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…….