What’s up with the LPFA…..

Change? New normal? Life will never be the same? There’s even a new section of trail bypassing the Mono Jungle? It’s not all bad.

Hello Friends,

First off, we hope you and your loved ones remain safe and continue doing your best to follow COVID procedures. It’s been a while since we’ve sent out a LPFA update and there’s so much information to share that we’ll be sending out two emails this week. The first email will cover What’s up with the LPFA and the second email will focus on What’s up with the Los Padres. Hopefully you’ll find both emails informative, insightful and a bunch of other positive adjectives too. Let’s get to it……

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New trail sign at the junction of Santa Cruz Trail and 19 Oaks,
the old one burned in the 2016 Rey Fire, photo Mike Smith


“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” – Robin Sharma

This is not a good time to suffer from metathesiophobia, fear of change. It’s hard to think back two months to when the coronavirus really started changing our lives and then consider all the changes that have occurred during that time. No more shaking hands. No more school. No more toilet paper. No more seeing friends or family. No more traffic (so they say). Shopping nightmares. Home Depot is the scariest place on Earth. Some people wearing masks. Everyone wearing masks. You stop paying attention for an hour, a day, a weekend and the whole world has changed, again. The amount of change has been crazy and our life in and around the Los Padres has been no different. Think back to March and consider all the change the forest has seen. COVID! Work stops. Gyms close. People have time. Outdoor recreation is deemed essential, yippee! People flock to the trails in record numbers. Insanely busy trailheads. Lots of parking tickets. Lots of trash. Most people behave, some don’t. Change needed. Trails close. Forests close. People go to other forests. New rules, change, rules, change, change, change….. As the Sharma quote above states, it’s been hard and it’s been messy. So what about the gorgeous? The gorgeous is there too, it’s the people on the trail and in the forest who usually don’t have time. The gorgeous are the Instagram posts of first time snake sightings and the simple happiness of being outside. The gorgeous is the family planning their first overnight backpacking trip and the gorgeous will hopefully be a new generational appreciation for nature and trails that wouldn’t have existed without the hard COVID change. It’s true that the forest has taken a messy beating in spots with all the people excitedly hiking to see waterfalls and tromping to find swimming holes. The messy has been a black eye on the forest for sure but black eyes heal. We need to believe that as time goes by and the daily reality of hard and messy COVID-19 fades, the gorgeous new societal appreciation of nature will remain. Lets hope, because we certainly need change like that.

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Storm caused rock-slides covering trails have not changed, #BeforeandAfterLP Aliso Trail


We miss you volunteers. We miss the volunteer trail projects. We miss the Working Vacations. We miss “COFFEE’S READY, HUHGJH”. We miss meeting new friends and catching up with old friends. We miss Otis, Susie, Kathleen and Richard packing in the food and supplies. We miss Mike Smith and the crosscut saws. Far and away the worst part of this COVID __ has been missing the Working Vacations and missing our volunteers. Since March we’ve had to postpone close to a dozen trail projects from SLO down through Fillmore and while we don’t have any firm reschedule dates, we are still hoping to do a 10-day Working Vacation on the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail based at Beartrap Camp at some point this summer. There will certainly be plenty of water this year, we have Rich the master chef lined up and as long as it’s not TOO hot and the Forest Service gives us approval, we’d love to spend a week working from Beartrap up to Haddock. Stay tuned and hopefully you can join us – imagine that, right?

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While our larger volunteer projects have all been postponed, we’ve been able to schedule smaller “household” types of volunteer projects focused on cleanups, sign installations and even repairing Forest Service gates. Speaking of signs, if you’d like to help, we are raising money to build and install new signs along the Matilijs Falls Trail outside of Ojai and would love your support. We’ve also been helping the Forest by installing over 25 Poo-Poo Project vent screens designed to protect raptors, owls and other birds from flying into vault toilets across the Los Padres.

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Fortunately we’ve been able to continue using the LPFA Trail Crew for trail restoration projects throughout parts of the forest. A tree or a rock-slide comes down across the trail and we’re able to work with the Forest Service and some of our partner organizations to help keep the trails open. We’ve also been able to work on a few select larger projects including the Mono Jungle Reroute, Buckhorn Trail, a bunch of work with Montecito Trails Foundation, a really cool Thomas Fire Trail Fund partnership on the Murietta Trail and our continued work with Santa Barbara County Trails Council.

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Another huge downside of the coronavirus has been the closure of the two Visitor Centers across the Los Padres at Big Sur Station and Wheeler Gorge. While both sites remain closed, we are working with the Forest Service on plans to reopen each center and hope to have them open and once again providing information for the public sooner rather than later. Stay tuned…..

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And lastly we’ve been busy trying to help the public enjoy the forest in a responsible way. You wouldn’t believe the number of emails we get daily asking about trail recommendations. We spend a lot of time helping direct backpackers, hikers and trail-users towards less visited trails or FS admin roads, it’s actually a really fun part of the day. We’ve also seen record number of visitors on HikeLosPadres.com and have been working on some updates within the site with plans for larger updates hopefully coming soon as well.

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As you can see, we’re staying busy and trying our best to help out however we can. You’re always welcome to donate to the LPFA as well if you have the means and appreciate what we do. Thanks for all your support and we can’t wait to see you on a volunteer project hopefully soon……

Expect the What’s up with the Los Padres email soon….. THANKS!

The magic of the Los Padres is never more real than during those encounters with the locals, photo Silas