Summertime, and the Los Padres is Scorchin’

Some of the sweet fruit from the June 2021 Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Working Vacation

Hello Friends & Fellow Forest Users,

We hope you are enjoying your summer and still mixing in some Los Padres time, despite the heat and waning water. As we all know, summers are tough around here but there are still great pools, camps and shaded trails this time of year for those who know where to go and plan appropriately. This is probably the quietest time of year in the Los Padres but don’t let the calm fool you, there’s been plenty of news around the forest of late. Let’s get to it…

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FIRE RESTRICTIONS & UPDATES

The biggest news has been the new fire restriction order, which was announced July 15. The new restrictions prohibit campfires anywhere across the forest and camp stoves are allowed only within Designated Campfire Use Sites. The fire restriction order is effective through December 31, 2021and again: 

– NO CAMPFIRES ANYWHERE
– STOVES ONLY IN DESIGNATED CAMPFIRE USE SITES

Click the links above for more details. We realize that fire restrictions, which essentially ban hot coffee in the backcountry, are usually met with disapproval but please understand that there are over 170 drought-aided fires burning at the moment across the Western United States and most of the forests across the west are in similar fire restrictions as well. We’re all in this together and let’s hope for more rain in the coming years and certainly a slow remainder of the 2021 wildfire season. BE SAFE, everyone.  Speaking of fires, the Willow Fire in the Northern Los Padres is now 100% contained after burning nearly 3,000 acres within the Ventana Wilderness. While the fire has come and gone, please check the most recent Willow Fire closure order to see what is closed and what remains open. If you know that part of the forest and enjoy reading about local fire history, you need to check out a book called Fire Monkswhich chronicles how the Tassajara Monks fought back the 2008 Basin Complex Fire. It’s a great read and while the book is terrific and the Willow Fire made a similar run this summer, we’re very fortunate and thankful that there won’t be a Fire Monks Willow Fire sequel.

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FREE HERBAL MEDICINE WEBINAR

TUESDAY, JULY 27th
6PM PST

Join Emily Sanders, local clinical herbalist and founder of the Artemisia Academy of Herbal Arts & Healing, for a FREE webinar on the magic and medicine of the Artemisias. These local plant species, Sage brush, Wormwood, and Mugwort, have been used for thousands of years for both their medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Learn how you can make your own medicine! Click HERE to Register!

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Sunset Valley Road will be closed through March 2022

SUNSET VALLEY – NIRA CLOSURE

The Forest Service has been working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and other partner groups to schedule the construction of two bridges which would replace the existing ‘Arizona crossings’ along Sunset Valley Road. When completed, the bridges will help assist aquatic organism passage within the Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Manzana and Fir Canyon drainages. Sunset Valley Road is located in Santa Barbara County behind Figueroa Mountain and is most commonly used to access NIRA and the Manzana Trailheads. This bridge project has been in the works since at least 2017, with construction being delayed a few times due to COVID, etc…

That being said, the FS announced late last week that bridge construction will begin this coming week with an expected closure of Sunset Valley Road as well as the Catway OHV (aka Old Catway) through the end of March 2022.

While the FS is working to finalize the closure order, we’ve been asked to share that the public will not be permitted along Sunset Valley Road between July 26, 2021 – March 30, 2022. This is a full closure, meaning no access along Sunset Valley Road or the Old Catway to Davy Brown Campground, NIRA Campground and both of the Manzana Trailheads. Hikers and bikes are also expected to not be permitted along the road during the closure. Again, closure details are being finalized and we’ll share final details as soon as they are available.

While the bridges will definitely help with creating safer fish passage, this 8 month closure is going to impact a lot of backpackers, hikers, equestrians and hunters who rely on NIRA and the Manzana for their backcountry access. We’ve already shared a list of concerns and suggestions with the FS and we’ll be sure to share the final closure details when available. In the meantime, if you have any plans to visit the Manzana or lower Sisquoc, you should start looking at other entry points and/or trail options. HikeLosPadres.com is a great resource for planning trips into the LP, check it out or feel free to email us with any Los Padres-related questions.

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Maybe it should be called Green Canyon? June in Blue Canyon, photo JMorris

TRAIL WORK UPDATE

While many of us spend our summers vacationing in the Sierras or working on our beach tans, the LPFA volunteers and Trail Crew have remained busy working strategically on many of our favorite trails here in the LP. Here’s a quick rundown on what we’ve been doing trail-wise over the past few months:

  • GENE MARSHALL – PIEDRA BLANCA TRAIL: We wrapped up a busy spring and early summer of work on the GMPB with a fantastic 10-day Working Vacation and followed that up with a week of work by the LPFA Trail Crew. We’ve now collectively worked every inch of trail from Reyes Creek to Three Mile Camp and then from Piedra Blanca TH to Twin Forks. Great work by so many different people and groups, it sure does take a village!
  • BLUE CANYON TRAILS: Thanks to a generous SCE grant, the LPFA made a big push in 2021 to reopen the network of Blue Canyon Trails. We hosted volunteer days, volunteer weekends, worked with Laguna Blanca School for a week and wrapped it up with a couple weeks of work by the LPFA Trail Crew. We still have a little bit left to do but the trails from Forbush to P-Bar and out beyond Upper Blue Canyon haven’t looked this good in a long time…
  • COLD SPRING NORTH & MONO JUNGLE: We’ve also kept busy working the north Cold Spring Trail from Cold Spring Saddle down through Forbush and continuing through the new section of trail near the Mono Jungle. Work continues on the new section of trail and we were able to brush most of the trail from Forbush to the junction of the Gibraltar Trail. Work will continue out here through most of the summer and we’re hoping to schedule a few volunteer days out here as well.
  • MISSION PINE TRAIL: Thanks to support from the SB Trail Runners and the FS, we’ve been working hard to reopen an incredibly brushy section of the Mission Pine Trail out near West Big Pine. We hosted a couple of 4-day volunteer weekends and another week with the LPFA Trail Crew, and at the moment we have only 0.3 miles remaining to brush before punching through the worst of it. We’ll likely be back out there this summer should we get a cool-ish weekend to finish it up. Stay tuned…
  • LITTLE FALLS TRAIL: Thanks to some additional FS support we were able to put the LPFA Trail Crew on the Little Falls for a week of brushing and sign maintenance. Still lots of brushing needed in the upper parts of the canyon, but we were able to make a nice dent in the worst sections.
  • SANTA CRUZ TRAIL: Santa Cruz is a tough place to work in the summer, but we did spend a week in early June clearing brush and restoring tread out near Little Pine Spring. This will be a large focus of our fall/winter 2021 work as we continue working through the 40-Mile Wall and on down to Santa Cruz Station.
  • MATILIJA TRAIL: Thanks to some remaining Thomas Fire trail restoration funding, the LPFA Trail Crew has spent the past two weeks working the Matilija Trail outside of Ojai. We’ve been slowly chipping away at the Matilija Trail for the past three years, with the emphasis this summer being the section of trail between Middle Matilija and Upper Matilija. It’s slow going in this canyon, but thankfully there is good water along the way. More to come…

Our Summer Membership Drive is happening now! Join or Renew your LPFA Membership to help us 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

Thankful for the Los Padres Sneaker Snow Storm

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

Hello Friends,

Welcome to fall in the Los Padres.  We’ve been seeing peak fall colors this past week across most of the LP with sycamores, alders, maples and cottonwoods all dazzling in their fall bests.  Fall has been especially dramatic this year thanks to the sneaky snow storm that came in a couple weeks back.  If you remember that first storm, it was predicted to be light and cold with very little precipitation.  The storm came and went but instead of light and cold we surprisingly found most of the high country covered in a solid blanket of 6 inches of snow.  A sneaker storm for sure and it was very nice getting out over the past week and seeing the mountains drinking up some much needed moisture.  Hopefully a good sign of things to come…..

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

LPFA TRAIL UPDATES

The LPFA has been busy with our fall – winter program of trail work and we’re hoping the recent shift in COVID tiers doesn’t slow us down too much.  The LPFA Trail Crew is currently helping the Forest Service with some BAER work in the Dolan Fire but we’ve spent much of the past months working some of the trails in and around the SLO Backcountry.  We cleared the lower portion of the Lopez Canyon Trail, brushed the worst section of American Canyon and cleared trees along the Castle Crags Trail in the Machesna.  Lots of work left to do in SLO and we’re hoping to get back out there soon.  Our main focus this fall and early winter will be in the deeper parts of the SB Backcountry working primarily on the Santa Cruz and Mission Pine Trails while also strategically hitting Poplar, Alamar, Madulce and the upper Sisquoc.   We’ll share more details and potential volunteer opportunities but we should be out there as much as we can until the rains come and shutdown access. 

We had a great volunteer projectlast week and cleared about 0.4 miles of some of the nastiest wilderness chaparral you can imagine along the Mission Pine Trail, it was great to get out there!  In addition, we’ll be continuing work on the Mono Jungle Reroute of the Cold Spring Trail and should also get started on restoring the North Franklin Trail out behind Carpinteria.  As the weather changes we’ll plan to move closer to paved roads and should spend some time working the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, North Fork Matilija, Sulphur Spring Trail, Blue Canyon, lower Santa Cruz while also organizing triage projects where needed to help clear storm caused trees and slides.  We certainly have a lot of trail work scheduled and our collective fingers are crossed that it all goes as planned.  Thanks everyone for the support and as always, if you come across any bad sections of trail, downed trees or slides, take pictures and post to HikeLosPadresand email the Forest Service or your favorite trail group – things change so quickly across the trails and any information you can share is always appreciated!  See you on the trails….

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

FOREST 411

• Despite the recent rains, the forest remains in fire restrictions which prohibit campfires across the forest and camp stoves are only allowed in designated campfire use sites.  These restrictions generally stay in place until the forest has collectively received a few inches of rain.  The Forest Service is monitoring and checking moisture levels weekly and we’ll be sure to share when any changes occur in the fire restrictions.

• We are officially within the Seasonal Gate Closure season where some of our favorite trailheads and campgrounds become harder to get to as the FS swings the gates for the winter.  As of right now the only closed seasonal gates outside of the MRD that we’ve heard of are Dough Flat outside of Fillmore, Cherry Creek in the upper Sespe and the Upper Santa Ynez gate at Romero (which has now been closed for 3+ years).  Everything else should be open at least until the next big storms.  If you find any locked gates, please let us know so we can pass along the news.  It’s also very wise this time of year to check with the FS ahead of time to see if the gates are closed.  Nothing worse that trying to get to Santa Barbara Canyon (or wherever you want to go) and finding the gates closed 4 miles before the trailhead.

• The Monterey Ranger District remains in a hard closure due to the Dolan Fire, which is currently 98% contained and is holding at 124,924 scorched acres.  The cause of the fire was verified earlier this month as arson related to an illegal marijuana grow.  There is no set date as to when the MRD will reopen but as we’ve seen in years past, it might be a while due to very valid post-fire safety concerns.  Stay tuned….

• In case you missed last months LPFA Seven Minute Story Night, never fear, it’s on YouTube, check it out…  Oh yeah, and if you’d like to sign up to present in the future, we’ll likely be hosting another one in January.  Let us know….

• Four condors were released earlier this week into the wilds outside San Simeon.  Another great step for our beloved California condor!

• The Los Padres National Forest is hiring!  They are looking for a Forestry Technician in Santa Barbara and a wilderness/stock program manager in the Monterey RD, check it out and good luck!

• The Forest Service is also looking for volunteers who might be interested in helping treat and eliminate non-native noxious weeds within the Santa Barbara front and backcountry areas.  You’d be working with the FS biologist.  If this sounds fun or for more information email us at Volunteer@LPForest.org.

• Thanks to everyone who submitted photos for the 2021 Los Padres Calendar.  We are just about done with the layout and the calendars should be ready in plenty of time for the holidays.  To learn more or purchase your very own 2021 Los Padres Calendar, CLICK HERE…..

• Some slight changes in the West Cuesta closure order: the Forest Service revised the closure so that bicycles and hikers are once again permitted along West Cuesta.  The closure remains in place for vehicles and dispersed camping.

• If you Amazon, remember that you can always use Amazon Smile and choose the LPFA as your charity of choice so that you not only shop but also help the forest, all in just a few clicks.  Check it out – thanks

• And last but certainly not least, our latest volunteer spotlight features the great Bardley Smith.  You know the saying about a tree falling in the woods, right?  Well, it should be changed to if a tree falls across the trail in the Ojai Ranger District…. yes, Bardley will most likely cut it out.  Thanks for all you do Bardley!

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

Los Padres Reopens


Good news, most of the Los Padres reopened on Friday, more details below

Hello Friends,

As of Friday morning, the Los Padres Forest has finally reopened!  Woot woot…..!!!  It’s been a challenging month and a day since the first closure was announced and we’ve certainly heard quite a few complaints about not being able to enjoy the mountains and trails.  While the closure wasn’t fun, it did appear to work.  We collectively did our part, obeyed the closure, no new fires and now we’re mostly back.  Thanks everyone…..

That being said, there are some additional fire restrictions, extended regional closures and more information you need to know before packing up and heading for your favorite trailhead.  Here goes:

I. MORE FIRE RESTRICTIONS:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. there are additional fire restrictions in place.  Effective this morning, there are no campfires allowed anywhere in the Los Padres and cooking stoves are allowed only in designated campfire use sites.  Please read the Regional Order here.  This means no stoves in the backcountry (cold food & coffee only) and again no campfires anywhere in the LP.  Moving forward, the fire restrictions will be reviewed each week but it’s likely, especially with more hot weather on the horizon, that these fire restrictions will remain in place until we receive enough rain.  Remember, last year the Cave Fire started in November and the Thomas Fire famously started in December.  Stay tuned and we’ll share updates when available…..

II. PATIENCE PLEASE:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. that doesn’t mean all gates and campgrounds will immediately be open as well.  Both Forest Service and Parks Management staff are in the process of opening gates, dayuse areas and campgrounds along with changing out signs but it’s unlikely that everything will be completed this weekend.  If you are heading to the forest this weekend please be prepared for the possibility that your favorite road or camp may still be closed.  Patience might be needed and we’d expect that everything should be opened by sometime early next week.

III. DOLAN FIRE REMAINS ACTIVE:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. the area around the Dolan Fire remains closed.  The Dolan Fire is currently 98% contained but the area is likely to remain closed for some time.  The Dolan Closure includes most of the Monterey Ranger District including the Silver Peak Wilderness and all forest areas south of the Pine Ridge Trail.  Check out the closure map here.

IV. WEST CUESTA CLOSED:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. West Cuesta Road above San Luis Obispo remains closed due to resource damage.  The West Cuesta Closure went into effect in early September just before the larger fire closures and is expected to last until December 6.

V. TUNNEL TRAIL SANTA BARBARA CLOSED:
While the Los Padres has reopened…. the Tunnel Trailhead above Santa Barbara remains closed due to SCE road maintenance.  The closure is expected to last until October 30 and includes closing the main Tunnel Trailhead and all mid-slope Edison roads between Rattlesnake Canyon and Seven Falls.  There should be signs posted at all the major trailheads leading to and from Tunnel.

We realize some of these additional closures may not be too popular and we hate to put a damper on the excitement of the reopening but sharing information is part of the job.  We’re happy to be back and respectful at the same time….  Thanks…..

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After years of bearing the brunt of the overgrown Sulphur Spring Trail, this friendly fellow came by to lend the LPFA Trail Crew a helping hand, or rather paw….
“Does this take 40:1 or 50:1?”  –  photo JMorris

FOREST 411
• We want to send a HUGE thank you to our buddy Kevin Cody who has once again setup a birthday fundraiser for the LPFA.  We’re so thankful to not only have Kevin looking after the forest and trails (he literally runs the trails with a Silky Saw) but also thankful that he values our contributions and is willing to help keep us chugging along.  Very cool, thanks Kevin!  And if anyone else would like to contribute on behalf of Kevin, check it out…..

• The opening of the forest also coincides with opening weekend of general deer hunting season in Zone D-13.  D13 lasts through November 8 and includes most of the Ojai and Mt Pinos Ranger Districts.  Check out the map here.  If you’re venturing into that neck of the woods you should expect to see quite a few hunters dispersed camping along the roads and pullouts.  Remember that most hunting occurs around sunrise and sunset and it’s always nice to chat with folks at the trailheads and share information.  Be safe everyone and remember no campfires.

• More good news, HikeLosPadres mastermind John Ziegler took advantage of the closure to clean and enhance the HLP website.  It was a race between getting the site back up and having the forest reopen and thankfully John won the race.  HikeLosPadres.com is back up and running!  Thanks John and look forward to seeing more new updates and reports from everyone soon…. 

• The LPFA will be hosting a virtual Zoom Seven Minute Storytelling night on October 29.  We’re looking for talented storytellers to share 7 minutes of slides documenting their adventures, exploits, history, studies or insights covering any Los Padres topics.  The presentation format should be really fun with each presenter having 21 slides and 20 seconds per slide.  It works out to be 7 mins per presenter and it’s a great way to cover a lot of material in a quick and entertaining structure.  If you’d be interested in presenting, please email us at INFO@LPForest.org and you can learn more about or sign up for the event here.

• We’ve had a few people ask about the Annual LPFA Used Camping Gear Sale that we’ve hosted over the past 4-5 years.  We’ve continued to receive fantastic donations from the public as well as Gossamer Gear but based on the current COVID regulations we’re going to postpone the sale for the fall and hope to reschedule in the spring.  Please stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you have any experienced camping gear you’d like to donate, let us know and we’d be happy to help find it a new home in the spring: INFO@LPForest.org

• The days are getting shorter and mornings cooler – meaning it’s time for the 2021 Los Padres Calendar!  Once again, if you have any great Los Padres photos from the past year you’d like to contribute, we’d love to include your photos in the calendar.  If any of your photos are selected we’ll send you a calendar and credit you as well.  This will be our 6th, 7th or 8th year of calendars and they’re always fun.  Thanks in advance…..

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The 2020 Los Padres Calendar, just about in the rear-view, thankfully, right?

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

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

Get Your Los Padres Forest Update

Romero Trail Thomas Fire Damage, Before & After, Compliments of Multi-Use Trails Coalition

Hello Friends,

We were fortunate last week to have an early season storm roll across the Los Padres bringing with it precipitation ranging from around a tenth of an inch in the inland areas to over an inch along the coastal mountains.  That’s a great start for the season and if nothing else should bring some green color to some of our hills soon.  Depending on what happens from here on out we could enjoy a nice long green season, which we haven’t had very much of over the past decade.  Fingers crossed for a nice series of slow and steady storms ahead…….

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Poplar Trail, in Need of a Shave,  photo Aaron Songer, October 2018
BLUFF – POPLAR WORKING VACATION
The LPFA will be hosting our next Working Vacation starting next week from October 19-28.  We’ll be base-camping at the Bluff Administrative Cabin and working down the Poplar Trail in the Dick Smith Wilderness along the upper Indian Creek drainage.  Due to fire related road closures and poor access, the Poplar Trail has become extremely overgrow in recent years with some people calling it the “worst trail in the Santa Barbara Backcountry”.  Our focus over the Working Vacation will be to clear downed trees, remove choked brush and attempt to push the “worst trail” moniker to someplace else.  If you have some free time between the 19th and 28th and are interested in volunteering on the trail we’d love to have your help.  We are asking that people volunteer for at least 4 days.  This is a car-camping style project since we have the luxory of driving the 90-min dirt road in to Bluff Camp.  If you don’t have a dirt road worthy vehicle, don’t worry, we should have plenty of space in other trucks for you to carpool along.  As usual, all food, tools and PPE will be provided for the volunteers.  For more information or to sign up please email project leader Mike Smith at TrailSmith@LPForest.org.  Hope to see you out there…..
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Morning Moment of Truth, How Hot is it Gonna be? photo AQuinn
FOREST 411
• The LPFA will be putting on our 4th Annual Used Gear Sale on Sunday November 4 at Tucker’s Grove in Goleta.  As usual, we’ll have literally hundreds of gently used camping gear supplies, tents and other odds and ends highlighted by dozens of Gossamer Gear backpacks.  If you have any used camping gear you’d like to donate, we’d be happy to take it off your hands in exchange for a donation receipt and a high five.  Proceeds from the sale go to the LPFA Trail Care program.  For more information or to donate your camping gear email: INFO@LPForest.org.

• General hunting season ended a few weeks ago for most of the Los Padres (A Zone South) but general deer season opens this weekend for Zone D13, which covers most of the Mt Pinos Ranger District and a large portion of the Ojai District.  Click here for a map of D13.  D13 opens October 13 and lasts through November 11.

• A coalition of local Southern Los Padres trail organizations, including the LPFA, have combined forces to raise needed funds to restore the trails impacted by the Thomas Fire.  You’ll be hearing A LOT more about the Thomas Fire Trail Fund in the coming weeks/months but we have released a PDF update on the Thomas Fire trail restoration efforts, check it out here.

• Two California Condors have been found dead in recent months as a result of gunshot wounds.  One condor was found near Porterville and the other in Kern County, just outside the Los Padres.  Currently there is a $15,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for these tragic deaths.

• The LPFA will once again be printing 2019 Los Padres calendars just in time for the holidays.  We’re looking for any great photos you might have of the Los Padres that we could include in the calendar.  Email us (INFO@LPForest.org) for more information.

• The Ogilvy Fire was declared 100% contained.  The fire chewed up 172 acres and burned from September 1-4 in the Mono drainage in the Santa Barbara Backcountry.

Sycamore Canyon Road, which is used to access Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, is closed to the public Monday – Friday lasting through November 30.  The road is currently being repaired after sustaining major damage in the 2016-2017 atmospheric river storms.

• Don’t forget to check HikeLosPadres.com before your next adventure into the Los Padres.  Great place to read about water and trail conditions.  And don’t forget to share your findings when you get back…..

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The Wander-Full Southern Views Across the Chumash

Opening Soberanes – Get Your 2018 Calendar!

Mid-Fall Colors, Mono Jungle, November 2017
Hello Friends,

It is fall and the weather is changing.  These past few weeks we’ve seen our Los Padres autumn colors coming in, temps are cooling quickly and we’ve even had a few early season storms knock back the summer dust and in some places ash from the 2017 wildfire season.  While we haven’t seen a whole lot of rain up and down the forest, most of the Northern Los Padres has received over an inch of rain with select locations closing in on 2 inches.  Many of the creeks are starting to flow again as the riparian trees settle into their winter dormancy cycle and the trails are ripe for exploring.  Hope you get out there soon and be sure to check the latest conditions of your favorite trail or camp at HikeLosPadres and share your experiences after you get back.

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Highway 1 at Carmel River, Sign Slightly Modified

BIG SUR & MONTEREY OPENING UP
In case you’ve missed the last few episodes, there have been some recent developments in the never-ending epic saga: The Sometimes Island of Big Sur.  As you should know, access to Big Sur and the Monterey Backcountry has been severely limited over the past 17 months due to the 2016 Soberanes Fire followed by 2017 winter storm damage.  After many months of being isolated and/or closed, the area is slowly opening back up:


THE ROADS

• The first domino to fall was the October reopening of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, which amazingly reopened after only 7 months of being closed (BIG round of applause to all involved).  The reopening of the Pfeiffer Bridge once again allowed vehicles to travel between Big Sur and Monterey along Hwy 1.
• Unfortunately, Hwy 1 still doesn’t connect with San Luis Obispo due to the Mud Creek slide in Southern Monterey County.  Mud Creek remains closed between Gorda and the Salmon Creek Guard Station.  Crews continue to work on the slide but Hwy 1 at Mud Creek is expected to remain closed throughout the winter and most likely until summer 2018.
• Access to Bottcher’s Gap Campground and trailhead remains closed as work continues along Palo Colorado Road.
• All other normal public forest access roads should be open across the Monterey Ranger District.  This includes Nacimiento Fergusson, Tassajara, Sycamore Canyon and South Coast Ridge Road.  That being said, this time of year storm closures should be expected so be sure to contact the FS if you have any questions or need clarification.

Western Pine Ridge Trail Remains Closed

THE FOREST

• Effective November 9, the Soberanes Fire closure was adjusted re-opening most of the Monterey Ranger District and Ventana Wilderness areas.  This is good news!
• That being said, it’s not all rainbows and moonbeams just yet.  There was substantial fire damage along the very popular Pine Ridge Trail and as a result the Pine Ridge Trail between Big Sur Station and Redwood Camp remains closed indefinitely.  This includes Sykes, Barlow Flat, Terrace Creek, Ventana Camp, Redwood Camp, Ventana Camp Trail and the Terrace Creek Trail.  There is no established timeframe as to when these camps/trails will reopen.  Patience is the word of the day and hopefully more information on a reopening date will surface in the coming weeks.
• You can view the closer order here and a map of the closure here.
• There are likely quite a few trails within the Soberanes Fire perimeter that have not been properly surveyed.  Be careful if you’re out there and please take photos of any trail slides or downed trees and share them with either the Forest Service, Ventana Wilderness Alliance or post on HikeLosPadres.com.  The more information that is shared, the sooner the trail issues can be resolved.  Thanks…..

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2018 LOS PADRES WALL CALENDAR
For the 3rd year in a row the LPFA will be putting together a Los Padres themed wall calendar!  They’ve been a huge hit and we’re excited to work again this year to collect and compile great photos from across the LP featuring vistas, favorite trails, waterfalls, wildlife, camps and more……  And we can use your help!

Once again, if you have a great LP photo you’d like to share that you think would make a good addition to the calendar, please send it our way and if we use it we’ll send you a free calendar.  All photos will only be used for the calendar and your name will be credited on the month that the photo is used.  We’ve done this the past two years and it’s been a lot of fun seeing the great photos submitted by you and incorporating them into the themed calendar.

Photos should be sent to INFO@LPForest.org and feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. 

You can also pre-order the calendar for $15.00 at the following link: https://lpforest.org/2018-los-padres-calendar/  We plan on having the calendar printed and shipped by mid-December, just in time to stuff the stocking of your favorite Los Padres adventurer!  Happy Holidays…….

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“Has anyone seen the bridge?” – Newly re-built Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge

Los Padres Volunteer Hours & Water Reports

Pine Mountain Alpenglow, October 2015
SespeSunset

Hi Everyone,

A little official business to take care of today.  The Forest Service reports volunteer hours in conjunction with their fiscal calendar, which runs from October 1 – September 30.  For those of you who regularly volunteer, you’ve most likely already been contacted by the FS requesting you to report your hours.  It might seem like a pain to track and report your volunteer hours but it’s really important for the FS to have an accurate count on the volunteer hours being spent within their districts and across the forest.  In general, the Project Leader is supposed to take care of tracking and then reporting the hours for her/his project.  If you haven’t reported your hours or have any questions about the process, please contact either your Trail Leader, the organization sponsoring your project or the FS District you worked within.  And if all else fails, feel free to contact Jasonn Beckstrand:  JasonnB@LPForest.org

Along those lines, late last year John Ziegler from www.HikeLosPadres.com was nice enough to create an online volunteer hour project tracker.  Again this should be managed by the Project Leader but after a project is complete you can report the hours of all the volunteers and the project specifics within the HLP tracker.  It only takes a few minutes and at the end of the year it’s very easy to pull spreadsheet reports which break down volunteer hours by individual, by district, by organization, by trail, etc…..  This is the first year the online project tracker has been used and it’s been a huge help for reporting and tracking hours.  BUT it’s only as good as the information that is input into the system.  If you are not using HLP to report your hours, you should probably check it out.  For more information check in with Jasonn, see email address above.




HikeLosPadres Water Table
HLP_Water
WATER IN HLP
As long as we’re at it, HikeLosPadres.com is an awesome site.  Call me biased but the information that is being shared through the site is incredible.  Probably most important right now is the sharing of water availability.  Check the Water Report link posted below.  This allows you to see all the water reports that have been posted within HLP across the forest.  You can sort by clicking on the red text at the top which allows you to see which camps have water and when it was last reported.  With water scarcity being an issue, this is a great tool for helping plan your next trip.  Check it out and be sure to post what you find when you get back.

http://www.hikelospadres.com/los-padres-forest-water-reports.html


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PicoBlanco
And if you’re interested in peak bagging, there’s a great discussion right now about Los Padres peaks.
Check it out on the Facebook page, click here.