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Blaster from Sierra National Forest prepares the charges near Forrester's Leap on the Sisquoc.

Ray Ford

Blaster from Sierra National Forest prepares the charges near Forrester's Leap on the Sisquoc.


Trail Picture Becoming Brighter

City, County and Forest Service Reach Historic Agreement


Wilderness News: Fears of a trail system completely destroyed by impacts from the Zaca Fire, winter rains and the early February snow storm seem to be lessening.

Recent efforts by CCC crews in the San Rafael Wilderness along the Sisquoc River and several of the trails leading down into it have re-opened a substantial portion of the backcountry trails. Efforts have focused on a portion of the river trail between the Sweetwater and Jackson Trails that were particularly dangerous. For those of you who know the lower Sisquoc, the area near Forrester’s Leap and been completely rebuilt with the help of blasters from Sierra National Forest.

Outside Insider

Trail monitoring projects conducted through Los Padres Forest Association’s Wilderness Ranger program paint a trail’s network that still faces many challenges. While most of the trails are passable, down trees, gullying and route finding still continue to be problems. Contact LPFA president Jasonn Beckstrand if you have an interest in volunteering for a backcountry project. Look for details about trail conditions on the Indy’s Outdoor site as well my own adventures on the Sisquoc.

Rik Christensen checks a section of trail along the Sisquoc that is being rebuilt by backcountry crews.
Click to enlarge photo

Ray Ford

Rik Christensen checks a section of trail along the Sisquoc that is being rebuilt by backcountry crews.

Cold Springs Update: If you’ve hiked the canyon trail up to the power lines recently, you’ve noticed new improvements in the upper trail tread. The work is being done through a Forest Service grant that dates back to 2005 flood damage.

Earlier this winter, the LPFA Trail crew rebuilt the canyon section of the trail as well as the West Fork Trail to the Tangerine Falls turnoff. While work on both of the canyon sections were focused on making the trails safer, the recent improvements have been focused on erosion control efforts, including the addition of dips and slight grade reversals that will force water off the trail.

Rik Christensen makes his way along a section of trail near Big Pine Mtn. Many of the trails have similar damage.
Click to enlarge photo

Ray Ford

Rik Christensen makes his way along a section of trail near Big Pine Mtn. Many of the trails have similar damage.

Not everyone is happy with the work. Several mountain bikers who I met on the trail complained that all of their jumps were being taken away while a number of hikers were concerned about the extra width of the new tread. If you’ve got concerns, email me here at the Indy as I’m the one who has been leading the work efforts on behalf of the LPFA Trail Crew. Check the Santa Barbara Trail Blog for picts and descriptions of the Cold Springs trail work.

New Partners: the City, County and Forest Service have completed the hard work on reaching an MOU for partnering on the management of the front country trails. While the exact language of the Interagency Cooperative Agreement remains to be worked out, the agreement to manage the trails jointly has been approved in concept by the City Council, Board of Supervisors and Forest Superintendent. For those of you who have been following the user conflict issues on the front trails, it may not appear that much has been accomplished thus far but the cooperative agreement represents a remarkable achievement by the agencies and it appears that once it is finalized work will begin soon on efforts to create and implement a Front Country Trail Management Strategy. Look first for new trail sign and education information to be added at each of the main trailheads in the next few months.

Simon O'Brien chips away at a particular dangerous section of the Cold Springs Trail.
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Ray Ford

Simon O’Brien chips away at a particular dangerous section of the Cold Springs Trail.

Ultralight Packing: Talking about the joys of going light wasn’t enough for a number of Indy readers. I didn’t realize how many old timers like me were out there who still had the itch to get out but had lost some of their giddy up and go. While you can Google the word ultralight and get lots of hits, more than likely when faced with information overload you’ll be like me and toss it all. Fear not. Head over to Indy Outdoors for details on how to put together a base pack that will weigh well less than 20 pounds.

Attack Mode: a recent article on the Hidden Costs of Mountain Biking brought out the predictable response. Rather than focusing on the issues brought up in the column, the focus was on personal attacks. “Its [sic] people like you that seem to need to push your agenda on everyone else that causes us to have to create task forces and take time and resources to resolve the issues that you help create” one mountain biker commented. “I took up biking because I was sick of fighting for waves. Now I have to fight for trail use? It is ridiculous.”

Whatever happened to a reasonable discussion of the issues? Despite what mountain bikers such as the above think, there are concerns about use of the trails by those on wheels and attacking those who would like to talk about them doesn’t help either.

Hiker heads up the spiny ridge to Cathedral Peak. Off trail exploration can be dangerous.
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Ray Ford

Hiker heads up the spiny ridge to Cathedral Peak. Off trail exploration can be dangerous.

Heading Off Trail? A hiker was air lifted off Cathedral Peak a few days ago with severe lacerations and ankle injuries. Lucky the person was in a location that could be reached by helicopter. Not too many years ago prominent Santa Barbara politico Lanny Ebenstein was stranded overnight when he got lost in the same area. From my own personal experience when I didn’t have a flashlight with me to led me out, it is NO fun spending the night in the brush with no food and little to take the chill off the night air. Take care if you’re heading off trail. Your rescue may not be so easy.

Lite hiker Paul Cronshaw on a recent monitor project on Hurricane Deck.
Click to enlarge photo

Ray Ford

Lite hiker Paul Cronshaw on a recent monitor project on Hurricane Deck.

Death on the Deck Last week a hiker died from heat stroke (it appears) while hiking across the top of the Hurricane Deck with a partner. Both heat and lack of sufficient water appear to be factors. Yesterday’s heat in downtown Santa Barbara is a reminder that it is hot out there - way hotter in the backcountry for sure. Now is NOT time time to be exploring the wilderness areas if you aren’t extremely experienced with the areas. More later when we have more information.

For more of Ray Ford's outdoor writing check independent.com/outdoors.

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