Pine Mountain Trail Work & Los Padres Updates Galore

Finally, there’s the confounded trail! Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, Before & After, July 2020

Hello Friends,

Amidst all the recent cancellations and tribulations, we wanted to share a story of success and accomplishment.  Did you know that there are only two designated National Recreation Trails (NRT) within the Los Padres National Forest?  NRT’s date back to the 1968 National Trails System Act and are designated to “recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance”.  One of our Los Padres NRT’s is the 18-mile Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail (aka Piedra Blanca Trail) (aka GMPB) which crosses Ventura County’s Pine Mountain within the Sespe Wilderness between Reyes Creek Trailhead and Piedra Blanca Trailhead.  The GMPB is indisputably one of the gems of the Los Padres National Forest.  It’s got everything: high elevation pine forests, swimming holes, a rich history, a variety of camping options, incense cedar lined creeks, massive views, Piedra Blanca (nuff said) and even a pub at the Camp Sheideck finish line.  The GMPB is certainly special and while it sees a good amount of use by LP standards, it unfortunately suffers the same fate as most our trails with overgrown chaparral and downed trees frequently blocking the way.

The Los Padres is no stranger to overgrown trails but a few sections of the GMPB might hold the title as being the most overgrown popular trail in the forest.  This was particularly true of the 3-mile section of the GMPB between Beartrap Camp and Haddock Saddle.  This portion of the trail follows Beartrap Creek and is very susceptible to fast growing riparian bushes and plants such as willows blocking each creek crossing and the dreaded California rose.  In addition, this portion of the GMPB is just far enough from the trailhead (about 5 miles) to make it not practical for volunteer day trips.  While most of the trail between Reyes Creek and Beartrap have been worked by MPRD volunteers, there hasn’t been much trail restoration efforts above Beartrap Camp.  Time for that to change…..

Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, showing where we worked and where we hope to work.

In 2019 the LPFA received a trail grant from REI to help restore some of the damaged trails across the Sespe Wilderness.  We started by leading a winter project down the Sespe Trail from Piedra Blanca to Willett and followed that up with a late winter project working the northern portion of the Red Reef Trail.  We had hoped to complete the grant by hosting a 10-day volunteer Working Vacation on the GMPB but unfortunately this thing called COVID got in the way and we had to cancel.  While we couldn’t coordinate a large volunteer project, we were able to use the final portion of the REI grant in combination with some generous contributions from folks like you and hired the LPFA Trail Crew to work the GMPB.  Thanks to you and REI, the LPFA Trail Crew spent a week earlier this month on the GMPB and were able to brush the hardest and nastiest section of the GMPB and completely opened up a mile of the trail above Beartrap Camp.  Yippee! The trail looks great and but unfortunately it dead ends with more brush ahead.

While our grant funds have run out, we are hoping some of you may wish to contribute to our Sespe Trail fund so that we can put the trail crew back out for another week on the GMPB.  We are optimistic that with one more week of work we can complete the Beartrap Creek section of the trail and have the trail smooth and clear of brush between Beartrap Camp and Haddock Saddle.  If you love this trail, want to hike/backpack/ride/run across Pine Mountain or want to support our trail efforts, please click the link below and help us help the forest.  We are hoping to raise $5,000 to restore the GMPB up through Beartrap Creek and could use your help!  Thank you all for your support and we hope to see you on the GMPB sometime soon…..

LPFA SESPE TRAIL CAMPAIGN

Smoother Sailing GMPB Style

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Western Hurricane Deck Trail, probably a little hot at the moment, but we’ll be helping restore this trail come fall…..photo Ryan Anderson, HLP

FOREST 411

• The biggest news across the forest continues to be the proposed Forest Health Project on Pine Mountain.  The FS has extended the public comment period until August 14 and will be hosting a 90-minute virtual public meeting to discuss the proposal on Monday July 20 at 12:30pm.  We’re hoping the public meeting will be recorded and shared through YouTube or something similar, hint hint…..

• Sadly, the Los Padres made many headlines this week with the tragic drowning of Glee star Naya Rivera who was boating at Lake Piru.  Awful story…..

• The Thomas Fire Trail Fund (TF2), which consists of a partnership between the LPFA, SB Trails Council, Sage, The CREW and REI, have continued our work efforts to restore trails damaged by the Thomas Fire.  Collectively we’ve now repaired the Murietta Trail outside of Ojai and it’s in great shape and ready to hike, backpack, ride or run.  Go check it out!

• Speaking of Murietta, we were shocked last weekend when on our way to a Murietta Trail volunteer project we noticed that Matilija Reservoir was empty!  According to the Ventura River blog, the reservoir was drained over July 4 weekend in “response to safety concerns as well as liability resulting from recreational use of the dam site”.  We all knew the reservoir was silted in but it’s quite shocking how much silt is really behind that dam.  It’s a lot!  The Matilija Dam tory is certainly not over, stay tuned….

• We want to extend a warm LPFA welcome to new Mt Pinos District Ranger Karina Gutierrez.  We’ve already worked with Karina on a few projects, including our GMPB trail work, and look forward to many years of continued collaboration.  Cheers Karina……

• On June 17 the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which if approved by Congress and signed by the President will fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide over a billion dollars annually to help restore national parks, conserve land and build playgrounds and parks. This is a historic moment in environmental conservation for the United States and the bill is expected to be approved and signed. To learn more please Google the Great American Outdoors Act.

• For those of you who enjoy Podcasts, the Los Padres appeared in a recent episode of the Dirtbag Diaries entitled Tales of Terror!  Listen if you dare……..

Santa Paula Canyon remains closed through the end of the month.  Since its closure in early May, there have been over a thousand hours dedicated to the removal of graffiti and trash as well as trail restoration along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail.  Lets hope the community recognizes all that effort and behaviors change.  THANK YOU to everyone who has helped with that effort and in particular super duper volunteer and part time LPFA’er Ellie Mora.

• The La Brea Closure order is expected to be extended another year until August 2021.  This is due in large part to the recent restoration decision and additional time needed for implementing the reopening of the area.  More to come on this as well….

• The recreational shooting ban across the Los Padres has been extended another six months until December 31, 2020.  For more information click here.

• Did you know there has been a fire burning under the Fillmore hills for the past decade?  Amazing, read this for more on the incredible thermal anomaly.

• Earlier this month a California condor was spotted in Sequoia National Park for the first time in nearly 50 years.  Isn’t it fantastic seeing and reading about the condors recovery?

• As mentioned in our last update, Sunset Valley Road is expected to be closed at Cachuma Saddle starting August 3 and lasting through the end of October.  During that time there will be two aquatic organism passage bridges built at the Davy Brown Creek crossings below Davy Brown Campground and just above the lower Manzana Trailhead.  There will be no access to NIRA during this time. We’ll be sure to provide more updates and details as they are available.

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Can’t have a July newsletter without a photo of an inviting pool to cool off in, photo David Whitehair

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!

July: Adopt-A-Highway, Wheeler Gorge
July 24-26: Alamar Saddle Trail Project, LPFA

August 1: Ojai 1st Saturday, Wheeler Nature Trail, LPFA
Aug 8 – Sep 20: A-Zone South General Deer Season

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

Not just another LP Sunrise

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

View west across Pine Mountain from high atop Reyes Peak

REYES PEAK FUEL REDUCTION PROPOSAL

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

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

LP FOREST REOPENING UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOREST 411

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summit of Mt Pinos 1927, LPNF archives

LOS PADRES: Fall in Love, Lovin the Fall

Golden Fall Colors of the Upper Sespe, For the Taking

Hello Friends,

While most of the country is preparing for a long winter’s nap, here in the LP we’re just waking up! Our long summer is fading and the weather is finally cooling down. We’re dreaming about our next trip into the forest and busy planning a season’s worth of Los Padres adventures. We’re certainly loving the fall more than ever, filled with anticipation, excitement and stoke. That being said, autumn isn’t all waterfalls and rainbows, it’s also harvest time for marijuana growers. A report was released a few weeks ago indicating that over 100,000 marijuana plants were eradicated in the Los Padres over the past year. Regardless of your views on marijuana, no one should be excited about discovering an active grow site during their LP adventures. While the odds of stumbling across one of these sites are slim, be aware of your surroundings and watch for signs of grow activity. These signs might include irrigation lines, discarded seedling trays, human trails where human trails shouldn’t be, makeshift camps and loads of trash. If you happen to find yourself in an active grow site you should leave quickly the same way you came in and once clear of the site report your findings to your local LP Ranger Station. Again, chances are you won’t find yourself in an active grow site but it’s always good to stay aware of your surroundings. Another hazard we’re seeing of late is oak trees falling up and down the Los Padres. Even healthy looking oak trees can topple over or drop their limbs without any indication or immediate cause. We’ve seen green oaks fall without a gust of wind. Be mindful and pay attention where you park, camp, picnic or rest. That’s all for Debbie Downer, get out and enjoy your forest, pile of the trail miles, takes tons of photos and have a great time – after all, our season is just beginning…….

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It’s not called a Working VACATION for nothing. Toejam Soaking in the WBP views, photo CWatson

POPLAR TRAIL UPDATE
The LPFA just completed a very successful Working Vacation along the Poplar Trail in the upper Indian Creek watershed, Dick Smith Wilderness. Thanks to the help of 34 volunteers we cleared and restored over 3 miles of some of the most overgrown trail the Los Padres can dish out. The trail progress (Working) was terrific and everyone had a great time (Vacation) in the process. In fact, we had such a great time that we’re going to be heading back! In case you missed this past Working Vacation you have another chance on November 9-12 to continue the good fight against the downed trees and encroaching brush. We’ll be once again car-camping at Bluff Cabin and working down the Poplar Trail towards Pens Camp. We’d love to have you come along. To sign up or learn more please email: INFO@LPForest.org

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Gimme Five, Santa Paula Canyon Style

USED GEAR SALE: 11/4 @ 11am
The 4th Annual LPFA Used Gear Sale is on for this weekend, Sunday November 4, 11am at Tucker’s Grove Site #2 in Goleta. We’ll once again have a gigantic selection of gently used backpacks, sleeping bags, stoves, tents, camping knick-knacks, books/maps, ultralite & car-camping gear and much more…. all at super discounted prices. Our super-volunteers Rik Christensen and Paul Cronshaw have worked their ‘bee’hinds off getting the gear cleaned, organized and ready for this weekend. The sale is headlined by Gossamer Gear who generously donate many of their returned backpacks for the sale. We love them! All proceeds go towards the LPFA Trail Care program and this is a great way for Gossamer to give back to the trails. Very cool! We’re also looking for any used gear you have that might be in need of a new home. If you have any used packs, boots, gear or anything else camping related we’d love to play match-maker and help find it a new home. Email us at INFO@LPForest.org if you’d like to donate or bring it early to the sale on Sunday. It will be a great time, everyone leaves happy and we hope to see you there……..

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The freshly cut Tinta Motorcycle Trail, Looking Good thanks to a LPFA NFWF Trails Grant!

FOREST 411
• The LPFA will once again be printing a Los Padres Calendar for 2019. If you have any great photos of the Los Padres that you’d be willing to share, we’d love to include them in the 2019 calendar and will trade you a calendar for using your photo. Email INFO@LPForest.org to share photos or ask questions.

• Remember that even with the cooler weather there are fire restrictions across the Los Padres National Forest. No campfires. And stoves are only permitted at designated campfire use sites. More information here.

• The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have recently unveiled plans for a Tribal Museum and Cultural Center in the Santa Ynez Valley. Check the link above for more information. In case you didn’t know, there is already a really cool Chumash Museum in Thousand Oaks – check it out!

• November is going to be a super busy month for LPFA volunteer help! We’ve got projects ranging from deep backcountry trail work to encouraging cyclists along Fig Mtn Road and everything in between. Check here or look at the Upcoming Events below.

• The Los Padres Forest was found to have 15 toilets that no longer comply with EPA cesspool standards. The older style pit toilets have been closed and plans are being made to replace most of them with a vault style toilet by the end of 2020. Ventura County Star wrote an article covering the story and you can see the specific camps here.

• Quick update on the proposed removal of the Matilija Dam: Prop 3 on the November 6 ballot could authorize $80 million for the removal of the dam. Check the above link for more information and remember to VOTE on 11/6!

• The Mt Pinos Ranger District is looking for volunteers to assist with painting trailhead signs and some light road work along Alamo Mountain. Date and time of the work will be dependent on the volunteers availability. To learn more please email Caroline at: cquintanilla@fs.fed.us

• Carpinteria loves the Franklin Trail and thanks to some fantastic volunteers they will once again be organizing a ‘Turkey Trot’ to raise money to help restore and maintain the Franklin Trail. The 4th Annual Franklin Trail Turkey Trot started today and lasts all November. Check it out, participate and three cheers to Carp for all the trail love.

• CalTrans has plans to proactively close Hwy 1 at Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek this winter in advance of larger storms. Both slide areas were closed most of 2017-2018 and CalTrans is hoping to keep people off the road in case of another future slide event. Hopefully you won’t be driving the Big Sur coast in a large storm but just in case you are, there might be some delays.

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Finishing Touches on a Poplar Trail Crosscut Session, photo CWatson