Los Padres Updates, News, Pine Mountain and Much More…..

Not just another LP Sunrise

The Los Padres Forest Association stands with the collective effort to change the inequalities that persist across our country and the world.  We believe racism has no place in nature, within the forest, on the trails or across society and we are in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.  As as organization, the LPFA has committed to ensuring that we are inclusive and welcoming to diverse communities, while increasing our outreach specifically towards the Black community – LPFA Board

View west across Pine Mountain from high atop Reyes Peak

REYES PEAK FUEL REDUCTION PROPOSAL

The Forest Service recently shared a ‘Forest Health and Fuels Reduction’ proposal that would impact the western spine of Pine Mountain roughly between Hwy 33 and Reyes Peak within the Ventura Backcountry.  The proposal calls for forest thinning (selective clearing of chaparral and trees) along 755 acres of Pine Mountain following the general path of an existing fuel-break.  The intent of forest thinning is to reduce fuel loads in the hopes of minimizing the impacts of future fire events.  We could ramble on and regurgitate statistics about flame length, forest floor accumulation, sensitive species impacts and historic tree densities but we strongly encourage you to read the information for yourself, click here.  Somehow, miraculously, the crest of Pine Mtn has not burned within recorded fire history and opinions vary greatly as to how best to control or not to control wildfires in that portion of the forest.  We’ve had the opportunity to speak with the FS about this proposal and we’ve also heard from individuals and groups who adamantly oppose the idea of fuel reduction.  Some think the best way to prevent catastrophic wildfire damage is through defensible forest thinning and fuel breaks whereas others argue that the prevention efforts are more damaging to the forest and that in the case of a large fire those prevention features won’t work anyway.  We encourage everyone to study up, read the proposal, visit Pine Mountain, fly through on GoogleEarth, browse social media, ask questions, talk to everyone you can and try to attend any of the upcoming Forest Service public online meetings (there will be more). Remember, this is only a proposal and the Forest Service will be accepting public comments until June 30 so please take some time and share your opinions.

Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center, partially reopened and 100% helping educate forest-users, photo J. Stichter

LP FOREST REOPENING UPDATE

The Los Padres Forest has been slowly but surely returning to “normal” and following the lead of both the State of California as well as each of the individual counties in their efforts to reopen.  Here’s the latest and greatest from across the forest:

CAMPING
As mentioned in the last email, most of the campgrounds across the forest have reopened with the remaining Forest Service managed campgrounds scheduled to reopen June 19, just in time for Padres Day Weekend (how appropriate).  We’ve been hearing that many of the campgrounds have been full so please check ahead of time with either Parks Management or the Forest Service to make sure there is availability.  The usual dispersed camping options remain available across the forest other than roadside camping along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.  If you’re not sure if camping is allowed or not, it’s always a good idea to check in with the FS ahead of time.  While the Ranger Stations remain closed to the public, FS staff are answering calls and assisting the public as usual.

HIKING, RIDING & BACKPACKING
The trails continue to be open for backpacking, riding and hiking other than the continued closure of the western portion of the Pine Ridge Trail (Big Sur, reopen Fall 2020?) and the recent closure of Santa Paula Canyon (Santa Paula, reopening July 31, 2020).  We’ve been getting a lot of recent trail/camp reports through HikeLosPadres.com and for the most part conditions remain very good for backcountry trail use. 

OHV & ROADS
Most of the gates, roads and OHV trails across the forest should be open and ready to roll.  The only closures we’re aware of are the continued closure of Dry Canyon and Dome Springs, the continued closure of the La Brea (more on that later) and the continued closure of East Pinery, Pino Alto, Cumbre and Figueroa Mountain Lookout Road.

It’s a good time to be in the forest.  Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and pay special attention for excessive heat and potential thunderstorms.  And of course, please post whatever you find on HikeLosPadres when you return…….

Choose your own adventure, Sespe style, photo Sonia C.

FOREST 411

• The LPFA is hiring for our Program Manager position.  You can read more here but we’re looking for a wonderful person to help manage a variety of our existing programs while also developing and driving new forest programs.  This is a very exciting opportunity for us and we can’t wait to hear from some of you soon.  Please email with questions, thanks!: INFO@LPForest.org

• The LPFA has been allowed to reopen the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center following Ventura County COVID procedures. We’ve been open the past couple Saturdays and have been trying to help the record number of people who have been visiting the Los Padres.  We are greeting all guests outside the Visitor Center, following isolation and face mask practices and attempting to get them answers without having them enter the building.  It’s been really fun helping the public and sharing information about which trails to explore and what camping options might be best in the Ventura Backcountry.  That being said, we could use volunteers to help at Wheeler Gorge.  If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions, please email us at: WheelerGorge@LPForest.org. Thanks……

• We’ve shared this a few times over the past 2-3 years but the bridge construction project along Sunset Valley Road appears to be happening soon.  We’ll share more when details are finalized but it looks like Sunset Valley Road will be closed to all vehicle access at Cachuma Saddle from roughly mid/late July through the end of October while the two bridges are constructed.  Both Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds will be closed and it is unsure if the public will be allowed to hike/ride down Sunset Valley Road in order to access the trails along the north side of Fig Mtn (we’ve been asking for public access).  Access to NIRA or any of the regular Manzana trailheads will likely be prohibited for everyone.  August – October is not the most popular time for Sunset Valley but the closure will certainly impact this years A-Zone hunting season.

• Don’t forget, you can always support the LPFA by shopping at Amazon and donating a portion of each purchase to the LPFA through the AmazonSmile program.  Every little bit counts and we really appreciate the support.  Thank you!

• As California reopens, we are seeing small spikes in reported COVID cases.  Please remain diligent and continue with the now standard trail isolation practices

• Earlier this month the Forest Service shared their final Decision Notice for the La Brea Restoration project. While most of the decision was what we had expected, there were a few aspects of the final decision that were not included in any of the Alternatives that we’d been collectively working on over the past 5+ years.  We’ve got a few questions out to the FS about some of these changes as well as how these changes impact the Condor Trail and we’ll share the whole La Brea enchilada once those details are finalized.  Stay tuned…..

• There have been a lot of wildfires up and down the Central Coast over the past month, some are burning right now. Most of the fires have remained relatively small but please remember that the Los Padres is in fire restrictions and to stay alert and safe with your stoves or campfires where allowed.  Here is a link to get your California Campfire Permit and a list of where and what sort of fires you can have within the forest.

• We’ve been getting a lot of reports of poodle-dog bush explosions within the Thomas Fire scar of Ventura County. Watch out for those beautiful purple flowers!

• The LPFA is looking for a car or truck to help at one of our Visitor Centers.  If you’ve got a car/truck that you’d like to donate, let us know and we can certainly help with a tax write off – email INFO@LPForest.org. Thanks……

Summit of Mt Pinos 1927, LPNF archives

What’s up with the Los Padres…..

LP swimming hole season, the deeper the better, Spencer H. going deep to find this one

Hello Again,

Somewhat lost in the COVID shuffle was the amazing amount of late winter and early spring rain that the Los Padres received this year.  Remember all the snow we had early in the season around Thanksgiving and into early December?  Then no rain during what is historically our wettest months of January and February.  Seems like ancient history but remember our concern back then was the thought of a continued drought?  Then, magically, we were given a 2020 version of a “March Miracle” followed by a huge April of rain accompanied by even more snow.  As of now most of the forest has received around an average amount of rain for the season but what was really different this year is that unlike most years when snow is largely washed away by the next rainstorm, this year we didn’t have next rain storms and much of the early and late snowfall was allowed to melt gradually and percolate slowly into the ground.  So even while our rainfall was around average this year, the slow snow melt might equate to an even better summer season of flowing water.  We shall see…..

What better place to escape the COVID craziness than Lost Valley, photo Wheelwright

What’s up with the Los Padres….  The previous email focused mainly on what the LPFA has been doing during the COVID shutdown but now lets take a look at the latest and greatest changes across the Los Padres NF……..

MONTEREY RANGER DISTRICT CLOSED (mostly)
There have been a lot of FS announcements, closures and issued orders over the past months but the closure of the entire Monterey District was probably the most extreme.  This closure dates back to mid-April and pretty much closes all the trails, camps and forest roads across the Monterey District.  The few exceptions at the moment are Parks Management operated day-use areas along Highway 1 including Sand Dollar, Willow Creek, Mill Creek and Pfeiffer Beach (Arroyo Seco is set to reopen May 22).  This District closure order is set to expire June 1 and we’ll see what happens beyond that.  The Pine Ridge Trail will remain closed.

PARKS MANAGEMENT (PMC) DEVELOPED CAMPGROUNDS
Dating back to March, the Forest Service combated COVID by closing all Developed Recreation Sites across the forest (actually the Region).  The FS has been renewing the closure orders every two weeks or so and the latest order is set to expire June 1.  Starting June 1, the developed campgrounds across the forest that are managed by Parks Management will be reopening.  A list of those campgrounds can be found here.  We’re unsure exactly what COVID precautions PMC will be implementing as the campgrounds reopen but there will likely be some new changes in place.  Imagine that?

FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS
While PMC manages most of the developed campgrounds across the forest, there are some that remain under the management of the Los Padres NF.  These campgrounds have also been closed and are set to reopen June 19.  A list of these campgrounds can be found here, CLICK.

DAY-USE AREAS
In conjunction with the reopening of the campgrounds, many of the day-use areas across the forest are also reopening.  We don’t have exact dates as to when each of the day-use areas will be reopening but most should be open in the coming week or so.  First Crossing off of Paradise was opened this past weekend and along with it access to a number of day-use areas along the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation area.  If you have your heart set on a particular day-use area we strongly suggest contacting the FS, PMC or you can even try emailing us beforehand to see if its open.

FIRE RESTRICTIONS
We’ve covered most of the campgrounds and DUA’s, but there’s more.  On May 12 the LP instituted fire restrictions which now prohibit campfires outside of Designated Campfire Use Sites.  A list of Designated Campfire Use Sites can be found here, CLICK.  Note that all backcountry campfires are now prohibited. The tricky part right now is that most of the Designated Campfire Use Sites remain closed as part of the larger scale COVID closure (see above).  A bit confusing to say the least but it should start to make more sense once the PMC campgrounds reopen June 1, which are most of the Campfire Use Sites.  We’ve heard a lot of grumblings about why we’re going into fire restrictions so early this year with so much water and greenery remaining across the forest.  While this hasn’t been officially stated, some of the decision has to be COVID related and taking extra precautions in order to avoid bringing fire crews together at a time like this.  Makes sense.  Also, with so many people using the forest, many of whom must be inexperienced, it’s probably a good thing to have stricter fire restrictions this year.  Stoves are still allowed in the backcountry and remember to take the 3 mins ahead of time and get a California Fire Permit.  Camping without campfires is fine, give it a try.

SEASONAL GATE CLOSURES
Last one…  Most of the Los Padres seasonal gates usually open May 1 after the snow has melted and FS personnel have had time to survey and repair storm damaged roads.  Believe it or not, this year is a bit different and most of the gates did not open on May 1.  Late last week the FS issued an update on the seasonal gates stating that most of the regular gates and OHV/moto trails will remain closed until May 22.  You can see a map of the closed trails here, CLICK.  That being said, across the forest we’ve seen some gates open that were supposed to be closed and others closed that should be open.  We suggest that if you’re headed out to a trailhead and are not sure if the gate will be open, please reach out to the forest ahead of time.

That should cover most of the current forest orders, established reopening dates and general forest this/that.  There’s a lot to digest right now and we’re certain more unexpected change is yet to come.  Best thing you can do right now is stay safe, enjoy the forest, avoid crowds and remain patient.  Let us know if we can help with any of your forest adventure planning………

One last epic oasis swimming hole picture to cool you down, photo Caliguire

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

Campfires, Condors and More Rain on the Way

Is there a better place to watch the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse, photo Sonia C, for the win!

Hello Friends – We hope this email finds you doing well!

The big news around the forest this week has been additional reductions to fire restrictions across the Los Padres.  Under the current reduced restrictions, campfires are now allowed in all areas of the Forest.  This is good news for those of us backcountry wanderers who have spent long freezing nights under the stars over the past few months.  That being said, you will need a California Campfire Permit, which takes just a few mins, click here.  You can read specifics of the current fire restrictions in the attached PDF.  Please note that target shooting remains prohibited in all areas of the Los Padres other than Winchester Gun Club and Rose Valley Gun Club.  That is a change from previous years.  Enjoy the warmth of your campfire and please remember to keep a safe campfire, clear a safe space around your campfire and always extinguish your fire before leaving camp.  February is a terrific time to explore your forest, go get it!

LPFA service day with Appfolio, great team building and an opportunity to give back to the trails! 
Let us know if your company is interested in a trail maintenance service day.

FOREST 411

Remember, the LPFA will be welcoming the Friends of the California Condors Wild and Free to the Balboa Building in Santa Barbara this coming Wednesday (February 6) to share with us the latest and greatest California Condor news. They’ll be talking about condors across the Los Padres with a special emphasis on the recent successes in the Santa Barbara Backcountry.  You can learn more on our Facebook page or see the attached flier.  We’ll also be sharing an update on some exciting upcoming trail projects that you’ll certainly want to hear about.  It’ll be a fun night, hope to see you there……

• NEWS FLASH: We’re going to be getting some rain over the coming days.  Predictions across the Los Padres are showing 3-5″+ of rain between Friday and Tuesday with Saturday bringing the most precipitation.  Most volunteer projects around the forest have been cancelled due to the rain and if you have plans to travel around the forest, be prepared to encounter potential road closures.  Hwy 1 should be closed at Mud Creek in anticipation of the storms and we are expecting Hwy 33 to close over the weekend as well.  There are also evacuation warnings in areas downstream of the recent burn scars.  Be safe everyone……

• Earlier this week the Amgen Tour of California released their 2019 stage routes and two of the stages will pass through the Los Padres.  Stage 4, which is May 15, will pass along the Big Sur Coast from Laguna Seca to Morro Bay and Stage 5, May 16, goes from Pismo to Ventura over San Marcos Pass.  The Tour of California is exciting to watch both in person as well on the screen. 

• The LPFA is excited to announce that we’ll be once again hosting our 6th Annual Fundamentals of Backpacking course starting March 6.  The Backpacking Fundamentals is a 5-week course designed to teach backpacking tricks and techniques to everyone from a first timer to a seasoned thru-hiker.  We have a lot of fun with it and we always learn so much.  If you are interested, click this link or email INFO@LPForest.org for more information.

Is it possible Tequepis means “Super Green After Rain”?

Getting Your Year End Los Padres Fix

Hello Friends – Happy New Year!

We hope this email finds you either on your way to your favorite trailhead or packing up and leaving work for the last time this year.  Woot woot!  We wanted to send out a few quick notes before the start of the New Year holiday that might help with your Los Padres adventure planning.  Be safe and thanks again for all your support to the LPFA over the past year…….
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Early Contender for the 2020 LPFA Calendar, photo Nikolay Zapreyev
FIRE RESTRICTION CHANGES
On December 18 the fire restrictions across the Los Padres National Forest were downgraded from ‘extreme’ to ‘high’.  What this means for the regular forest-user is that:

  • Campfires are allowed within Designated Campfire Use Sites only
  • No backcountry campfires
  • Portable camping stoves can be used anywhere across the forest, including backcountry
  • No recreational target shooting

There is a chance that the restrictions will be further modified in January, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any changes.  Oh, and don’t forget your California Campfire Permit, which is needed for having a campfire or using a portable stove, click here, it’s free and takes just a few minutes…….

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The new Matilija Falls Trail is taking shape and one of the LPFA’s big initiatives for 2019!
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or been too involved with the Holidays then you’ve no doubt heard about the latest Government Shutdown which started at 9pm on Friday December 21.  While you can educate yourself on the intricacies of the Shutdown and budget through mainstream media we’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the Shutdown is impacting the Los Padres Forest.  At the moment, other than a large percentage of FS staff not working, there hasn’t been a lot of changes across the Los Padres.  All regular campgrounds and Parks Management Campgrounds remain open and we don’t think there have been any additional gate closures or changes that would impact forest-users.  Now that being said, things could change starting January 2 when select FS employees return from holidays and we’ll be sure to share that with you if and when changes occur.  Until then, lets hope the budget issues are resolved and that access remains open across the Los Padres……
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The LPFA Trail Crew, changing the name “Lost Valley” to “Staying on Trail Valley” one bush and downed tree at a time.
Another LPFA focus for 2019 is continued trail work in the San Rafael Wilderness.  Photo Jason Morris

FOREST 411

  • Some really exciting news came out of Santa Barbara County earlier this month when the first California condor chick fledged in the SB backcountry in more than 35 years.  Awesome stuff!  You can read more about this monumental success here, here, here and here.
  • We’ve been hearing reports from across the Los Padres from Big Sur to Agua Blanca that ticks are out in full force this season.  Yikes!  There are quite a few tricks to avoid ticks but here are a few recommendations from the Forest Service you might want to follow.
  • Thanks in large part to the Montecito Trails Foundation, the Cold Spring and West Fork Cold Spring Trails have been reopened within the Thomas Fire scar above Montecito.  The lower Mountain Drive trailhead remains closed but you can enjoy the trail coming from either Hot Springs Canyon or the Gibraltar trailhead of West Fork Cold Spring.  Cold Spring was the final trail to remain closed as a result of the Thomas Fire.
  • The May 2019 Amgen Tour of California bike race was announced with two stages crossing through the Los Padres.  The exact stage routes have not been announced but it looks like stage 4 will be going through Big Sur along iconic Hwy 1 and stage 5 will be covering some of the Central/Southern Los Padres.  We’ll share more when available.  The Tour of California is always fun…….
  • The road construction along Hwy 33 just above Ojai near the quarry has been completed and the road delays have been removed.  Good news for sure……
  • Cherry Creek, Pine Mtn and Dough Flat roads have been closed in the Ojai Ranger District as part of the regular winter weather road closures.  They should reopen on May 1.
  • A young mountain lion was found in Santa Barbara before being relocated into the Los Padres Forest.
  • The Franklin Trail above Carpinteria is temporarily closed at mile marker 3 along Phase II due to Southern California Edison road construction.
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Devil’s Canyon, not nearly as nasty as its name indicates, thanks to SYWHG, LPFA and SBMTV volunteers, photo Jim Blakley

We’ve Seen Fire and We’ve Seen Rain

Thomas Fire Engulfs Wheeler Gorge – Early December 2017 – photo USFS

Hello Friends – HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

This will surely be a week of reflection for most of us as we look back at the Thomas Fire, which started just about a year ago on December 4, 2017.   Not only was the Thomas Fire the largest wildfire in California’s history but the timing of the fire also led to the destructive and deadly Montecito debris flows just a few weeks later.  Having wildfire that late in the season validated the now common statement that “Wildfire Knows No Season”.  Unfortunately, we saw the same thing again this year with the Camp and Woolsey Fires starting late in the “wildfire season”.  So far I’m not a very big fan of the new normal.  There is a ton of commentary about why we’re dealing with such large fires, who is to blame and how moving forward we can protect ourselves and our forests against these ever-growing conflagrations.  I’m not going to pretend to know the answers.  I don’t know if anyone knows the answers.  It’s likely that the answers here in the Los Padres are different than the answers in the Cleveland or Santa Monica’s or the Sierra Nevada dead pine tree belt.  While we might not know the answers, Outside Magazine recently created a four-part podcast series covering wildfires that does a really good job of outlining some of the questions.  If you’re interested in the subject of wildfires, I think you’ll enjoy listening to the Outside podcast.  Wildfire is certainly a hot topic of late, not just here in the Western United States but across the world, even grabbing the attention of our President.  Lets hope that sometime in the future we’ll look back at this new normal era with solutions that can prevent all the damage and death we’ve had to endure of late.
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2019 LOS PADRES CALENDAR
Back by popular demand, the LPFA has once again released a Los Padres themed wall calendar.  We went back to the larger size for 2019 and have full color themed months featuring great photos and content from across the Los Padres.  This is the 6th year we’ve done a LP wall calendar and once again we had a lot of fun choosing photos and compiling them into the calendar.  The calendar costs $12.00 with any proceeds going to the LPFA Trail Fund.  Check it out and get one for your friends, co-workers, family, yourself or all the above!  You’ll love em.

AND BIG THANKS TO ALL OUR FRIENDS WHO CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS!  You’ll be seeing yours in the mail soon…… 


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Tent or No-Tent, the First Light Redondo Views are Amazing!

FOREST 411
• The Los Padres is in the midst of our first large winter storm of the 2018-2019 rain season.  Most of the forest is set to see anywhere between 1-5+ inches of rain depending on location.  The rain has fallen hard at times so expect to see some extended road closures and some slides and trees down across the trails.  There is more rain on tap for next week along with some colder temperatures.  If you’re heading into the forest be sure to check the weather in detail before you go and let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.  And if you come across any fresh downed trees or trail slides, take photos and post on HLP and we’ll make sure a nearby trail crew gets the call.  Have fun and be safe…..

• In advance of this most recent storm, the LPNF has begun closing some of their seasonal and wet weather gatesHikeLosPadres.com and the Los Padres NF website are good places to check road closures but we strongly suggest calling your local Ranger Station in advance to make sure of the gate status.  NOTE: The Ojai District plans on closing their seasonal gates on December 15, which includes Pine Mtn.  NOTE: Hwy 1 in southern Monterey County is closing as needed in advance of any larger storm.

• The Front Fire Closure has been lifted and Rockfront OHV is once again open to the public.  This includes the Gifford and Adobe Trails.  That being said, Rockfront was closed this week in advance of the storms but should be reopened once the roads have a few days to dry.  Be sure to check with SLRD if you plan on hitting up Rockfront.

• Reminder that even with this wet weather fire restrictions remain in effect across the Los Padres.  Hopefully the fuel moisture levels will improve so that the FS can safely adjust the fire restrictions.  Usually the restrictions are lifted after the forest has received 2″ of rain.

• Certainly a storm theme to this email….  A privately funded group called The Partnership for Resilient Communities is proposing to install 40+ steel nets across the canyons above Montecito designed to halt the flow of debris and rocks along the canyon.  Their current plan calls for the installation of 13 nets sometime in the coming months, two of which will block trail access.

• In the bummer category of news there have been a few break-ins at some of our trailheads over the past few months.  Total bummer.  We don’t want any successful break-ins as that usually fuels repeat criminal visits.  REI has done a good job of coming up with 10 Tips to Deter Trailhead Theft, read it here.

• There are two proposed Forest Thinning Projects in the Mt. Pinos District along Tecuya Ridge and Cuddy Valley.  Earlier this week the FS released their proposed action for Cuddy Valley, click the link for specifics.  You can learn more here, here and here.

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South Fork, Bring on the Rain!  photo Beeman

Los Padres Fire Restrictions, Closures, Hunting Season and Openings

Above Ojai, Pratt Trail showing off some new post-Thomas Fire summer regrowth, photo LPFA
Hello Friends,

It’s been a busy few weeks here in the Los Padres featuring additional fire restrictions and the onset of A-Zone South general deer hunting season.  We’ve also had a lot of questions of late about what is and what is not open across the Los Padres.  Lots going up and down the Los Padres, especially for the dog days of summer, lets get to it!

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The Dry and Extra Crispy Little Pine Mountain
ADDITIONAL FIRE RESTRICTIONS

The Forest Service announced on August 9th some additional fire restrictions.  You can read the fine-print at the link here but basically:

  • No campfires allowed across the forest.  PERIOD.
  • No target shooting allowed outside of Winchester and Ojai Valley (Rose Valley) Gun Clubs.
  • No camp stoves outside of designated Campfire Use Sites.
    • Yes, that means no hot coffee or stove cooking for backcountry travelers!

Obviously 2018 has already been a horrendous wildfire year with more than 15 large fires currently burning across California.  So far (knock, knock) the LP has avoided any large fires this season and lets hope it stays that way.  Be safe everyone!

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Big Pine Mountain, sadly the pines have been slow to recover after the 2007 Zaca Fire, photo Taryn AshlockA-ZONE SOUTH HUNTING SEASON

A-Zone South general hunting season started August 11 and lasts through September 23.  While there are many hunts across the Los Padres, the A-Zone South general season is by far the busiest.  A-Zone South covers almost all of the Los Padres from Monterey down through SLO, SB and a large portion of Ventura County.  You can see the map showing the coverage area here.  Each year we hear concerns from non-hunters who are caught off guard coming across groups of hunters.  Be aware that hunters will be out and about this time of year and if that’s not your cup of tea you might want to head elsewhere in the Los Padres.  Pine Mountain above Ojai and the Mt Pinos area are both outside of A-Zone South and should be nicer this time of year due to their higher elevations.  Once again, be safe everyone…..

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While not quite as impressive as the Black Gate of Mordor, it’ll feel just as imposing if you find it closed when you thought it was supposed to be open!YOU SHALL (NOT) PASS!

We get a ton of questions from forest-users asking about which gates are open? is that gate closed? is this trail open? can I go here,? etc….?  BTW, we love helping with these questions so please keep them coming!  While the Forest Service website does a great job of sharing this information, we thought it was probably time to share some of the answers we’ve been helping people with over the past months.  We’re focusing on either the recent changes or the major questions we frequently receive.  For more details please check the Los Padres website linked above or call your local Ranger District:

  • MONTEREY RANGER DISTRICT
    • HIGHWAY 1: After being closed since May 19, 2017, the GIANT slide at Mud Creek finally reopened on July 18.  Highway 1 through what is known as the Big Sur Coast is now open from Morro Bay to Monterey.  That being said, there are still some one lane delays and the occasional nighttime closure.  If you are planning a trip along this section of Hwy 1 be sure to check ahead of time to with CalTrans to make sure you can safely get through.
    • PALO COLORADO ROAD: Palo Colorado Road sustained major damage following the 2016 Soberanes Fire and 2017 winter season.  The road remains closed three miles above Hwy 1 but people can hike up the road to access Bottcher’s Gap and the Northern Terminus of the Condor Trail.  While the road is open to pedestrians, understand that there is no parking along the road so you’ll have to arrange for a drop-off if you plan on hiking up to Bottcher’s. Palo Colorado is scheduled to reopen by the end of October.
    • PINE RIDGE TRAIL & FRIENDS: The Pine Ridge, Terrace Creek and Ventana Camp Trails remain the largest and most substantial closure across the Los Padres as well as the # 1 question we get about closures.  Pine Ridge Trail remains closed from Highway 1 at Big Sur Station up-canyon to beyond Redwood Camp.  This includes Ventana Camp, Barlow, Terrace Creek, Sykes and Redwood.  The trail was damaged in both the Soberanes Fire as well as the 2017 storms.  There is no timetable as to when the trail or access to the camps will be reopened.
  • SANTA LUCIA RANGER DISTRICT
    • HI MOUNTAIN ROAD: Hi Mountain Road was reopened in late April after being closed for over a year due to lack of maintenance.
    • BATES CANYON: Closed above Bates Campground due to road issues and slides.
  • SANTA BARBARA RANGER DISTRICT
    • ROMERO CAMUESA ROAD: The Romero Camuesa Road remains closed to vehicle traffic beyond Romero Saddle along East Camino Cielo.
    • DIVIDE PEAK OHV: Divide Peak is open but riders will need to park at Romero Saddle.
    • FIRST CROSSING: Open.
    • BUCKHORN ROAD OHV: Closed at Upper Oso due to Rey Fire damage and adjustments to the Camuesa Road OHV.  More on that to come…..
    • SB FRONTCOUNTRY TRAILS: Most of the frontcountry trails have reopened but the lower sections of Cold Spring and Hot Springs remain closed as well as the entire West Fork Cold Spring Trail.  More on this to come soon as well……
  • OJAI RANGER DISTRICT
    • MIDDLE LION CAMPGROUND: Open, after being closed due to the Thomas Fire.
    • ROSE VALLEY CAMPGROUND: Open, same as above.
    • NORDHOFF RIDGE ROAD: Open, same as above.
    • ORTEGA TRAIL: Open, same as above.
    • CHERRY CREEK: Open, seasonal.
  • MT PINOS RANGER DISTRICT
    • RANCHO NUEVO / TINTA, MT PINOS RD: The road to Rancho Nuevo TH and lower Tinta TH was closed for an extended period of time due to gullies and washouts.  The road has been recently reopened to both trailheads.
    • WEST DRY CANYON ROAD, MT PINOS RD: Dry Canyon Road, which connects Santa Barbara Canyon to the upper Tinta TH and Cuyama Peak remains closed due to gullies sustained during the 2017 winter season.
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So much brown, dry photos; lets mix in some green and a July waterfall along the Sisquoc

Los Padres Fire Restrictions and Sisquoc Trail Work

Don’t listen to Home Depot, spending a hot summer afternoon on the Deck is anything but relaxing, photo L.Lagendyk
Hello Friends,
We hope you’re enjoying the summer, staying cool and still finding some time to enjoy the Los Padres.  Even with the high temps and disappearing water flow, the forest has plenty of hidden and not-so-hidden gems that can make you rethink your summer Los Padres hibernation plans.  Some people head to the heights and large shade producing trees of the Mt. Pinos Ranger District for their summertime LP fix.  Others might seek lower elevations along the coast, hoping for some cool morning fog.  And others still embrace the heat by soaking in any of the perennial flowing creeks, rivers, pools and waterfalls.  All are great options, just remember to be safe.  There has been a flurry of heat related rescues across the forest over the past month.  If you’re going to head into the forest and encounter the heat be sure to plan accordingly.  Tell someone where you are going, leave an itinerary at home and try to follow these 9 rules for hiking in hot weather.  Be safe, have fun and if you don’t mind sharing, we’d love to see some of your summertime photos from the across the Los Padres.
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The sun has set on backcountry campfires for the season, photo Humphrey
FIRE RESTRICTIONS
The big news across the Los Padres this past week is the change in fire restrictions.  Due in part to the recent rash of wildfires around the forest (Piru, Fillmore, Goleta, FHL, etc….), the Forest Service raised fire restrictions across the Los Padres banning campfires outside of designated Campfire Use Sites, prohibiting target shooting outside of designated target ranges and prohibiting smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle, building or at a designated Campfire User Site.  We’re no strangers to fire restrictions and should all be well aware of what can happen should a campfire get away (see Soberanes Fire).  Cooking stoves are still permitted in the backcountry with a California Campfire Permit and hunting is still permitted during the regulated seasons (A-Zone South General opens August 11).  If you have any questions please contact the Los Padres Forest Supervisors Office or your local District Office.  Be smart.

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Speaking of big shade producing trees and waterfalls, the Sisquoc Trail through the Bear Camps has plenty of both

SISQUOC TRAIL PROJECT
July 20-22
The LPFA and our fantastic volunteers have been busy working the Sisquoc Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness.  We’ve cleared over 300 downed trees this year (2018) and at last count had less than 20 trees left!  For those of you who know the Sisquoc Trail, that’s pretty amazing to say there are only 20 downed trees along the 30+ miles of trail.  But we’re not happy and want to get them all…..  If you are interested, please join us the weekend of July 20-22 as we head to the Upper Sisquoc to clear the remaining 20 downed trees and continue work along the section of trail between Alamar Saddle and Lower Bear Camp.  We’ll be driving in from Upper Oso on Friday July 20 and basecamping at Bluff Cabin for the weekend.  We’ll drive up to Alamar on both Friday and Saturday to work the Sisquoc Trail.  This section of trail is over 5,000ft and mostly shaded with pines and cedars.  We’re hoping the shade and nearby waterfalls will help us push through the heat and complete the work.  If you are interested in signing up or hearing more details, please email INFO@LPForest.org.  We’re happy to have seasoned trail veterans as well as green trail rookies.  It should be a great project and a fantastic opportunity to give back to the trails you love and explore this remote section of the Los Padres.  We hope to hear from you soon……
— • — • — • —June 30 Montecito Trails Day, Over 100 Volunteers Helped Maintain 3 Miles of Thomas Fire Damaged Trails – Yee Haw!
FOREST 411

• The LPFA was featured last month in the Santa Barbara Independent Blue and Green issue highlighting one of our Working Vacations from April 2018.  Check it out…… and three cheers for all the great volunteers who make the Working Vacations so successful and fun!  Cheer……  Cheer……  Cheer……

• Reminder that HikeLosPadres.com continues to be a great resource for knowing current trail conditions and water conditions across the forest.  Be sure to check HLP before you head out and update it when you get back.  Sharing information helps everyone.  Thanks…..

• In case you missed it, the Thomas Fire was officially declared out last month after starting December 4, 2017.

• On a loftier note, the flock of condors in San Luis Obispo are doing great and beginning to expand their territory.

• The LPFA will be expanding our paid Trail Crew this summer and are looking for experienced Los Padres trail workers interested in working for the LPFA Trail Crew.  The work will be primarily in Ventura and SB Counties and will range from day projects to week-long overnight backcountry hitches.  If you are interested in throwing your name into the hat or hearing more details, please email INFO@LPForest.org

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The Los Padres is calling and I must go
, photo JO Chung

Fires, Hunting Season, Volunteer Opportunities, 411

 Whittier’s Final Gasp
FIRE FOREST & RESTRICTIONS

It’s been a fiery few weeks around the Los Padres.  It seems like wildfires are popping up just about every day but thanks to the excellent fire crews most of them haven’t developed into much.  That being said, we’ve had quite a few significant fires that have grown large enough to garner incident names and/or attention:

  • We had Hudson, in the eastern Cuyama, that didn’t get onto the Los Padres but burned just over 1,000 acres.
  • There were a series of seven fires in Santa Paula Canyon that burned 35 acres and has caused the closure of the popular Santa Paula Canyon Trail.
  • The biggest has been the Alamo Fire, which burned over 28,000 acres.  It also didn’t get onto LP soil but came really really close and caused multiple forest access closures.
  • And of course the Whittier Fire, which has burned over 18,000 acres, mostly within the Los Padres and remains 87% contained.  Tragically, 16 residences were destroyed at the hands of Whittier and a Forest Closure remains enforced across the Western Santa Ynez Mountains.

In response to the increase in fire activity, the Los Padres National Forest went into Level III Fire Restrictions effective July 17.  You can read all about it here.  The largest change in this order is the banning of target shooting across the Los Padres.

Summer is a tough time in the Los Padres.  Temperatures are really high across most of the forest and water is becoming scarce.  If you’ve got the itch to get into the forest please be careful and plan on doing most of your moving either early or late……..

A-ZONE SOUTH: August 12
Now, that being said, early August is also one of the busiest times in the Los Padres as A-Zone South deer (rifle) season kicks off.  This years general season goes from August 12 – September 24.  You can see on the map that A-Zone South includes just about all of the Los Padres.  If you are a hunter, have at it, be safe and responsible.  If you are not a hunter, you may want to pick your forest endeavors carefully, especially on weekends.  Be prepared to see more activity than usual along forest roads and at campgrounds and leave your antler hat at home.  If you have any questions, please contact your local Ranger District.
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Four Fingers View, Channel Islands, Madulce Trail

MADULCE TRAIL PROJECT: August 4-6

In case you need a Los Padres Fix for your NDD or more likely your TWDD (Trail Work Deficit Disorder), the LPFA will be squeezing in a trail project August 4-6 along the Madulce Trail in the Dick Smith Wilderness.  Led by Mike Smith, we’ll be working the top mile of the trail from the Buckhorn Road out to the junction with the Madulce Peak Lookout Trail.  Most of the focus will be fixing tread and broken cribwalls on the north slope of the ridge, which in conjunction with the 5,500ft elevation should mean cooler temperatures.  We’ll be driving in from Santa Barbara Canyon and base-camping at nearby Alamar Camp.  If you’ve never been to Alamar or this part of the forest, it is spectacular and a real treat to be able to drive in 2 hours what normally takes 2 days to backpack.  As usual all food and tools will be provided for the volunteers.  If you have any questions or would like to sign-up, please let us know: INFO@LPForest.org

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Colorful History, Mono Debris Dam

FOREST 411

• Got plans this weekend?  If not, throw the kids in the family roadster and head out tomorrow to Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center to see the Humane Society of Ventura County give a presentation at 11am.  The coolest thing about the Humane Society is that you never quite know what animals they’ll show up with.  They might have a blind corn snake?  They might come with dogs performing tricks?  Maybe a goat?  You never know….  But one thing for sure is that your kids will love it and spend the entire drive home begging you to adopt a cat or a mouse or an iguana.  No thanks needed.  See you tomorrow!

• Were you around 25 years ago?  Does June 19, 1992 mean anything?  It should, that was the day the Los Padres Condor and River Protection Act was signed adding more than 400,000 acres of wilderness and 80 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers to the Los Padres National Forest.  This included the creation of the Silver Peak, Sespe, Matilija, Garcia and Chumash Wildernesses as well as additional land added to both the San Rafael and Ventana Wildernesses.  That was quite a day, cheers to June 19!

• This week also marks the one-year anniversary of the Soberanes Fire, which burned from July 22, 2016 well into the winter months.  Soberanes consumed over 130,000 acres, destroyed dozens of homes and took the life of a dozer operator working on the fire.  Even a year later, we’re still reeling from Soberanes with road closures and forest closures continuing to impact life in and around Big Sur and the Ventana Wilderness.  More updates next time around….

• A press release was issued earlier this month about the continued closure of Hi Mountain Road in SLO County.  Hi Mtn Rd is an unpaved road that connects Arroyo Grande with Pozo going through both SLO County and Los Padres land.  It leads to a variety of recreational activities and campgrounds but remains closed as SLO and the LP work out an agreement on road maintenance.  The attached PDF tells the story better than we can.  Note that Hi Valley Road remains closed from the first gate down next to the creek coming up from Arroyo Grande out to Pozo.

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Taking it Easy, LPFA Flume Chute Aid Station, SBER 2017