There’s Snow Better Time in the Los Padres

Is there anything better than an icy cold Topatopa after a long day on the trail?  
Red Reef Trail, Sespe Wilderness – Jan 23, 2021

Hello Friends,

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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Santa Barbara snowshoeing, and, best of all, it comes with ocean views.   photo Dancebymoon

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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Don’t worry, this photo was taken at the 2016 VWR Training.  Check our YouTube Video in honor of January 30 Kiss Your Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Day!

FOREST 411

  • 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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Thanks to the generous #GivingTuesday support, we started working the Santa Cruz Trail down from Alexander Saddle.  It’s going to be a slow push but we’re going….  One step and swing of the tool at a time.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

Hindsight is 2020

The sun sets early over the Mono Jungle this time of year but we’ve spent many long days of late working the new Cold Spring reroute trail.

Hello Friends,

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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Thanks to everyone who donated on #GivingTuesday to continue the LPFA trail work on both the Santa Cruz and Piedra Blanca NRT’s.  We got started earlier this month clearing brush and grooming tread on the Santa Cruz Trail (see photos below) but had to stop due to the latest Stay at Home Order. Can’t wait to get back out there, hopefully soon!

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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Sneak peak at the 2021 Los Padres Calendar, get em while you can!

FOREST 411

• 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.

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places” – Roald Dahl

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

Thankful for the Los Padres Sneaker Snow Storm

Remnants of the sneaky November 2020 snow storm, Pine Mtn, Ventura Backcountry, Tuesday November 10

Hello Friends,

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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Maybe I’ll just hold it after all, Santa Barbara Backcountry, Sunday November 8, photo Bates

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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The aforementioned nastiest wilderness chaparral you can imagine, Mission Pine before and after photos by KVarga

FOREST 411

• 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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The ever-elusive Los Padres maple, looking good enough to almost not notice the Hurricane Deck.

7 Minute Stories, Kendra and Much Much More Los Padres Goodness…

Machesna Mountain Wilderness, so nice to see an area that has not recently burned….. knock knock.

Hello Friends,

On Thursday, LPFA hosted Seven Minute Storytelling! This was our first virtual Zoom event and based on how all things COVID are trending at the moment, it’ll probably not be our last – it was really fun! We wrangled 6 different presenters from across the Los Padres who each gave seven minute presentations about their favorite LP trails, exploits and adventures from around the forest.  Topics included exploring the Ventura Backcountry, Santa Barbara thru-backpacking, off-trail Santa Ynez Mountains, Condor Trail, SLO Backcountry and more…

Click out the presentations on our youtube channel!

Thank you to all our excellent presenters and audience members for a great evening of learning and sharing! Let us know what you thought of this event: info@lpforest.org

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Kendra Moss – our new Program Manager

WELCOME KENDRA!
We have some more great news to share from the LPFA front.  Earlier this summer we had the pleasure of welcoming Kendra Moss to the LPFA team as our new Program Manager.  Kendra has a background in retail, education, and social media management, but most of all she’s a well organized, good person with a passion for helping the forest.  For those of you who haven’t interacted with Kendra yet, she’s terrific and we’re very lucky to have her helping our efforts across the Los Padres.  Three cheers to Kendra and welcome aboard!  

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One of three new wilderness signs the LPFA recently installed in the SLO Backcountry.  
Shout out to SLOPOST and the Forest Service for the support!

FOREST 411

 Faster than a speeding car along Hwy 33.  More powerful than 50 graffiti’ers in Santa Paula Canyon.  Able to destroy person-made creek dams in a single swoop.  Look!  Down in that creek!  It’s a salmon.  It’s a newt.  No, it’s Ellie Mora!  Our latest Volunteer of the Month is one of our favorites, Ellie Mora!  HOORAY!  Ellie has become a true Los Padres superhero, tirelessly championing the efforts to cleanup Santa Paula Canyon and leading her army of fellow volunteers anywhere and everywhere across Ventura County chasing the dastardly hoards of graffiti’ers and trash throwers who dare to damage our public lands.  Ellie is also helping the LPFA with our monthly Ojai First Saturday trail projects and somehow still finds time to be a tremendous role model for her young son.  Like we said, a superhero!  Thank you Ellie for all you do and we think you’re just scratching the surface!  Cheers…..

• Looks like another busy year of illegal marijuana eradication efforts across the forest.  Ventura County has already reported seizing nearly 75,000 plants with 11 suspects being arrested.  Be careful everyone and here are some tips for staying safe should you come across a grow site…..

• Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures or the 2021 Los Padres calendar.  We’re currently going through the hundreds of photo submissions and finalizing the layout for the calendar.  We’re planning on having the calendar to the printer soon in hopes of having the final calendars ready to go by December 1.  To learn more or to order your 2021 LP calendar, click the link here.

• Wherever you find yourself, please be sure to VOTE!  And then treat yourself to a hike or rideafterwards……

• Reminder that the Los Padres remains in fire restrictions that prohibit campfires across the forest and camp stoves are only allowed within Designated Campfire Use sites, meaning no stoves of any kind in the backcountry.  The Forest Service is reviewing these restrictions weekly and we’ll provide updates as they become available.

• The Dolan Fire has had a few recent flare ups from within its perimeter but is holding at 124,924 acres and is currently 98% contained.  BAER efforts are underway to help protect the trails, roads and resources from upcoming rain damage.  The Monterey Ranger District remains closed due to the Dolan Fire although some of the dayuse areas along Hwy 1 have reopened.

• Speaking of Dolan, there is a scheduled release of 7 California condors along the central coast in order to help re-population efforts after the fire related condor deaths earlier this summer.

• If you’re a Santa Barbara Frontcountry trail user, you’ll like to see a recent short film that Montecito Trails Foundation produced called For the Love of the Trails.  Lots of great scenery and even a few cameos.  Check it out…

Can you tell the difference between the poison oak and skunkbrush?



Los Padres Forest Closure Extended Again

Hi Mountain casting a late August pyramid shadow across the smoky Garcia Wilderness. 
Maybe not as spectacular as some of its larger siblings but still pretty cool looking……

FOREST CLOSURE EXTENDED

Hello Friends – let’s cut to the chase but remember, don’t shoot the messenger…..

Earlier this week the Forest Service extended the closure of nine California Forests, including the Los Padres, through October 1.  Here’s a quote from the Regional Forester:

“Continued closures are based on extreme fire conditions, critical limitations of firefighting resources, and to provide for firefighter and public safety,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “We understand how important access to the National Forests is to our visitors.  Our aim is to prevent any new fires on the landscape.”

We’re now in week 3 of this large-scale fire closure and to our knowledge there have been no new fires within any of the closed forests (fact check please).  We know that these closures aren’t very much fun but they do appear to be working.  We do have some hotter weather headed our way next week that should peak on Wednesday and Thursday with inland temps reaching into the mid / high 90’s.  Fingers crossed that the long-term forecasts start to cool and that the forests can safely reopen towards the end of this week (knock knock).  If anyone knows how to perform a rain dance, now’s the time, please.  Wish we had better news and we’ll keep you all posted as events unfold and decisions are made……

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Big Sur Station, saying a big THANK YOU to all the Firefighters, Crews, Support & Families impacted across California

FOREST 411

• The Dolan Fire in the Monterey Ranger District has slowed down a lot over the past week and has been holding at just under 130,000 acres burned.  It is currently 46% contained with an expected full containment date of October 13.  While the forest remains closed around Dolan, for a few different reasons, Highway 1 did reopen earlier last week after being closed for about a month during the fire fight.  Lastly, some more tragic Dolan new; it was reported that nine California condors perished during the fire.  We all hate hearing that but thankfully nine more condors are expected to be released above San Simeon before the end of the year.

• In case you hadn’t heard from earlier this summer, the Esselen Tribe from Monterey County was able to purchase over 1,000 acres of land along the Little Sur River.  This is a special story some 250 years in the making.  Check out more details here.

• Thanks in large part to a grant from REI in addition to some extremely generous public donations, the LPFA Trail Crew was able to spend a week earlier this summer clearing a mile of the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail just above Beartrap Camp.  Once the forest closure is lifted we’d like to head back and complete the remainder of the trail up to the top of the switchbacks and down to Haddock Camp.  In case you’re interested in helping, we’re about $1,000 short of our fundraising goal that would send the crew back out for another week.  If you are interested in donating or to learn more, please click here.  THANK YOU!

• Of course none of us are in the forest right now but if you’ve spent any time exploring the LP you’ve no doubt come across the remnants of illegal marijuana grows.  October is generally harvest time for grow operations within the LP and it can be pretty scary if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Here are some tips and clues about illegal forest grows and what you should do in case you come across a site.  The forest might be closed but they’re still out there.

• It seems that black bear sightings outside of the forest are becoming more and more common.  Last week there was a particularly photogenic bear seen outside of Solvang, another Solvang bear in April, another in LompocSimi Valley and yet another outside Carmel.  There was even a bear attack reported outside of Santa Paula.  We’ve heard a few theories as to why bears appear to be coming out of the hills more than ever.  Is it that phones (cameras) are everywhere these days and it’s much easier to share (social media) photos of bears who happen to wander into the streets?  Some say that the Los Padres has become the new home of humanized Sierra ‘problem bears’ who were sent packing after tasting one too many picnic baskets in Sequoia or Yosemite?  Others reasons might include drought, competition, easier food sources or that they were here before us anyway (or were they?) ?  It’s always exciting to see a bear in or around the Los Padres and if you’re a podcast person, Outside Podcast shared an entertaining episode earlier this year about “the wrong way to fight off a bear” – check it out.  And if you’re interested in some more information about black bears and what to do if you encounter a black bear, click this link.

• The Los Padres National Forest Supervisors Office (SO) has moved from Goleta to Solvang.  At the moment the offices remain closed due to COVID and we’ll share more information including address and hours once the SO reopens.

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Speaking of bears….
this mamma and her two cubs (see them?) were spotted earlier this year safely within the Los Padres,
taking the high road to avoid Spencer & Leslie – thanks for sharing!

Los Padres Forest Closure Update & More…….

The closure of 9 California Forests, including the Los Padres, has been extended through September 24

FOREST CLOSURE EXTENDED AGAIN

Hello Friends,

We wish that we had better news to share but it was announced earlier today that the Los Padres, along with eight other California Forests, will remain closed through Thursday September 24 as a result of wildfire safety.  As of this morning there were 27 major fires across California with over 18,500 firefighters engaged on the fires.  While the weather has certainly cooled as compared to earlier this month, red flag and heat warning remain in the forecast for much of California.  Resources (crews, support, air attack, etc…) are spread incredibly thin between California, Oregon and Washington and we collectively cannot afford to have any new fires with the resources being what they are. Once again, this forest closure forbids all access into the forest including trails and forest roads.  We realize the inconvenience this has caused, especially for A-Zone hunters who have missed the last two weeks of the season, and hope people will remain patient as this too shall pass (favorite saying for 2020).  We’ll provide updates as they are made available.  If you have any questions please contact your local Los Padres Ranger Station.

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Sewart Mountain is in the eastern Ojai RD and burned in the 2006 Day Fire.  Fourteen years later and we only found a few conifer seedlings within this 20 acre flat along the ridge line.  Note how the conifers along the slopes have largely survived.  This is a recurring theme we’ve noticed along fire scorched mountains in the southern Los Padres. (Little Pine, Big Pine, Bear Meadow, Madulce, Alamo, Mission Pine, etc..)
Conifers along the slopes tend to survive while those within flats do not.

FOREST 411

There is so much news from around the forest that doesn’t make sense to share at the moment due to the larger scale closure.  We’ll save most of that for when the forest reopens but we’ve still got a bunch of things that remain relevant.  Let’s go….!

• The largest (and only? knock knock) fire burning in the Los Padres remains the Dolan Fire within the Monterey Backcountry.  Currently, Dolan has burned 127,724 acres and is 46% contained with an estimated full containment date of September 28.  Some tragic news from the fire is the death of two condor chicks as reported by the Ventana Wildlife Society.  And if you hadn’t heard, on September 8th the fire overtook 15 firefighters while they were fighting to protect Nacimiento Station.  Fortunately all 15 survived but three did suffer significant injuries.  You can read a spine-chilling account here as well as a link to the Big Sur Dolan Fire Relief Fund.  #TrueHeroes

• Word on the beach is that sensors are showing La Niña ocean temps forming across the Pacific.  La Niña winters are usually on the drier side and lack the large major winter rains that we’ve seen during some of the El Niño events.  It’s early, but something worth keeping an eye on, especially after all the fires.

• The major LP news last month was the Reyes Peak Forest Health Project Proposal which received over 16,000 public comments.  We talked with the Forest Service and they are currently reviewing the comments and will be sharing those comments with their specialists in order to assess if changes are needed within their proposal.  There is no hard time-frame as to when the final decision will be made but we were told it would most likely come in late 2020 or early 2021. If you’ve not read the Reyes Peak Proposal, you really should take a few minutes and look it over.  We may not all agree with all aspects of the proposal but we should all agree that we don’t want Pine Mountain to end up looking like Sewart.  Stay tuned……

• We’ve started a new monthly feature where we highlight some of the extraordinary volunteers who dedicate their time to the trails, critters, habitat and heritage of the Los Padres Forest.  Up first is the dynamic duo husband/wife tandem of Maureen and Kevin WallaceRead more on our Instagram page and we’re looking forward to highlighting more volunteers in the months to come…

• Late last month South Coast Habitat Restoration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation completed an aquatic organism passage project where they removed the concrete crossing at the bottom of the Davy Brown Trail.  The project was successful but they will be back later this season to complete the job.  Eventually they’ll also build bridges at the two Arizona crossings between Davy Brown and NIRA, most likely 2021.  More to come….

• Many of you (we’ve been getting the emails) have noticed that HikeLosPadres has been down over the past few days. We’ve been working with the web guru himself to use this forest closure downtime to perform some site updates and maintenance.  It’s a race, we’re hoping to get the site back up before the forest reopens. Thanks for your patience….

• Last week the Forest Service shared their decision notice for the Forest-Wide Invasive Plant Treatment Program.

Camp Scheideck Lodge (aka Reyes Creek Bar & Grill) shut its doors last month.  You can read more here.  We’re not sure what’s next for the Lodge/Grill but we’re certainly going to miss coming off the Piedra Blanca Trail and having tasty burgers (today happens to be National Cheeseburger Day) and cold drinks.  Hope it get resurrected again soon….

• VOTE.

• Last but not least, we’re still looking for a car donation in case any of you have an extra vehicle looking for a new home.  We can promise it will be well cared for, fed as often as needed and will have access to some of the best views around the Los Padres.  Let us know……

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And a beautiful photo taken by ECarroll – a mountain biker, enjoying a ride, on a normal day down the backside of Pine Mountain.

Los Padres Forest Wide Closure & Dolan Update

Hello Friends,

First off, we hope you are all staying safe and cool with all the recent wildfires and heat around the area.  We’ve got a lot of information to share from across the Los Padres but this blog post will be focused primarily on the recent wildfire related closures.  We’ll post again later this week covering more of the fun stuff but for now, lets get to it…..

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TEMPORARY HARD FOREST CLOSURE

As of 5pm on Monday September 7, the Los Padres Forest, along with 7 other California Forests, has been closed to all activities. This includes “being upon National Forest System lands”, “being on a National Forest System road” and “being on a National Forest System trail”.  The closure comes as a result of a combination of the fires currently raging across California (Creek, Dolan, etc, etc, etc….), the upcoming weather forecast (heat & winds), the scarcity of fire fighting resources (lots of fires already using lots of resources) and COVID (need to protect the fire fighters).  The last thing we need right now are more fires and the intent of the closure is to limit the potential for more fires.  There are additional measures enacted as well, please read the full order here or watch the video announcement here.

We shared this information on social media on Monday and received quite a few complaints.  Of course, no one likes closures and we all understand how closures can impact our plans to enjoy the forest.  We get that but we also need to acknowledge and understand that the greater good of Californians and the safety of the fire crews working to keep us safe needs to take precedence.  Looking through the history of the Los Padres, there have been previous large scale fire safety closures including portions of 1942-1944 during World War II.  Seeing that is just another reminder of how crazy and historic 2020 has been and continues to be.

There are moderate Santa Ana winds in the forecast for the first part of this week and the temps across California are expected to drop significantly as well.  While no one is sure as to when the closure will be lifted, we’re hopeful the forest will reopen quickly as the fire weather diminishes.  We’ll keep you posted as usual and until then be safe and please be part of the solution.

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The Dolan Fire doubled in size on Monday September 7 while tearing through the Ventana Wilderness

DOLAN FIRE

While Northern California suffered through a horrendous mid-August onslaught of 12,000 dry-lightning strikes that resulted in over 500 wildfires, the Los Padres for once appeared to escape the storm unscathed.  That all changed though on Tuesday August 18 when a pot grow related arsonist set fire to a hillside in Dolan Canyon along the southern Big Sur coast.  Since then, the Dolan Fire has chewed up a reported 73,000 acres including doubling in size on Labor Day, and appears hungry for more as it heads deeper into the Ventana Wilderness.  At the moment Dolan is being reported as 40% contained (which is unlikely after yesterday’s blowup) with an expected containment date of September 28.  Fire crews have made great progress on the west and northern flanks of the fire but the record heat from this past Labor Day weekend was not helpful on the east side of the fire.  We don’t have current maps as of yet but please check the InciWeb map portal as well as Big Sur Kate for the latest information.

There are quite a few Dolan Fire related closures including the closure of Hwy 1 between Ragged Point and a short distance south of Big Sur.  In addition, all State Parks along the Big Sur coast are closed, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is closed as is a large portion of the Monterey Ranger District.  There are evacuations in place for many areas affected by the fire and there is no known date as to when the closures might be lifted.  Dolan has burned many of the slopes just above Hwy 1 and CalTrans has already been busy clearing fire related rockfall across the Highway.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Highway fares this winter during rain events.  Never a dull moment…..

One Dolan story worth monitoring has been the destruction of the Big Sur condor sanctuary and the subsequent search for 13 missing condors.  Fortunately, some of the condors have been recovered while the Ventana Wildlife Society continues their quest to locate the others.  You can follow along by checking the Ventana Wildlife Society Twitter feed and lets all hope for a happy ending here for sure…..

The map below shows the extent of the Dolan Fire as of September 6, not including the Labor Day blowup.  The scatter dots of recent hot spots and fire activity should indicate the direction of the fire and we think today’s perimeter map will look quite a bit different, shockingly different…….