Forest Gates Opening & Volunteer Trail Work Updates


When Los Padres eyes are smiling….. photo A. Jerlow


Hello Friends, 

It’s mid-May and we hope this email finds you well and busy planning your next forest adventure. The big news across the Los Padres at the moment is the opening of most of the seasonal gate closures. Many of the Forest Service dirt roads across the LP are closed during the winter in order to protect those roads and/or prevent vehicles from getting stuck. The gates usually close sometime in December and depending on the extent of needed repairs and when the snow melts, those gates swing open sometime in late-April to mid-May. That’s right now….. 

GOOD NEWS, the Forest Service has been busy working on road repairs over the past month and have reopened most of the seasonal gate closures across the forest ~ yay! Some of the fan favorites that have reopened include Pine Mtn, Grade Valley, Bates and all the usual OHV gates in the Pinos District. Unfortunately, not all the gates have reopened and we’ve listed some of the gates that remain closed within this email. Sometimes information spreads slowly across the forest and we always encourage folks to contact your local District Office or check in with us to confirm if the gates are open or if you have any questions.

It’s starting to warm up but there’s still tons of water and it’s about as good as it gets in the forest right now! As always, if you are looking for trail conditions or more information from the forest, check out HikeLosPadres.com or the LPFA social media feeds. Hope to see you out there!  




Fresh off two Working Vacations in the San Rafael and Sespe Wildernesses, up next is a three-day trail project in the Dick Smith as part of National Trails Day. We’ll be car-camping at Rancho Nuevo Campground and working up-canyon from there restoring the trail as we go. If you’ve not been to this corner of the forest, it’s spectacular and should be epic this time of year after all the rains. Come one, come all, camp both nights or come for the day! We’d love the help if you feel like giving back to the trails – #NationalTrailsDay. To sign up click the link below….. 



Did you know that the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail is one of only two federally desigated National Recreation Trails within the Los Padres NF? We’re doing our best to keep it open for people to enjoy. photo J. Nelson.



• As mentioned above, the LPFA just wrapped up a two-week Working Vacation in the San Rafael Wilderness along the Manzana Trail. We were able to complete 4 miles of trail restoration over that time thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the HUGE efforts of the 31 volunteers who helped along the way. We made a short IG reel showing some of the work and vacation from our time in the SB Backcountry. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which is more fun! Thanks everyone….. 

• Meanwhile, the LPFA Trail Crew has continued our work on the nearby Sweetwater Trail, which is also in the San Rafael. We were able to knock out another 1.25 miles of trail over the past 10 days and will hopefully connect the dots with previous work later this season. Thanks again to NFWF for the funding support and RPL for the water huffing. 

• We also just completed a 5-day volunteer project on the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail in the Sespe Wilderness. While it was hot, we were able to do 2.5 miles of trail restoration up towards Pine Mtn Lodge. This was 100% funded by private donations from forest users like yourself and we’re hoping to push on up to PML on an upcoming cooler weekend. Stay tuned! Thanks to the 25 volunteers who helped in the Sespe including T111, you are all welcome back anytime! 

• We also continue with our regular frontcountry volunteer trail projects in both Ojai as well as Santa Barbara, keep an eye out for those. As always, we take requests too. If there is a trail you love and would like to see given some TLC, let us know and we’ll get the ball rolling and hopefully some boots on the ground to help. Thanks everyone…. 


TRAIL VOLUNTEERS: Return to Happy Hunting Ground, Working Vacation


Happy Hunting Ground Working Vacation Continues 
April 22-28, 2024


Hello Friends, 

The LPFA and our wonderful trail volunteers just completed 3 miles of trail restoration (technically 2.9, but who’s counting?) within the San Rafael Wilderness as part of our Happy Hunting Ground Working Vacation. Woot woot! 

We had so much fun and it was so nice out there… we decided to do it again! Please consider joining us as we Return to Happy Hunting Ground ~ April 22-28 to continue our great trail work down towards South Fork Station. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • As usual, all food and tools will be provided for our volunteers. 
  • You’ll need to backpack in your own personal gear 10.7 miles from the NIRA Trailhead out to Happy Hunting Ground. It’s a beautiful hike with many creek crossings and most of our volunteers were completing the hike in 6-7 hrs. 
  • While we’d love people to come out for all 7 days, you are more than welcome to come for shorter stints too. We’ll work around your schedule. Sign up and we can work out the details from there. 
  • Our Working Vacations are really fun. A good mix of Work and Vacation. If you haven’t joined us before, check it out, you’ll have a great time! 
  • Be sure to pack your phone and a bathing suit. The views are terrific and this years water is incredible. 
  • To sign up please click the link below or email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org with any questions. 

Thanks everyone, hope to see you out there…….





Manzana Trail is Where It’s At!



Hello Friends! 

It’s trail season and the LPFA will once again be hosting a Working Vacation to help maintain the backcountry trails of the Los Padres Forest. This season we are focusing on restoring the beloved Manzana Trail within the San Rafael Wilderness…..

Click Here to Help the Manzana Trail!

Starting April 6, we’ll be camping at Happy Hunting Ground Camp and spending the next week clearing the trail down towards South Fork Station. Happy Hunting Ground is a backcountry camp nestled between pines, oaks and rock outcrops along the eastern edge of the Hurricane Deck formation. If you haven’t been there before, it will be a great place to temporarily call home!

This will be a typical LPFA Working Vacation complete with pack mule support = all food and tools will be provided. Happy Hunting Ground is located 10.7 miles upstream from the NIRA Trailhead along the Manzana Trail. Each volunteer will have to only backpack in all their own personal gear while the mules will bring in the kitchen setup, food and tools for the week. 

The trail work will include crosscutting downed trees, tread repair, some rockwork and brushing. We could also use help with cooking and campground maintenance too, if that’s more to your liking. While we’d love to have you for all 10 days, there are absolutely options for shorter stays. If you’d like to join or to learn more, please email VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org or click the link below. We’ll be sharing more details over the coming week or so.


Happy Hunting Ground is an amazing place! It will be fantastic working the trail, spending time at camp, helping the forest and hanging out with friends. Hope to see you there….


Sunset Valley Road Closure: Cachuma Saddle to NIRA 2021-2022

CLOSED: Sunset Valley Road from Cachuma Saddle to NIRA, both NIRA and Davy Brown Campgrounds and the Old Catway OHV road / trail will be closed from July 30, 2021 through March 30, 2022

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 Davy Brown 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…

In order to construct the bridges, the Forest Service will need to close both Sunset Valley Road and the Catway OHV (Old Catway) to all traffic including vehicles, bikes and hikers and as a result of the closure, both Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds will be closed.

READ THE CLOSURE ORDER HERE

The Arizona crossings at Davy Brown (left) & Lower Manzana (right)

While the initial reaction after hearing about this closure has been overwhelmingly negative, the long-term effects from the closure will be very positive. Obviously the bridges will greatly benefit fish passage along the Davy Brown, in addition the bridges will improve year-round access to NIRA and as an added bonus the Forest Service will be repaving Sunset Valley Road during the construction as well. This repaving might be worth it all by itself as that road has won the distinguished honor as the “worst road in the Los Padres” over the past couple years due to car-eating potholes.

The infamous first crossing of the Manzana. Pack up, walk 100ft, take your boots off….

NIRA is closed? Now what…..???

NIRA and the Lower Manzana is the main gateway to the San Rafael Wilderness and by far the busiest backcountry trailhead in Santa Barbara County, if not the entire Los Padres National Forest. There is no doubt that 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 as well as Davy Brown and NIRA Campgrounds for somewhat easy and remote car-camping.

Forest-users tend to have favorite trails and camps that they revisit frequently and while that is terrific, this might be a good excuse to find a new favorite spot or search out that peak, camp or trail you’ve always wanted to visit. There are certainly plenty of other backcountry trailheads, trails and campgrounds worth exploring. We’re very fortunate in the Los Padres to have miles and miles of backcountry trails for all fitness and experience levels and quite a few other remote campgrounds worthy of loading up the larger tents and coolers.

If you have any questions about what other spots to check out, WE’D BE HAPPY TO HELP: check out HikeLosPadres or email us at INFO@LPForest.org and we can suggest a variety of trails and camps based on the time of year, what you are hoping to find and of course any of the current forest restrictions or closures.

And for those willing to hike the extra mile and push through some extra brush, just think how uncrowded the Narrows and Horseshoe Bend will be this year……

Springtime at NIRA, it’ll be here before we know it…….

Late Spring Volunteer Projects

Here Pollywog Pollywog, photo Humphrey

LATE SPRING 2018 TRAIL PROJECTS

Hi Everyone,

Here’s a list of some upcoming LPFA and non-LPFA trail projects and specific contacts in case you’d like to volunteer.  Hope to see you out there……..

May 16 – White Rock Trail Work: The LPFA continues work clearing brush along the Figueroa Mtn network of trails.  Up next is White Rock Trail.  Led by Bryan Conant, we’ll be focused on brushing a middle 1/2 mile section of the trail.  Please RSVP via email: INFO@LPForest.org

May 18-21 – Bluff Camp Sawyer Trip: Led by Mickey McTigue, we’ll be driving in to Bluff Cabin via the Buckhorn Rd and Upper Oso.  From Bluff we’ll be day-tripping up to both the Mission Pine and Sisquoc Trails (part of the Condor Trail) to cut out fallen trees across the trail.  Work will be primarily crosscut with some brushing intermixed.  This work is within Santa Barbara County within the San Rafael Wilderness.  For information or to sign up please contact Mickey at: mickey.joecache@gmail.com

May 19 – Santa Barbara Canyon Crosscut: Join Mark Subbotin as he leads a project to cut out two large oak trees along the Santa Barbara Canyon Trail (along the Condor Trail).  The first tree is 3.2 miles from the trailhead while the second is 4.1 miles.  To sign up please email Mark at: msubbotin76@gmail.com

May 20 – Tumamait Trail Crosscut: Mark will be at it again, this time working the Tumamait Trail high atop the Chumash Wilderness.  They’ll be cutting out three downed trees about 2.5 miles out from the trailhead.  Mark can be reached at: msubbotin76@gmail.com

May 26 – Sulphur Spring Sawyer Project: Bob Burtness has been caring for the Sulphur Spring Trail since the 1970’s.  It’s become impassable due to fallen downed trees.  Bob will be leading a project on May 26 to help cut out the downed trees along the trail.  The work will either be using chain saws or crosscut, depending on PAL fire levels.  Sulphur Spring Trail is located off of Figueroa Mtn Rd near the San Rafael Wilderness.  For more information please contact: INFO@LPForest.org

June 2 – Chorro Grande Trail: The LPFA will once again celebrate National Trails Day by hosting a much overdue trail projects.  This year we’ll be working the Chorro Grande Trail within the Ojai Ranger District.  Chorro Grande is a lovely trail nestled between Hwy 33 and Pine Mtn ranging in elevation from 4,000ft to over 6,000ft.  We’ll be primarily brushing the middle portion of the trail.  Jasonn Beckstrand will be leading the efforts.  For more information email: INFO@LPForest.org

June 2 – Boulder Canyon Trail: Mark Subbotin will be leading a chain saw or crosscut project down the Boulder Canyon Trail (Condor Trail) focused on clearing an estimated 20+ trees.  This will also be part of the National Trails Day celebration.  For more information or to sign up, please email Mark: msubbotin76@gmail.com

June 8-10 – Alamar Trail Sawyer & Tread: The LPFA will be hosting one last project this year focused on clearing the Alamar Trail (part of the Condor Trail) within the Dick Smith Wilderness.  Led by Bryan Conant, we’ll be driving to Alamar Saddle and working from the Saddle down 3 miles into the canyon.  The majority of the work will be crosscut with some brushing and tread work mixed in for good measure.  INFO@LPForest.org to sign up or learn more.

June 15-18 – Upper Sisquoc Trail Project: Mike Smith is leading another assault on the Upper Sisquoc.  The exact location of this project is TBD but it will be somewhere between Alamar Saddle and Heath Camp.  For more information or to sign up please email Mike at: TrailSmith@LPForest.org

Alamar Downed Tree, Snow No Longer Included

 

 

 

THE SUPER LOS PADRES

Aaron, before and after, sizing up a complex oak on Cold Spring Trail
TRAIL REPORTING

Hi Everyone – we hope you’re having a great Good Friday and an even better Good Friday evening,

We’ve got a lot to share today – this is probably the most jam-packed email we’ve ever sent.  So, slip into something more comfortable, pour yourself an ice-cold lemonade and enjoy the read.
If you read nothing else, please check out the massive list of upcoming events and trail projects at the bottom – thanks!

There is no shortage of activities and events going on right now in and around the Los Padres.  We’re right in the middle of what is typically the busiest time of year for the Los Padres.  The flowers are doing their thing (more on that below), the water is plentiful and the trailheads are crammed with hikers, riders and backpackers enjoying the forest.  While the trail-users are busy enjoying the trails, the trail crews and trail volunteers are doing their best to fix any damage sustained from this winters storms.  At the bottom of this email (way down there) is a list of upcoming trail projects.  Giving back to the trails and volunteering time to cut brush from the trail or remove a rock slide can be so rewarding.  We encourage all of you to find a trail event this Spring that inspires you and sign up to volunteer for a day or a weekend or even a 10-day Working Vacation.  You’ll love it!  There are plenty of options out there for everyone, we hope you can find some time to make it happen…….

In the meantime, there is something all of us can do while we’re out on the trails that will directly benefit the trails: TRAIL REPORTS.  Trail crews can’t fix a trail if they don’t know that the trail needs fixing, right?  So while you’re out for a ride or hike and if come across a section of trail with a downed tree or a slide or is buried in brush; take a picture and share it with your local trail group, Forest Service staff or post it to HikeLosPadres.com and we’ll make sure it gets into the right hands.  When taking the picture, it helps to position a friend or a hiking pole or your dog or something in the photo to give the feature some perspective so that we can tell exactly how big that downed tree is.  If you can include GPS coordinates that helps a lot as well.  HikeLosPadres has an easy user-interface that allows you to post pictures and include information like GPS and size estimates along with the photo.  It works great to share as much information as you can so that the trail crews can get out there and do what they love to do fixing these trail problems and issues.  Thank you all for the help and we hope you’re finding plenty of time on the trails this Spring……

— • — • — • —

A nice bouquet somewhere between Greenfield and the Pacific

WILDFLOWER SUPER BLOOM 2017

Look out at that hill, it’s a balloon, it’s a tie-dye, no it’s SUPER BLOOM!  You’ve probably seen the words ‘super bloom’ a lot over the past couple of weeks.  That’s the word being used to describe an exceptional eruption of wildflowers and after all our winter rains, California 2017 is certainly qualifying as a super bloom.  Social media is overflowing with pictures of pilgrimages to Death Valley, Joshua Tree and the Carrizo Plain.  In fact there are even pictures from outer space showing the 2017 super bloom.  While we can’t all be so lucky to join in these epic trips to the desert, never fear, chances are there are super blooms right outside your door.  Find some time in the next couple of weeks to revisit your favorite flower haunt or try to find a new one!  Helen Tarbet of the Santa Lucia Ranger District here in the Los Padres puts together a wildflower update for those people headed to Figueroa Mountain to see the wildflowers.  Her latest report from April 12 is attached with this email.  Check it out and remember to tread lightly so the next people can see the flowers just as you saw them.  Enjoy…….

— • — • — • —

The soon-to-be new Pfeiffer Gulch Bridge, CalTrans

FOREST ACCESS UPDATE

While the flowers are certainly out this year, the Los Padres hasn’t completely reopened after the winter storms.  Most of the dirt roads across the Forest remain closed and behind locked gates.  Some of the roads (such as Sierra Madre) have reopened but most of them will stay closed for at least a few more weeks.  The traditional gate opening ceremony usually occurs on May 1 but this year that might not be the case as some of the roads did sustain quite a bit of damage and are not passable yet.  The Forest Service is working on it.  If you’re heading out to the forest, it’s a good idea to call your local Ranger Station to check if the roads are open.  More details below:

  • The Soberanes Fire Closure remains in effect up in the Big Sur and Ventana Wilderness portions of the Los Padres.  No date has been established for when the fire closure will be lifted.
  • The Big Sur Coast remains somewhat isolated as CalTrans works to reopen Hwy 1.  Google search if confused.
    • Nacimiento Ferguson Road has reopened creating a connection to the coast but Hwy 1 is closed in both directions from there.
    • The Pfeifer Gulch Bridge in Big Sur is being rebuilt with an end of September estimated date of completion.
  • In Santa Barbara, First Crossing and Romero Camuesa Rd at Divide Peak remain closed due to storm flooding and debris flows related to the Rey Fire.
  • Highway 33 will start to see traffic delays as CalTrans continues to work on stabilizing slopes damaged by the storms (see attached).

— • — • — • —

The aforementioned Carrizo Super Bloom, photo Andy Quinn

FOREST 411

  • There is a lot of trail restoration activity going on at the moment in the San Rafael Wilderness.  The LPFA has been working on the Manzana Trail and is currently in the middle of a 10-day Working Vacation based at Happy Hunting Ground.  We’ll have additional crews based at Manzana Narrows starting next weekend through the middle of May.  In addition, the CREW is working on the Sisquoc Trail based out of South Fork working up towards Heath Camp.  These trails will be beautiful after all this work.  If you’re out there, be sure to thank the crews!
  • This is kind of cool, there was an officer in Solvang who got a video of a mountain lion chasing after a deer.
  • With all the recent fires and storms, there have become quite a few hazard trees hanging over campsites around the Los Padres.  Some of the trees have been documented, others have not.  It’s always a good idea to check the area for dead trees or leaners before setting up your camp and obviously camp elsewhere if there is a nearby hazard tree.  Take photos of any hazard trees and share with the Forest Service once you get home.
  • The Wheeler Gorge Open House will be Saturday April 22 from 10am – 2pm.  This years Open House will feature booths from local organizations, a Used Camping Gear Sale, BBQ and a visit from Smokey Bear.  If you have kids and like the forest, this is the place for you!  Come on out.  We’ve also released the summer program of talks at Wheeler.
  • The Big Sur International Marathon is April 30.  There is only one way in and out of Big Sur at the moment.  Unless you are running in the marathon, you might want to stay away from Big Sur that weekend.
  • Some personnel news in the Los Padres, more to come later, LP Supervisor Bob Baird has accepted a position as California Regional Fire Director for the USFS.  He will unfortunately be leaving the Los Padres next month.  While we say goodbye to Supervisor Baird, we also say hello to Ranger Brad Turberville who is taking on the Ranger duties at Mount Pinos Ranger District on a 120-day detail.  Welcome Ranger Turberville!
  • The Santa Barbara Trails Council is currently running a photo contest featuring the Gaviota Coast.  There are some really amazing photos being shared, including some from the Los Padres.  Proceeds from the contest will be used to complete the Baron Trail, which is a new trail being built along the Gaviota Coast.

Lost Valley Trail Maintenance Working Vacation

Lost Valley Trail Maint. Working Vacation

Los Padres Forest Association        

April 8th – April 17th 2016

 

Trip Purpose – The main purpose of this trip was to perform brushing and tread-work in the areas heavily covered in brush. Remove debris slides and cut out and remove the estimated 10 downed trees blocking the Lost Valley Trail from the lower trailhead starting at the Lost Valley/Manzana trail intersection and ending at the Hurricane Deck trail intersection. This trail took heavy debris damage during the August 2015 thunderstorms.

Water Conditions – Water conditions were about as expected considering 5 years of drought. The creek bed had some wet areas in the lower 2 miles. The dependable wet area, ¾ miles below twin oaks, was wet and vulture springs was trickling. Packers brought us water for camp every other day or so.

Weather Conditions – We experienced rain the first 3 days of the project and stayed at NIRA, then moved camp to Twin Oaks and finished the project from there. The remaining 7 days were mostly clear with highs in the high 70’s and low 80’s.

Description of Work/Surveys Accomplished

Project Overview

  1. Bucked out 10 fallen trees along the entire Lost Valley Trail.
  2. With the total length of the Lost Valley Trail being about 8 miles, we cleared the first 5 miles to Vulture Springs to full LPFA standard. We also completely cleared the remaining 3 miles from Vulture Springs to hurricane deck of all trees and heavy brushing and worked on tread areas in problem spots.

Trip Overview – This 10-day working vacation was originally planned for the Madulce Trail. However, rainy weather during the first few days, caused concern for getting pack animals safely in and out of camp and up the infamous heartbreak hill.

So we moved the project to the Lost Valley Trail, which sustained heavy damage during the August 2015 thunderstorms. That particular weather event brought down trees and debris slides, making the trail nearly impassable to hikers.

We car-camped the first 3 days of the project at NIRA while working on the first few miles of the Lost Valley Trail. After the weather cleared, and the remaining work was farther up the trail, we moved to Twin Oaks Camp to continue our efforts.

The trip was very successful overall, especially as an alternate to the original plan. Each day we broke into several teams, performing brushing, tread-work and/or tree removal as needed.

Future Projects for the area – The remaining 3 miles, from Vulture springs to hurricane deck, need to be completed to Full LPFA standard. A multi-day trip, with workers staying at cowboy camp and packers bringing water to camp, will make working this section feasible. This will allow us to work on the East Hurricane deck section simultaneously.

Backcountry users observed in the area – We observed several groups of day-hikers and backpackers in the Manzana trail and NIRA camp areas. On the final day of the project, a couple of backpackers who hiked the middle-deck loop mentioned that they were very pleased to hike a freshly worked Lost Valley Trail.