2021 Los Padres Forest Association Accomplishments & Forest Updates

Loving the rain & snow but couldn’t wait for the warm sun while taking this picture, photo LPFA

Hello Friends & Happy Holidays,

We love what we do. We absolutely love helping the Los Padres Forest. We love the work we do restoring trails. We love sharing helpful forest information in these newsletters, on social media, HikeLosPadres and at both Big Sur and Wheeler Gorge Visitor Centers. We love working in support of the Condor Trail. We love working with all of you on volunteer projects. We feel very lucky to share in the responsibility of caring for the mountains, creeks, critters and trails which make the Los Padres what it is today. It’s our turn collectively, all of us, to care for the LP and it means so much to have your support in that effort. December is when we receive the majority of our annual donations and we really really appreciate all the support so many of you offer – we couldn’t do what we love to do without your help. Your help goes far beyond donations as well. This past year the LPFA and our volunteers accounted for nearly 23,000 hours of forest support. That’s amazing, especially since we continue to struggle with COVID related restrictions. THANK YOU and we look forward to continuing our efforts to help the Los Padres in 2022 and beyond. Happy Holidays, stay safe and please find some forest time……

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TOP 10 ACCOMPLISHMENTS FROM 2021
In the spirit of the late night talk shows, we wanted to share our top accomplishments from 2021. In no particular order:

1.  Santa Cruz & Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail Work – Thanks to support from #GivingTuesday2020, we were able to restore over 5 miles of trail along the two National Recreation Trails within the Los Padres National Forest. This included two 10-day volunteer Working Vacations in spring 2021 and three weeks of hired trail crew work. Excellent stuff!

2. Graffiti Removal – Thanks in large part to a generous donation from Louis T, we seriously ramped up our graffiti removal game in 2021 and led close to a dozen graffiti removal projects across the forest. Unfortunately, much more is needed…..

3. Jesusita Fire Trail Work – We partnered with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in spring 2021 and spent 6 weeks working with one of their crews to maintain many of the trails impacted by the Jesusita Fire including Rattlesnake, Tunnel and Jesusita.

4. Campground Renovations – The LPFA stayed busy this fall working with the Forest Service on some deferred maintenance at some of our favorite campgrounds including Figueroa, Hi Mountain, Happy Hollow and Middle & Lower Camuesa. Work included fixing campsites and installing fences, toilets, firerings and trash collection facilities.

5. North Cold Spring & Blue Canyon Trail Work – Thanks to grant support from the National Forest Foundation, SCE and NFWF, the LPFA was able to spend nearly two months this year working on the very overgrown north Cold Spring and Blue Canyon Trails within the Santa Ynez Mountains. We’re not done yet and have more scheduled in 2022 as well…..

6. Lights Stayed On – Despite another year of COVID craziness and fire related forest closures, we were able to keep Big Sur and Wheeler Gorge Visitor Centers staffed and open to help forest-users. We also kept our Trail Crew going most of the year as well. This might be our most important and impressive accomplishment.

7. Condor Trail – 2021 was a big year for the CT with Brian Sarvis releasing a first ever Condor Trail guide book and the LPFA was able to spend time working many sections of the CT including the upper Sisquoc, Santa Barbara Canyon, Madulce, Piedra Blanca, Hi Valley, Lopez Canyon, Big Falls, Trout Creek and Agua Blanca. Thanks to another successful #GivingTuesday2021, we’ve got much more CT work on the horizon as well…..

8. HLP Revamp –  John Ziegler launched HikeLosPadres over 5 years ago and since then it’s become a crucial resource for anyone venturing into the Los Padres backcountry. We started the process of revamping HLP in 2021 and have much MUCH more to do heading into 2022. This is so exciting and we can’t wait to continue working with JZ on some updates and new features within HLP. Cool stuff….

9. Working Together – 2021 was another great year working with our partners and friends across the Los Padres. They say it takes a village and they might have been wrong, it actually takes a city! Big thanks to all the volunteers, scouts, our friends at the Forest Service and all the organizations across the Los Padres for your continued work.

10. Setting the Table – While 2021 was fantastic, there’s better ahead! We’ve got lots of great work in store for 2022. That being said, we want to hear from you about what other help is needed across the Los Padres and what you all would like to see done. We’ve put together a quick and anonymous survey here, check it out, let us know and THANK YOU!

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Some of our awesome trail volunteers taking a well deserved and scenic lunch break along the upper Red Reef Trail, December 2021

FOREST 411

• The big news across the forest is of course the rain and snow we’ve been getting and are scheduled to get over the coming week. Right now rain totals across the forest are well over our average and things are looking good heading into 2022. Remember that the current fire restrictions don’t expire until 12/31/2021.

• Quick reminder that Sunset Valley Road, NIRA and Davy Brown Campgrounds remain closed due to bridge construction. You can see a photo of some of the bridge construction below.

• With all the rain and storms comes inevitable downed trees, slides and other trail damage. If you come across any significant trail damage, please let us know, post to HLP, contact the Forest Service or reach out to your local trail organization. We collectively can’t repair the trails if we don’t know they’re damaged. People or objects used for scale within photos are always appreciated as well. THANKS!

• We had a successful #GivingTuesday2021 and as a result we will be scheduling a few weeks of work this season on the Alder Creek Trail within the Sespe Wilderness. GREAT NEWS and long overdue – thanks everyone for the support!

• Along with the cold and rain of course comes coffee and the need for good coffee. Outside Magazine recently wrote an article about the best methods of preparing coffee, check it out…..

• The Forest Service recently revised and extended the forest closure associated with the 16,790 acre Alisal Fire through April 30, 2022. Contact the FS for details or see link here. Note, this closure includes the Baron Ranch trails and Arroyo Quemado Trail.

• In case you missed it, our heroic and inspirational Los Padres gray wolf OR-93 was tragically killed in late November while trying to cross I-5 near the town of Lebec. OR-93 was big news and certainly the story of the year across the Los Padres. You can read more here and here.

• Highway 1 through southern Monterey County and northern SLO County continues to have proactive storm related closures. Basically CalTrans closes Hwy 1 during large storm events in order to protect people from potential slides. If you’re headed that way, be sure to check with CalTrans before you go…..

• Most of the seasonal gates across the Los Padres have now been closed due to all the recent rain and snow. We can’t list all the seasonal gates here but it’s never a bad idea to check with the Forest Service or email us ahead of time before venturing towards your trailhead of choice.

• A team from UCSB and the Forest Service recently completed a study of stream impacts and aquatic species repopulation related to wildfire. It’s a good article if interested, check it out here.

• The Forest Service will be hosting a Women in Wildfire Basic Training Camp this spring in the Santa Barbara area. Check this link for more information, this is a great program.

• In case you missed it earlier, we’re looking for feedback from you about what we can do and what help is needed across the Los Padres. If you’re reading this, you probably have an opinion, please share, we’d love to hear from you! It’s anonymous.

• Super volunteer Ellie Mora Jefferies was recognized by the Forest Service earlier this month for her tremendous contributions across the Los Padres. Ellie was awarded the Regional Foresters COVID-19 Pandemic Response Hero award in recognition for her efforts specifically restoring Santa Paula Canyon. Woot woot Ellie, so well deserved – congratulations.

• Lots going on and lots to share, hope we didn’t lose you. That being said, if you appreciate the work the LPFA does in sharing this information and our help across the forest, please consider donating to help us continue helping you and the forest. Click this link for more information, thank you!

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Where’s that confounded bridge? Fish passage bridge construction just before NIRA, see it?, photo LPNF

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

January 2: Agua Blanca Trail Maintenance
January 6-10: Red Reef Trail – Sespe Creek, LPFA
January 14: Figueroa Mountain Trail Work, LPFA
January 15: LPFA Member/Volunteer PARTY!
January 18: Horn Canyon Trail Work, LPFA
January 20: Medicinal Herbs w/ Lanny Kaufer, SB Library
January 22: West Cuesta Trail Work, CCCMB

February 5: Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training
February 17: LPFA Backcountry Update Presentation, SB Library

March – April: Fundamentals of Backpacking Course, LPFA
March 26 – April 3: Alder Creek Working Vacation – Sespe, LPFA
April 22 – May 2: Red Reef Working Vacation – Ladybug Camp, LPFA
May 14-23: Indian Creek Working Vacation – Meadow Camp, LPFA
November 5-13, 2022: South Fork Working Vacation – San Rafael Wilderness, LPFA

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Fire Restrictions, Trail work Updates & Volunteer Opportunities

Just Another Mission Pine Sunrise
Photo by Conor Watson

Hello Friends,

While the green of Spring certainly has felt short-lived this year, with 100% of the state of CA experiencing drought and 41 (out of 58) counties experiencing a drought emergency, we were glad to get out in the Los Padres to enjoy all the brief but beautiful spring moments we could. After our Santa Cruz Working Vacation at the beginning of May, we have stayed busy with work on the North Cold Spring trail, Mission Pine Trail, Blue Canyon Trail, Little Falls Trail and more work on the Santa Cruz Trail, and are headed out this next week to Beartrap camp to tackle sections of the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail for our next Working Vacation.

With the low rainfall the state has seen this year, we were not surprised when the Forest Service announced Fire Restrictions on backcountry campfires that went into effect earlier this week. No open fires, campfires or charcoal fires will be permitted outside of developed recreation sites or designated Campfire Use Sites, even with a valid California Campfire Permit. Lanterns and regular gas camping and backpacking stoves will be permitted, but only with a valid California Campfire Permit, which are available free-of-charge on the Forest website. We cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to these campfire restrictions, and in general the importance of fire safety during these dry, dry times. The state is gearing up for an intense fire season and while most of the Southern CA counties were not included in the emergency drought proclamation from the governor’s office, it is on all of us to make sure that the lands we cherish remain safe from human-caused fires. Please be safe, follow the rules and do your part to help protect your Los Padres National Forest. We all love a good campfire, but it’s definitely not worth the risk. Besides, camping without a fire can definitely be fun and a great way to connect to different aspects of nature at night. There are lots of great things that camping without fire can include, like more time for stargazing, playing cards or music, listening to the sounds of nature, and getting some extra sleep! Enjoy your time in the forest and let’s all stay safe! 

SANTA CRUZ WORKING VACATION PT 2

Weather permitting, we’ll be headed back out to Santa Cruz Guard Station the week of June 12-20 to continue work on the Santa Cruz Trail. This time we’ll be based at Santa Cruz and working up towards Little Pine along the legendary “40 Mile Wall”. Most of the work will be cutting tread until it gets too warm and then retreating to spend the hotter hours relaxing under the oaks or in the nearby Santa Cruz Creek pools. The exact dates will be weather dependent and we’d love to have any of you help out and join the fun. If interested in either signing up or to get some more information, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org. We will be driving in to Santa Cruz Station – hope to see you out there!

Volunteers relaxing at the Santa Cruz Guard Station, May ’21. Photo by Marianne Henry

Forest 411 

  • Senator Alex Padilla introduced companion legislation to Representative Carbajal’s Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives in February. This bill will protect special places in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument for their ecological, cultural, and recreational values. Rep. Carbajal’s bill will also designate the Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail. The senate version also prohibits future oil drilling in certain places, improves equitable access to the outdoors, and benefits local and statewide economies. Thank you Senator Padilla and Rep. Carbajal! 
      
  • Condor populations are healthily growing and expanding their range! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service announced a new initiative that calls for releasing four or six juvenile condors each year for 20 years throughout Redwood National Park, which is about an hour’s drive from the Oregon border. Partnering with the Yoruk tribe, conservationists hope to boost populations of these endangered birds, which suffered great losses during the Dolan fire. Good luck, condors! 
      
  • The Los Padres National Forest is proposing to restore Rose Valley Creek to its historical stream function, form, and habitat to benefit native aquatic species as well as provide streamside recreation. Check out the recording of the Public Workshop the Forest Service hosted on May 13th. 
      
  • Volunteers are returning again this year as citizen smoke watchers at the 92-year-old Chews Ridge lookout tower south of Carmel. This commanding vantage point has given spotters the ability to detect and quickly report new wildfire starts before they get large and destructive. If you’re interested in becoming a Chews Ridge volunteer, visit the Chews Ridge Fire Lookout FB page or email Scott at PalomarTowers@gmail.com for more information.
      
  • LPFA-Operated Visitor Centers are open and ready to help you navigate the Los Padres! With Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center serving the Southern Los Padres and Big Sur Station serving the North, our visitor centers are a great place to stop before you head into the forest. Come by to learn about the ecology of the area, pick up a map and supplies, or get your Los Padres-related questions answered by our friendly staff and volunteers. LPFA members receive a 15% discount on all purchases (exception for Adventures Passes) at Los Padres Ranger Stations and Visitor Centers. 
      
  • Graffiti removal efforts have been advanced by local Boy Scouts. Members of Troop 26 helped remove over 30 pieces of graffiti on Tunnel Trail in the SB Frontcountry. Great work, Scouts! We hate to see graffiti in the forest, so please let us know if you find any – email INFO@LPForest.org
Member of Troop 26 helping remove graffiti. Photo by Paul Weakliem

Volunteer Opportunities 

  • National Trail Day is coming up on June 5th! This is a great day to give back to and enjoy the many trails we love. Click here to find a volunteer event near you! 
      
  • SB County Parks & Recreation is hosting a National Trail Day event on June 12th at Tunnel & Jesusita Trails. Email Sbiddle@SantaBarbaraCA.gov to RSVP and get more information. 
      
  • Volunteer Trailhead Ambassadors Needed for the popular Pine Ridge Trailhead in Big Sur! Trailhead Ambassadors will help visitors understand how they can enjoy the public lands of the Big Sur coast safely and responsibly. To learn more, please email toan@ventanawild.org
      
  • SBRD Biologist Valerie Hubbard is seeking volunteers for noxious weed removal. The initial work would include mapping high priority weeds on the East Camino Cielo and also manually treating spotted knapweed. Future work might be assisting with herbicide treatment of tamarisk in the Santa Ynez River, manual treatment of yellow star thistle on Zaca Ridge road, manual treatment of pampas grass on the Happy Canyon allotment, manual treatment of medusahead grass at Happy Hollow camp and mapping and manual treatment of yellow star thistle on the Buckhorn road. Email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org to get involved! 
      
  • Help collect seed to restore areas invaded by Spanish broom along East Camino Cielo in Santa Barbara! Saturday volunteer seed collection dates are: 5/22, 6/5, 6/19, 7/10, 7/24, and 8/7. There are sign-up 10 slots for each date, with a limited number of vehicles allowed to park along East Camino Cielo Road. We will announce additional dates for the fall. Please email Josie Lesage at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (jlesage@sbbg.org) to sign up.
The LPFA Trail Crew in Action

The work we do would not be possible without the support of our community! Please consider donating or becoming a member of the LPFA to help ensure that we can continue to care for the Los Padres National Forest. 

Trail work, Forest Updates & More!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, does that mean a before and after is worth two thousand words? Lion Canyon Trail, Ventura County, compliments of the LPFA Trail Crew and the LPNF

Hello Friends,

Since 2020 was pretty much a lost year for forest projects, we’ve been trying hard the past few months to catch up on some of the todo’s from last year while also moving forward with our 2021 program of work. We’ve been busy providing education opportunities and information for forest-users while also tackling graffiti removal, forest restoration projects and of course trying to keep the trails open and passable. A lot of our trail focus has been trying to clear downed trees that have fallen across the trails. The combination of missing a year of trail work (deferred maintenance), plus two seasons of heavy snowfall, plus drought and mix in a windier than normal spring and we ended up with what might be a record numbers of downed trees across the forest. We really appreciate all the trail-user reports of downed trees either via email or HikeLosPadres.com, please keep those coming. 

All that being said, it’s certainly a great time to be in the Los Padres…. The creeks are still flowing, the grass is mostly green, the flowers are as good as they’re going to get, the temps still cool’ish and the seasonal gates will be opening soon…. prime Los Padres time. We hope you’re all of good health and making time to explore some new LP trails or revisit your old favorites….. and of course, gearing up to help on some upcoming volunteer projects!

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PINE MOUNTAIN WORKING VACATION

Speaking of volunteer projects…. as COVID continues to back down here locally (knock knock), we are once again allowed to host constricted volunteer projects. We’re currently wrapping up a Working Vacation on the Santa Cruz Trail and have another Working Vacation scheduled for late May / early June along the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail (GMPB) in the Sespe Wilderness. The Pine Mountain Working Vacation will be based at Haddock Camp along the headwaters of Piedra Blanca Creek and the work will be focused on clearing the trails pretty much from Reyes Peak down to Haddock and then both directions towards upper Beartrap Canyon and out to Pine Mountain Lodge. There should be a great variety of work ranging from crosscut to brushing and some fun tread sections mixed in as well. The Working Vacation will be stock (horse & mule) supported and we should be able to provide all the food for the week. We’ll be out there between May 28 and June 6 and would love to have any of you help out and join the fun. If interested in either signing up or to get some more information, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org. Hope to see you out there……

The new Pothole Trailhead and southern terminus of the Condor Trail, photo USFS

FOREST 411

Lots of news to cover from across the forest. Strongly suggest refilling your coffee and settling down…..

• May 1 is the preset date when the seasonal road closures reopen. This is a big day across the forest as people can once again drive into places like Grade Valley, Dough Flat, Pine Mountain and many others… We’ve talked to the FS and they are planning on opening the seasonal gates in time for this coming weekend. That being said, there are a lot of gates across the forest and we strongly recommend calling the FS to ensure your gate will be open before heading out this weekend. Enjoy…..

• Speaking of reopening, CalTrans did a great job and was able to reopen Hwy 1 at Rat Creek well ahead of their initial target date. As of now you can clearly drive Hwy 1 from SLO to Carmel and access most of the Monterey Ranger District.

• Speaking of reopening once again, after being closed since July 2016, the Pine Ridge Trail out of Big Sur Station reopened earlier this month. This is a huge accomplishment with the lions share of thanks going to the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. Enjoy responsibly, please…..

• While the PRT has reopened, the portion of the forest south of there remains closed due to the 2020 Dolan Fire. The closure is set to expire in late May and we’ll keep you posted if the FS decides to extend the closure.

• While most the gates will be swinging open, East Camino Cielo above Santa Barbara remains closed due to road repair. The closure is just east of Cold Spring Saddle and is expected to remain closed through the end of May. Contact the SB Ranger District with more questions…..

• Hopefully you’ve heard of OR-93 by now. If not, there may very well be a wolf cruising the Los Padres right now. We haven’t received an official update from Fish and Wildlife in a few weeks now but last we heard OR-93 was headed for the SLO backcountry. We’ll be watching for updates daily, stay tuned…..

• The LPFA Trail Crew has been busy working to keep trails open. Over the past month or two we’ve led trail restoration efforts on the following trails: Sellers Potrero, Hi Valley, Florence Hart, Trout Creek, American Canyon, Jesusita, Tunnel, Tunnel Connector, Rattlesnake Canyon, Madulce, Santa Barbara Canyon, Alamar, Sisquoc, Santa Cruz, Cold Spring, Blue Canyon, Blue Canyon Connector, Matilija, Mission Pine, Lion Canyon, Indian Creek, Hurricane Deck, Baron, Midland and Sulphur Spring. Big shout out to our supporters, friends and partners who have helped make all this possible: SLOPOSTMTFSB Trails CouncilAthletic Brewing CoREISCASCENFWFLPNFand of course many of you who have donated to the trail restoration fund – thank you all!

• In addition to trail work, we’ve also been busy hosting a series of virtual events ranging from Rattlesnake Myth-busting to Seven-Minute Storytelling to Lunchtime Trail Talk and iNaturalists Training with the SB Botanic Garden. In case you missed any of these, you can check them out on the LPFA YouTube Channel.

Upper PRT April Magic, photo Duane Dean

• Earlier this month the Los Padres NF announced plans for a Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project along Mount Pinos. You can read more about the project proposal here on the FS site and additional information here as well. Similar to other fuels reduction proposals, there are a lot of differing opinions on how to best protect these higher elevation conifer zones. If interested, please take the time to scour the internet, research, listen to the different voices and share your thoughts with the Forest Service before May 7.

• One of our favorite local authors Craig Carey, he of red beard fame, has released a second edition of his epic Hiking & Backpacking Santa Barbara and Ventura book. This is a huge accomplishment for Craig (congrats!) and a must have resource for any LP explorer. Check it out……

• Due to continued resource damage, the FS has permanently closed Colson Campground located just outside Santa Maria.

• As mentioned in a photo above, the new Pothole Trailhead outside of Lake Piru is now open and being used. This is the Southern Terminus of the Condor Trail and provides much easier access to the Agua Blanca and other nearby haunts.

• The Forest Service is in the process of looking at options to restore the Rose Valley Creek and Lakes located off Hwy 33 above Ojai. See the invitation below to an upcoming workshop where some of the different proposed options will be discussed. If interested, please attend and make your voice heard.

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Recent LPFA restoration efforts along Hi Mountain Road, photo TrailSmith