For those of us who resorted to rain dance rituals in order to break our mid-January drought, remember what you did, cause it worked and in some cases might have worked too well! This latest atmospheric river event certainly delivered and as seems to be the case around here, the hardest rain was unfortunately attracted once again to the recently burned areas. The 2020 Dolan Fire area within southern Monterey County took the brunt of the storm with two-day rain totals above 15″ in many places. The resulting damage was extensive, causing Governor Newsome to declare a State of Emergency for both San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. As we know all too well, recently burned areas and excessive rain don’t mix too well and there were a series of debris flows spewing out of the Dolan Fire. The most notable was at Rat Creek where Hwy 1 was completely washed away. No timetable has been established as to when Hwy 1 through Big Sur will reopen and it is currently closed between Post Mile 34 and Willow Creek.
The rest of the Los Padres received a good dousing over the past week as well with rain totals primarily between 2-6″ with some areas seeing upwards of 12″. We did see some parts of the forest receive monster downpours of close to 0.75″ of rain over a 15-min time period. Snow levels were consistently in the 4,500 – 5,000′ range and we’ve seen some spectacular photos of Los Padres winter wonderland from this past weekend. Most of the larger creeks and rivers around the forest are now flowing but many of the smaller creeks have not quite been activated just yet. While this past storm was a good one, we certainly could use more rain. That being said, please adjust your dance routines to focus on lots of snow and light consistent rain, we don’t need anymore debris flows or declared emergencies……
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FOREST OPENINGS & CLOSINGS
While it might be prime Los Padres season, there are still some closures and restrictions to be aware of and some changes too:
- The Los Padres fire restrictions which have been in place since May 2020 were lifted on February 1. This means that campfires are once again allowed in all open and legal areas of the forest. You will need a California Campfire Permit so please take a few mins to get your permit and take a refresher on how to be fire safe.
- The COVID related regional campground closure order also expired on January 29. This means that all the accessible campgrounds are once again open. That being said, some of the previously closed campgrounds remain closed due to storm related road closures and we’re also hearing that Parks Management is a little behind on restaffing after the 6+ week closure. We suggest that you contact Parks Management or the Forest Service if you are looking to camp over the coming weeks just to make sure ahead of time that your favorite campgrounds are open.
- The Dolan Fire closure area within the Monterey Ranger District was revised on January 22 and now includes mainly the burn area perimeter. See link here for more information including closure maps and language. Remember that the Pine Ridge Trail remains closed through the winter and please take into account that many of the roads into the MRD remain closed due to fire and storm damage.
- Along those lines, all of the seasonal road closure gates should be closed after last weeks storms, this includes Mt Pinos Snow Play. If you are heading out to your favorite trailhead, be sure to call the local ranger district and confirm where the gates might be closed. We’re happy to try to help as well if you’d like to email us. Nothing worse than unexpectedly finding out that your 7 mile backpack trip is now 11 miles due to a road closure.
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- The last weekend of January has long been reserved for the annual Los Padres Volunteer Wilderness Ranger (VWR) Training. This year would have been the 24th annual VWR Training. Unfortunately we aren’t able to host the training this year due to COVID but we’re certainly missing the 80+ volunteers who regularly attend these trainings. We’re looking forward to seeing all the great volunteers later this year on trail projects (as COVID restrictions hopefully ease) and we’ll throw an even bigger celebration (we mean training) next year for the 25th annual VWR Training. Can’t wait….
- The Los Padres NF extended the forest-wide target shooting ban through June 30, 2021. No target shooting outside of Winchester and Ojai Valley Gun Clubs. For more information, click here…..
- The Neverland Ranch sold recently for a reported $22 million. Neverland is located near Figueroa Mountain on the edge of the Los Padres.
- Back by popular demand, the LPFA will be hosting another virtual SEVEN MINUTE STORYTELLING event on February 11 at 7pm. Click this link or email if you’d like to sign up to present or attend and click this link to see our first virtual storytelling event from October. These events are a lot of fun and we have a great list of presenters from around the forest! Should be great and hope to see you there…..
- Our buddies from the Ventana Wilderness Alliance are in the process of looking for a new Executive Director. Click the link for more details and tell ’em the LPFA sent ya…..
- Our buddies from the Channel Islands Restoration are looking for some good volunteers to help with some of their upcoming Santa Ynez River volunteer trips. Check em out here…
- Our buddy Chuck Graham, who frequently writes about adventures across the Los Padres, recently released a photo book featuring the sights and splendor of the Carrizo Plain. It’s called Carrizo Plain “Where the Mountains Meet the Grasslands”, you can check it out here and congrats Chuck, so cool!
- In late 2020, officials with the CDFW cleared out over 3,000 lbs of trash from an illegal marijuana grow site in the Los Padres above Ragged Point. We hate seeing grow sites, it’s no fun and so destructive to the environment. If you come across a grow site in your explorations, get out of there as quickly as you can and please report it to the Forest Service.
- For us condor lovers, there’s a couple interesting articles you might want to check out. The first is about wind farms applying for take permits for incidentally killing condors and the second is an article about increasing wildfire impacts on the condors.
- We’re working on our winter-spring trail work schedule and have a lot of catching up to do after much of our 2020 program of work was COVID derailed. Trails we’ll be focusing on include: Hurricane Deck, Santa Cruz, Red Reef, Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca, Blue Canyon, Red Reef, American Canyon, Madulce, Sisquoc, Mission Pine, Lion Canyon, Matilija and likely more… The LPFA Trail Crew will be focusing on the eastern Hurricane Deck Trail for the next few weeks with the hope of punching through to connect with Lost Valley. Exciting for sure!
- Last but not least, when you get out into the forest over the coming weeks please be sure to let us or the Forest Service know if you come across any downed trees or slides blocking the trails or roads. We’ll collectively do our best to get them cleared as soon as we can. Be safe out there…..
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Obviously COVID can and will adjust some of our upcoming volunteer opportunities but we wanted to share what we have scheduled and hope for the best. We’ll be providing signup links and updates when we get green-lighted for the projects. In the meantime, if you’d like to sign up for any specific projects, please email us at VOLUNTEER@LPForest.org and we’ll get you on the list.
February 11: Seven Minute Storytelling Virtual Talk, LPFA 7pm
February 19-22: Red Reef Trail / Sespe Trail Project, LPFA
February 27: Agua Blanca Trail Project, TBD
February 27-28: Blue Canyon Trail Project, LPFA
March 6: Red Reef / Sisar 1st Saturday Trail Project, LPFA
March 6-7: American Canyon Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST
March 13: Agua Blanca Trail Project, TBD
March 13-14: Blue Canyon Trail Project
March 19-21: Upper Sisquoc Project, LPFA
April 3-11: Indian Creek Working Vacation, LPFA
April 10: Ojai 1st Saturday, TBD
April 23-25: Madulce Trail Project, LPFA
May 1-9: Red Reef / Lady Bug Working Vacation, LPFA
May 15: Ojai 1st Saturday, TBD
May 15-23: Santa Cruz Trail Working Vacation, LPFA
May 28 – June 6: Pine Mtn Haddock Working Vacation, LPFA