Somewhat lost in the COVID shuffle was the amazing amount of late winter and early spring rain that the Los Padres received this year. Remember all the snow we had early in the season around Thanksgiving and into early December? Then no rain during what is historically our wettest months of January and February. Seems like ancient history but remember our concern back then was the thought of a continued drought? Then, magically, we were given a 2020 version of a “March Miracle” followed by a huge April of rain accompanied by even more snow. As of now most of the forest has received around an average amount of rain for the season but what was really different this year is that unlike most years when snow is largely washed away by the next rainstorm, this year we didn’t have next rain storms and much of the early and late snowfall was allowed to melt gradually and percolate slowly into the ground. So even while our rainfall was around average this year, the slow snow melt might equate to an even better summer season of flowing water. We shall see…..
What’s up with the Los Padres…. The previous email focused mainly on what the LPFA has been doing during the COVID shutdown but now lets take a look at the latest and greatest changes across the Los Padres NF……..
MONTEREY RANGER DISTRICT CLOSED (mostly)
There have been a lot of FS announcements, closures and issued orders over the past months but the closure of the entire Monterey District was probably the most extreme. This closure dates back to mid-April and pretty much closes all the trails, camps and forest roads across the Monterey District. The few exceptions at the moment are Parks Management operated day-use areas along Highway 1 including Sand Dollar, Willow Creek, Mill Creek and Pfeiffer Beach (Arroyo Seco is set to reopen May 22). This District closure order is set to expire June 1 and we’ll see what happens beyond that. The Pine Ridge Trail will remain closed.
PARKS MANAGEMENT (PMC) DEVELOPED CAMPGROUNDS
Dating back to March, the Forest Service combated COVID by closing all Developed Recreation Sites across the forest (actually the Region). The FS has been renewing the closure orders every two weeks or so and the latest order is set to expire June 1. Starting June 1, the developed campgrounds across the forest that are managed by Parks Management will be reopening. A list of those campgrounds can be found here. We’re unsure exactly what COVID precautions PMC will be implementing as the campgrounds reopen but there will likely be some new changes in place. Imagine that?
FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS
While PMC manages most of the developed campgrounds across the forest, there are some that remain under the management of the Los Padres NF. These campgrounds have also been closed and are set to reopen June 19. A list of these campgrounds can be found here, CLICK.
In conjunction with the reopening of the campgrounds, many of the day-use areas across the forest are also reopening. We don’t have exact dates as to when each of the day-use areas will be reopening but most should be open in the coming week or so. First Crossing off of Paradise was opened this past weekend and along with it access to a number of day-use areas along the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation area. If you have your heart set on a particular day-use area we strongly suggest contacting the FS, PMC or you can even try emailing us beforehand to see if its open.
We’ve covered most of the campgrounds and DUA’s, but there’s more. On May 12 the LP instituted fire restrictions which now prohibit campfires outside of Designated Campfire Use Sites. A list of Designated Campfire Use Sites can be found here, CLICK. Note that all backcountry campfires are now prohibited. The tricky part right now is that most of the Designated Campfire Use Sites remain closed as part of the larger scale COVID closure (see above). A bit confusing to say the least but it should start to make more sense once the PMC campgrounds reopen June 1, which are most of the Campfire Use Sites. We’ve heard a lot of grumblings about why we’re going into fire restrictions so early this year with so much water and greenery remaining across the forest. While this hasn’t been officially stated, some of the decision has to be COVID related and taking extra precautions in order to avoid bringing fire crews together at a time like this. Makes sense. Also, with so many people using the forest, many of whom must be inexperienced, it’s probably a good thing to have stricter fire restrictions this year. Stoves are still allowed in the backcountry and remember to take the 3 mins ahead of time and get a California Fire Permit. Camping without campfires is fine, give it a try.
SEASONAL GATE CLOSURES
Last one… Most of the Los Padres seasonal gates usually open May 1 after the snow has melted and FS personnel have had time to survey and repair storm damaged roads. Believe it or not, this year is a bit different and most of the gates did not open on May 1. Late last week the FS issued an update on the seasonal gates stating that most of the regular gates and OHV/moto trails will remain closed until May 22. You can see a map of the closed trails here, CLICK. That being said, across the forest we’ve seen some gates open that were supposed to be closed and others closed that should be open. We suggest that if you’re headed out to a trailhead and are not sure if the gate will be open, please reach out to the forest ahead of time.
That should cover most of the current forest orders, established reopening dates and general forest this/that. There’s a lot to digest right now and we’re certain more unexpected change is yet to come. Best thing you can do right now is stay safe, enjoy the forest, avoid crowds and remain patient. Let us know if we can help with any of your forest adventure planning………