 or Painted Cave.  The bad news is that for South Coasters it means a much longer drive, good news is that the crowds should not be an issue for those willing to take the longer drive.  We’ll keep you posted as the project moves on.


Come join the Los Padres Unit of the Backcountry Horsemen of California and the Condor Trail Association as they host a Wilderness Celebration to raise awareness and fund-raise to build a new trail segment called the Garcia Potrero reroute.  The “trail” through Garcia Potrero has some private property issues and the hope is to build a new section of trail that bypasses the private property.  This is also along the Condor Trail.
The celebration is Saturday May 2 from 11am – 2pm at Biddle Park (Willow Bluff Area) in Arroyo Grande.
There will be Santa Maria Style BBQ, live music, beer, wine, displays, booths and kids activities.  IT WILL BE FUN.  See below for more information.Hope to see you there……….
April 17-26: Working Vacation Upper Sisquoc
May 2: Garcia Potrero Wilderness Celebration
June 5-7: National Trails Day, Mono Campground Trail Weekend
June 27: Big Sur Wilderness Celebration


Logging in progress, Upper Sisquoc Working Vacation, Photo Rik