Posted by: James Wapotich | August 4, 2018

Trail Quest: Remote viewing Parma Park

Back in November my friend Dana loaned me one of his wildlife cameras. I had been meaning to get some so I could take them with me on backpacking trips. Recalling the advice of wildlife biologist David Lee, I first set the camera up in my backyard to get familiar with how it worked before taking it out into the field. I’d taken a class with David earlier that year on using wildlife cameras and learned a lot of useful tips that came into play as I got into using the cameras. The article I wrote about the class can be seen here.

After a successful run in my backyard, I began to wonder where else I could set one up. I eventually settled on Parma Park, which was close to where I lived, undeveloped enough, and not nearly as popular as the front country trails.

My first camera location didn’t pan out, even though it was located near a mountain lion kill. Learning from the experience, I found a spot with evidence of more animal traffic and set up my camera at an intersection of several game trails.

Three days after I set up the camera a pack of five coyotes wandered through. Other animals the camera recorded over the next three months included deer, skunk, rabbit, bobcat, and fox. Inspired by my initial results, I set up a second camera in Parma Park, which captured images of deer, bobcat, skunk, mouse, and a couple of birds. Overall, the most active wildlife in the park are the mule deer, specifically Odocoileus hemionus californicus, aka California mule deer or black-tailed mule deer.

Article appears in section A of the July 23rd, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Below are images from the first successful site.

Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking bucks santa barbara

California mule deer aka black-tailed mule deer

Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck santa barbara

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coyote Canis latrans wildlife camera tracking santa barbara

Coyote

coyote Canis latrans wildlife camera tracking santa barbara

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coyotes Canis latrans wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

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bobcat Lynx rufus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

Bobcat

bobcat Lynx rufus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

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bobcat Lynx rufus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck

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Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking does

Does

skunk wildlife camera tracking santa barbara

Skunk

grey fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

Grey fox

Below are some images from the nearby second site.

Odocoileus hemionus californicus California mule deer black-tailed mule deer wildlife camera tracking buck santa barbara

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bobcat Lynx rufus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

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bobcat Lynx rufus wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

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mouse wildlife camera tracking parma park santa barbara

Mouse

Flicker Colaptes auratus wildlife camera tracking santa barbara

Flicker

Posted by: James Wapotich | July 9, 2018

Trail Quest: Romero Canyon

Recently hiked both Romero Trail and Old Romero Road making a large loop to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains through the Thomas Fire burn area.

Both trails have been largely restored. The lower portion of Romero Trail along with all of Old Romero Road have been cleared. The upper portion of Romero Trail still requires some work but can be hiked with caution due to substandard trail conditions.

All of the front country trails have been reopened except for East and West Cold Spring Trails. However, the uppermost portion of East Cold Spring Trail is accessible from East Camino Cielo Road.

Article on Romero Canyon appears in section A of the today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Romero Creek Canyon Trail hike front country thomas fire burn area los padres national forest

Romero Creek

fire follower large-flowered phacelia old romero road canyon trail thomas fire burn area Los Padres national forest front country santa ynez mountinas

Fire follower, large-flowered phacelia can be seen along the trail

Romero Creek bridge flood debris flow damage thomas first canyon trail los padres national forest front country santa ynez mountains

The bridge across Romero Creek is no more.

Romero Trail canyon santa ynez mountains los padres national forest

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fire poppy Papaver californicum thomas fire burn area romero trail canyon santa ynez mountains los padres nation forest

Fading fire poppy

Old Romero Road Canyon Thomas Fire Burn area front country trails los padres national forest santa ynez mountains

Romero Canyon

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | June 25, 2018

Trail Quest: East & West Fork Lion Falls

Hiked to East & West Fork Lion Falls in the Thomas Fire burn area recently. Lots of wildflowers out there including Humboldt lilies. Not a whole lot of shade, but decent water at both East & West Fork Lion Falls, as well as Rose Valley Falls. The trail is in good shape, no downed trees or substantial ravel across the tread. Both East & West Fork Lion Camps are usable, but again not much shade.

Article appears in section A of the today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Lion Canyon Trail Thomas Fire Ojai hike Los Padres National Forest

Lion Canyon

Lion Canyon trail pre-Thomas Fire hike Ojai Los Padres National Forest

Lion Canyon, 2015

Rattlesnake lion canyon trail los padres national forest

Rattlesnake with 11 rattles out on the trail

Mariposa lily lion canyon trail los padres national forest

Mariposa lily

Farewell to Spring Lion Canyon Trail los padres national forest

Farewell to Spring

Turkish rug lion canyon trail los padres national forest

Turkish rugging

Humboldt lily lion canyon trail los padres national forest

Humboldt lily

Rose Valley Falls trail ojai los padres nation forest

Rose Valley Falls

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | June 4, 2018

Trail Quest: Santa Lucia Wilderness, Part 2

Went backpacking recently in the Santa Lucia Wilderness with my friend Casey. We hiked in along Lopez Canyon Trail; set up camp at Upper Lopez; and then day-hiked the balance of the trail up to East Cuesta Road. Lots of great water in the Lopez Creek, as well as in the small pools and cascades in Potrero Canyon and at Sulphur Pots. Also, plenty of poison oak along much of the trail and lots of cool bear sign on the different trees.

Article appears in section A of the today’s edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Lopez Canyon Trail cascade Potrero Creek Santa Lucia Wilderness hike backpacking San Luis Obispo

Lopez Canyon Cascade near the confluence with Potrero Creek

California newt eggs lopez canyon santa lucia wilderness los padres nation forest

California newt and eggs

Lopez Mountain canyon trail hike Santa Lucia wilderness los padres national forest San Luis Obispo East Cuesta Ridge hike

Lopez Mountain is seen from Lopez Canyon Trail

Pacific starflower Trientalis latifolia lopez canyon trail Santa Lucia Mountains wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Pacific starflower

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | May 22, 2018

Trail Quest: Santa Lucia Wilderness, Part 1

Created in 1978, the Santa Lucia Wilderness covers 20,486 acres in San Luis Obispo County. The wilderness has just three trails, all within two hours of Santa Barbara.

Part 1 covers the 9-mile loop hike that can made connecting Big Falls and Little Falls Trails and includes a visit to the waterfalls found in the two canyons. Both falls are more impressive in years with more rain, and at the same time the road to the trailheads becomes more challenging the more water that’s flowing. There are 7 crossings on the way to the Little Falls Trailhead and another 7 from there to the Big Falls Trailhead. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.

Part 1 appears in section A of the May 21st, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press

Little Falls Canyon Trail Santa Lucia Wilderness hike los padres national forest

Little Falls

Little Falls Canyon Trail hike Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Little Falls Canyon

Big Falls Canyon Trail Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Big Falls

Big Falls Canyon Trail hike Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Big Falls Canyon

Big Falls Canyon trail hike Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Cascade Big Falls Canyon

Big Falls Canyon Trail hike Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

“Middle Falls”

Part 2 will cover Lopez Canyon Trail and Sulphur Pots and Upper Lopez Camps.

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Western pond turtle Big Falls canyon Santa Lucia wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Western pond turtle suns itself near Big Falls

Coast Live Oak Little Falls Canyon Santa Lucia Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Coast Live Oak, Little Falls Canyon

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | May 14, 2018

Trail Quest: La Jolla Trail to Manzana Creek, Part 2

I hadn’t intended this as a two-parter, even though there were essentially two different aspects to the hike – overgrown trails and Cascade Canyon. What happened is the original article was too long and so I broke it into two separate articles.

Part 1 covers from Figueroa Mountain Road to Cedros Saddle and the route-finding and bushwhacking associated with hiking the middle section of La Jolla Trail and Zaca Spring Trail, both of which see very little use. The article easily could’ve included Sulphur Springs Trail if I had more space, although in reality it wasn’t that badly overgrown.

Part 2 covers from Cedros Saddle to the lower Manzana Trailhead. In some ways the article is Trail Quest: The Trails of Edgar B. Davison, Part 3 as confusing as that may sound. The Trails of Edgar B. Davison Parts 1 & 2 were inspired by reading Davison’s journal and matching up the various locations he described with their modern names and recounting the story of his career as one of the first rangers in our local area. His patrol area included the north side of Figueroa Mountain down to and including Manzana Creek. Parts 1 & 2 describe the network of trails in Fir Canyon and Munch and White Rock Canyons respectively, and reference Manzana Creek only in passing.

Horseshoe Bend Manzana Creek Trail backpacking hiking San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres national forest

The Meadow at Horseshoe Bend

Swim hole Horseshoe Bend Manzana Creek Trail San Rafael Wilderness backpacking hiking los padres national forest

Swimhole at Horseshoe Bend

This article, which appears in section A of the May 7th, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press, covers both Sulphur Springs and Manzana Trails which Davison also patrolled. The real inspiration however was feeling that I had located what he referred to in his journal as “Cascade Canyon”. The name doesn’t appear on any map that I’m aware of, but based on his description of it as “a miniature Colorado, being the narrow and precipitous outlet of two large canyons through the south wall of the Manzana” it seemed like it had to be the side canyon just upstream from Coldwater Camp.

And so on the second day of our trip, Curt and I explored the canyon, which does in fact contain a half dozen medium-sized cascades worthy on the name Davison gave the canyon.

waterfall cascade canyon San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres national forest Manzana Creek

Small waterfall in Cascade Canyon

Cascade Canyon San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres national forest manzana creek trail

Cascade Canyon

Cascade canyon manzana creek san rafael wilderness los padres national forest

Cascade and Pool, Cascade Canyon

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Manzana Creek Los Padres National Forest San Rafael Wilderness

Manzana Creek

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | May 10, 2018

Trail Quest: La Jolla Trail to Manzana Creek, Part 1

Several years ago I hiked La Jolla Trail and couldn’t find the overgrown middle section. The trail connects from Figueroa Mountain Road, down through Birabent Canyon, and up to Zaca Ridge Road. The trail was damaged in the 1993 Marre Fire and now most people just hike the first section in Birabent Canyon.

In my search, I’d hiked the trail from both the top and bottom, that is from Figueroa Mountain Road and up through Birabent Canyon to where it starts to fade and from Zaca Ridge Road down through the large meadow, but came up empty both times.

I had heard subsequent to my article on looking for the trail that someone had brushed the first set of switchbacks coming up out of Birabent Canyon. When I returned for another crack at the middle section, that little bit of trail work was enough to point me in the right direction and connect up to the upper meadow. (A summary of the route can be found at the bottom of this blog post, Trail Quest: Ballard Camp.)

La Jolla Trail Birabent Canyon hike backpacking blaze mark Zaca Ridge Los Padres National Forest

A blaze marks where the trail turns up a side canyon

While I was out there route-finding, pushing through brush, and crawling under ceanothus, I thought it’d be fun to come back some day and do a backpacking trip from Figueroa Mountain Road to Manzana Creek, connecting La Jolla Trail, Zaca Spring Trail, Cedros Saddle Trail, and Sulphur Springs Trail as a way to see the area.

Naturally I thought of Curt Cragg, who 7 years ago did a series of maintenance projects on the various trails around Zaca Lake, even installing trail signs at the different junctures, some of which are still standing. Curt was also interested in hiking the middle section of La Jolla Trail.

As an added a bonus, I had been reading through Ranger Edgar Davison’s journal and felt I had located what he referred to as “Cascade Canyon”, which he described as “a miniature Colorado, being the narrow and precipitous outlet of two large canyons through the south wall of the Manzana.”

La Jolla Springs Trail Birabent Canyon Zaca Ridge hike backpacking Los Padres National Forest

Curt hiking along the middle section of La Jolla Trail

Part 1, covers from Figueroa Mountain Road to Cedros Saddle, and appears in section A of the April 30th, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Part 2, covers from Cedros Saddle to the lower Manzana trailhead and visits some of the places referenced in Davison’s journal, including “Cascade Canyon”.

Older articles can be seen by scrolling down or using the search feature in the upper right corner. Articles from the News-Press appear here a couple months after they appear in the paper.

Ballard Camp La Jolla Springs Trail Birabent Canyon hike backpacking Los Padres National Forest

The meadow in Birabent Canyon near where the original Ballard Camp was located. Here, the trail turns up a side canyon on its way to Zaca Ridge.

Birabent Canyon La Jolla Springs Trail Alamo Pintado Creek Los Padres National Forest

The creek flowing through Birabent Canyon

La Jolla Springs Trail Zaca Ridge hike backpacking Los Padres National Forest

The upper meadow along La Jolla Trail

Posted by: James Wapotich | April 23, 2018

Trail Quest: Serpentine landscapes of the Figueroa Mountain area

It’s hard not to fall in love with the serpentine rocks found in our mountains. Sometimes smooth and shiny, sometimes brittle and crumbly, the blue-green rock is found in several locations in Santa Barbara County with some of the most accessible outcrops found along Figueroa Mountain Road.

Serpentine is the state rock of California and takes its name from its mottled pattern, which is sometimes reminiscent of snakeskin.

Recently, Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society hosted a field trip into the mountains with geologist Susie Bartz and naturalist Liz Gaspar. We visited four sites along Figueroa Mountain Road and learned about serpentine rocks and soils, and the plants that grow on them.

Serpentinite Serpentine ultra mafic roch Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest blue point

Serpentinite

Our first stop is a large outcrop of serpentine rock along the road between Sedgwick Reserve and the Midland School property. Here, we’re afforded exceptional views of Zaca Ridge, including Grass Mountain and Zaca Peak.

With this backdrop, Ms. Bartz explains how these rocks were formed, but not without first acknowledging the work of Thomas Dibblee; “Tom was a geologist who mapped the entire San Andreas Fault, out to 25 miles on its eastern side and to the coast on the western side. He mapped about 40,000 square miles on foot over his 75-year career.”

A friend of Mr. Dibblee, Ms. Bartz later helped bring his maps to publication. The maps, which are overlaid onto USGS topographic maps, provide a detailed overview of the geologic formations found in a particular area and are a great resource for understanding the geology of our local area. Dibblee maps can be purchased at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, as well as viewed online at https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/mapview.

Serpentine rocks are part of the Franciscan assemblage of rocks that can be found in a 35-mile long swath across our local mountains from Blue Canyon to Figueroa Mountain. The formation is bordered primarily on the north by Camuesa Fault and on the south by Little Pine Fault.

Franciscan rocks were formed 150-60 million of years ago as a result of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. There are two types of plates, oceanic and continental, and as they move around and interact they meet at either a convergent boundary, where one plate dives under another, or at a transform boundary, where one plate slides past another along a fault such as San Andreas Fault.

Oceanic plates are formed at mid-ocean spreading centers that open as one plate dives under another. Because oceanic plates are thinner and denser they’re often subducted under less dense continental plates, slowly disappearing like a conveyer belt.

“What happens is a lot of bulldozing and scraping of all the stuff on the surface of the sea floor, which accumulates little by little on the underbelly of the edge of the continent,” Ms. Bartz explained.

This accumulation of material along the plate boundary is called an accretionary wedge and is a mix of rocks, including both sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Metamorphic rocks are rocks that started out as one thing and have been chemically altered by heat and pressure.

susie bartz ranger peak serpentine santa ynez valley natural history society los padres national forest camuesa fault

Geologist Susie Bartz points out Camuesa Fault on the landscape near Ranger Peak

Ms. Gaspar in turn highlighted the work of Arthur Kruckeberg, who was among the early researchers to focus on the flora and ecology of serpentine soils in California. She then led us on a short walk where we could see the disparity between plants growing on serpentine soils versus non-serpentine soils.

“Everything is turned upside down with regard to what plants need,” Ms. Gaspar pointed out. “Plants need a high ratio of calcium to magnesium, but on serpentine soils it’s the opposite, magnesium is high and calcium is low. Serpentine is also low in phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium, which plants need.”

Plants growing on serpentine soils not only have to tolerate these nutritional deficiencies but also heavy metals such as nickel, iron, and magnesium. And yet, nature has found a way to use serpentine soils, with plants evolving over time to tolerate and even thrive on them.

Serpentine formations cover just 1.5 percent of California’s total land area, but account for 11 percent of California’s endemic species, that is, plants that are only found in California.

Our next stop is along an old road cut, about a mile before Figueroa Mountain Ranger Station. The unpaved access road may have been used for prospecting or mining and leads past a debris slide composed of serpentine rock, where Ms. Bartz explains how serpentinite is formed.

Surprisingly, one of the key ingredients in the formation of serpentinite is water, along with heat, pressure, and time. The parent rock for serpentinite is peridotite, which is formed deep within the Earth’s crust near the mantle. It’s formed at mid-ocean ridges where sea water is able to find its way down into the Earth’s crust, slowly soaking the peridotite over millions of years.

The addition of water makes the rock lighter which brings it up towards the surface. As it’s driven past other rocks it’s not only exposed to additional pressure, but its surface is sometime pressed and scraped creating slickensides, which is what can give serpentinite its shiny appearance.

The addition of water also changes the lattice structure of peridotite as it alters to serpentinite. Whereas, peridotite is hard to break, serpentinite weathers more easily, forming soil that some plants are able to grow in.

One evolutionary pathway is that some plants have random mutations in their gene pool that make them “pre-adapted” to tolerating serpentine soils. As the plants on serpentine soils further adapt and diverge physically they can’t successfully reproduce with their original counterparts, becoming their own species or variety.

Another way plants can become restricted to serpentine soils is if their non-serpentine counterparts are out-competed by other species, leaving just the ones growing on serpentine soils. In Santa Barbara County we have four serpentine endemic species.

liz gaspar serpentine plants ranger peak trail santa ynez valley natural history society los padres national forest

Naturalist Liz Gaspar points out chaparral plants growing on serpentine soil along Ranger Peak Trail

Our third stop along Figueroa Mountain Road is at a grassy hillside across from an outcrop of serpentine rocks near the top of Davy Brown Trail. Here, Ms. Gaspar points out where Devil’s onion might be found. We haven’t had enough rain to see any, but the plant, with its pink-tinted white flowers typically blooms from April to June.

Another serpentine endemic is Santa Barbara jewelflower, which is found only in the San Rafael Mountains. An annual plant, it blooms from May to July. Its nearest relative is found further east in the Transverse Ranges where it mostly grows on granitic soil. The rareness of the plant highlights both the unique habitat provided by serpentine soil and the importance of protecting these areas.

The third endemic growing in our area is leather oak, which we’ll see at our next stop. All three of these are known as strict endemics, meaning 95 percent or more of them grow on serpentine soil.

The fourth endemic in our area is Sargent cypress. It is a broad endemic, meaning 85 to 94 percent of them grow on serpentine soils. Similar in appearance to juniper, the plant was first recorded in our area by local ranger Edgar Davison. Good examples of it can be found along Old Catway Jeep Road, which starts near Davy Brown Campground, and along Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo County.

Plant distribution maps can be found online at Jepson Herbarium eFlora, http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora, and Calfora, www.calflora.org.

Our last stop is near Ranger Peak. From the top of Ranger Peak Trail we make our way down to the small saddle where the trail branches. From this intersection, we’re treated to a great view eastward out across the San Rafael Mountains and Santa Ynez Valley.

Visible on the landscape is a unique situation where a long break in the plants reflects the transition from Monterey shale to Franciscan rocks, which are separated by Camuesa Fault. North of the fault is chaparral and to the south are mostly grasslands.

From the saddle we hike down along the trail to where a mix of chaparral plants is growing on serpentine soil. Here, Ms. Gaspar points out scrub oak and has us study its leaves and overall appearance. She then points out the serpentine endemic leather oak and we repeat the exercise. Both oaks have stellate hairs on the underside of their leaves, however leather oak also has the small hairs on the topside and its leaf edges curve under.

It is interesting to consider that serpentinite was formed in the Earth’s crust, under the ocean, and is now near the top of the San Rafael Mountains; and not only were some plants able to adapt to serpentine soil, but in some cases are now found almost nowhere else.

Ms. Bartz will be leading a geology field trip in December to the Red Rock area and leads programs for NatureTrack, which connects kids with nature.

Ms. Gaspar worked as the park naturalist for 20 years at Cachuma Lake and is the co-author of Wildflowers and Other Plants of the Cachuma Lake Region. She leads field trips and is on the board of Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society.

Founded in 2000, the non-profit, member supported organization provides natural history and environmental education through public lectures and field trips in the Santa Ynez Valley region. For a list of upcoming events and programs go to, www.syvnature.org.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 23rd, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | April 7, 2018

Trail Quest: The Trails of Edgar B. Davison, Part 2

In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act was passed, which allowed the President to create forest reserves on land in the public domain to help protect timber and water resources.

Edgar B. Davison was instrumental, along with other local citizens, in pushing for the formation of what would become Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve. Davison’s articles in the local press about the reserve helped generate interest in the idea and his political contacts helped keep the proposal on track.

In 1898, Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve became the first and largest forest reserve in our area, encompassing more than a million acres and Davison become one its first rangers.

Big Flat Munch Canyon Trail hike Sunset Valley Davy Brown Campground Edgar Davison Los Padres National Forest

“Big Flat” along Munch Canyon Trail

Additional reserves were created in Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties that were later combined and eventually became what is now known as Los Padres National Forest.

Davison’s patrol area included the north side of Figueroa Mountain down towards and including Manzana Creek. With his pay, he was required to provide his own supplies, pack animals, and food.

Davison would bring in supplies from Ballard by wagon as far as he could and then ride up one of the canyons on the front side of Figueroa Mountain until he reached the top of Ranger Peak, which at that time was known as Mount Bliss.

From there he would ride down through Munch Canyon to the cabin of C. E. Munch, which he used as a headquarters. In his first years as a ranger, Davison built the trail through what is now known as Fir Canyon, providing a better route over the mountains. Near the top of Fir Canyon he built a cabin, which he used in addition to Munch cabin depending on which area he was working in.

A variety of loop hikes can be made using the network of trails on the north side of Figueroa Mountain. A hike from the top of the mountains near the backside of Ranger Peak, down through Munch Canyon and returning through White Rock Canyon is about nine miles roundtrip and provides a chance to see some of the trails Davison patrolled.

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara, take State Route 154 to Armour Ranch Road. From Armour Ranch Road, turn onto Happy Canyon Road and continue to Cachuma Saddle, where it meets Figueroa Mountain Road. Turn left onto Figueroa Mountain Road and continue to the top of the mountains and look for East Pinery Road on your right. A map of the trials around Figueroa Mountain can be found on Los Padres National Forest website, http://www.fs.usa.gov/lpnf, under Maps & Publications or here.

East Pinery Road is currently closed, but parking can be found at the pullout near the gate. Continue along the unpaved access road a short way to the beginning of White Rock Trail. The road provides great views out towards Hurricane Deck and the Sierra Madres Mountains, and to the east San Rafael Mountain. The route is shaded by a mix of canyon live oak, coulter pines, and bigcone Douglas fir.

Waterfall Munch Canyon Trail Figueroa Mountain Edgar Davison Ranger Los Padres National Forest

Small waterfall in Munch Canyon

East Pinery Road continues another mile past White Rock Trail where it ends in a loop. As part of his work, Davison planted pines along this ridge as well as along Zaca Ridge.

White Rock Trail leaves the road and descends down into White Rock Canyon transitioning into a mix of chaparral dotted with canyon live oak and coulter pines. As the trail continues it transitions from Monterey shale into serpentine rock and arrives at the site of chromite mine.

At the site, one can find a variety of mining equipment and dig holes. Further down along the trail are rusted bed frames, a water heater, stove, and refrigerator, and even the remains of trailer that served as the base camp for the mining operation.

A short ways past the mine, the trail arrives at the intersection with Munch Canyon Trail. Continue left on Munch Canyon Trail as it heads west through mostly chaparral before joining Munch Canyon and continuing down the canyon.

Chromite Mine White Rock Canyon Trail Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest hike

Equipment at Chromite mine in White Rock Canyon

The trail is slightly overgrown but still followable. Look for an off-trail route at one of the creek crossings that leads down to a small waterfall. It requires a bit of rock scrambling, but is not that far from the trail.

From here, Munch Canyon Trail starts to ride above the creek and soon arrives at the intersection with Munch Canyon Connector Trail which leads over to Fir Canyon. Davison built this trail to connect to cabin and trails he built in Fir Canyon.

When Davison’s pay went from $60 to $75 a month in 1902, he felt he had the means to marry his sweetheart Grace Lyons, who was a schoolteacher in Ballard. The two were married in the church that was built by both their fathers. Both families were early Ballard pioneers.

The newlyweds honeymooned at the cabin in Fir Canyon, riding over the mountains from Ballard. In her book, Beans for Breakfast, Mrs. Davison recalls how a skunk moved into the cabin during their first week and from that point on the couple slept outside under the stars. Mrs. Davison would often join her husband on patrol.

A writer and historian Mrs. Davison wrote a regular column for the Santa Ynez Valley News, as well as articles for the Santa Barbara News-Press, and is credited with helping create the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society. She is also the author of The Gates of Memory, which describes the early days of the Santa Ynez Valley.

White Rock Trail Edgar Davison hike Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Scenery along White Rock Trail

From the intersection with Munch Canyon Connector Trail. Munch Canyon Trail continues down Munch Canyon through mostly scrub oak and ceanothus, dotted with the occasional grey pine. As the trails continues it starts to follow an old road cut.

The trail then arrives at a locked gate, where it branches. To the left is the connector trail that leads over to Davy Brown Campground. The trail may have been built by Davison as he replaced the old trail through the canyon. As part of his patrol route he would often ride down the canyon to Manzana Creek, and from there either ride up through Lost Valley or down to Sulphur Springs Trail and over to Zaca Lake.

From the intersection, continue along Munch Canyon Trail to a second gate. Here, the trail arrives at the intersection with Sunset Valley Trail at the edge of large, open meadow dotted with valley oaks, which Davison called Big Flat.

At the lower end of the meadow is where C. E. Munch built his cabin. Munch homesteaded here but later gave up his claim. The land became part of the forest reserve and the cabin served as a base for Davison. The cabin was later removed, along with Davy Brown’s cabin, by the forest service.

Munch Canyon Trial continues across the meadow and meets Sunset Valley Road. The road was built in the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps and leads from Cachuma Saddle to Davy Brown Campground and ends at Nira Campground along Manzana Creek.

From the meadow, continue along Sunset Valley Trail. The trail is mostly level as it continues up the valley under a canopy of oaks transitioning into ceanothus as it makes the final push out of the valley at arrives at Sunset Valley Road.

old car rusting jalopy wreck White Rock Trail hike Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Rusting jalopy along White Rock Trail

From here, continue along Sunset Valley Road as it follows Fish Creek upstream to the White Rock Trailhead. From the trailhead, White Rock Trail follows one of the small tributaries of Fish Creek upstream, winding its way up the canyon. Along the way the trail passes the remains of a rusting, old jalopy that managed to get itself stuck there.

The trail then crosses over into White Rock Canyon and continues up the backside of the mountains before arriving back at the intersection with Munch Canyon Trail to complete the loop portion of the hike and make the return to East Pinery Road.

Davison retired from the forest service in 1909, to spend more time with his family. The Davisons had five children and often lived together in the mountains until the kids reached the age where they needed to go to school.

Davison become the caretaker of Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, planting the redwoods that are still growing there. The house where they lived in Ballard is still standing and recently became the county’s newest historical landmark.

Davison passed away in 1949. A plaque honoring his service can be found at the Fir Canyon cabin site and another at Oak Hill Cemetery.

It’s said that when people wanted to rename Mount Bliss after him, he instead suggested it be called Ranger Peak, in honor of the service given by all forest rangers.

Article appears in section A of the April 2nd, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 31, 2018

Trail Quest: The Trails of Edgar B. Davison, Part 1

In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act was passed which allowed the President to create forest reserves on land in the public domain, the forerunners of today’s national forests.

In 1897, the Forest Service Organic Administration Act was passed, which defined how the reserves would be administered and the criteria for their creation. The purpose of the reserves was to protect and preserve timber resources and the water supply within those areas. The act also allowed for the hiring of rangers and other personnel to administer and manage the reserves, as well as opening the land to public use.

In 1898, Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve was the first reserve created in our local area. A year later Santa Ynez Reserve was created. In 1903, they were combined into a single reserve. In 1906, San Luis Obispo Reserve and Monterey Reserve were created. Two years later, forest reserves became national forests; San Luis Obispo Reverse was combined with Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake and Santa Ynez Reserve, to create Santa Barbara National Forest. In 1919, Monterey National Forest was added to Santa Barbara National Forest, and in 1938, its name was changed to Los Padres National Forest.

Ranger Edgar Davison Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Section of trail orginally built by Edgar B. Davison through Fir Canyon

Among the duties of those early rangers was fire suppression as means to protect the local watersheds and resources. This included building and maintaining trails to provide access to the backcountry. They were also responsible for ensuring that no illegal grazing of livestock took place and that people with homestead claims within the reserves were fulfilling the requirements laid out in the 1862 Homestead Act.

In 1898, Ballard resident, Edgar Billings Davison became one of the first rangers in our area serving in the Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve. He had helped build both the schoolhouse and church in Ballard.

His patrol area included the trails along the north side of Figueroa Mountain down to and including Manzana Creek.

Davy Brown Creek Trail Fir Canyon Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Small cascade and pool along Davy Brown Creek

From Ballard, he would bring in his supplies by wagon to where the road ended or became impassable and from there load up his pack animals and ride up one of the canyons to reach the top of the San Rafael Mountains. From there his route typically led him over Mount Bliss, later renamed Ranger Peak, and down into Munch Canyon where he headquartered at the cabin of C. E. Munch.

At that time the route through Blue Canyon was considered inaccessible, but he found a way to build a trail through the canyon and later renamed it Fir Canyon, after the bigcone Douglas fir that can be found there.

Davison called the new route Blue Point Trail, likely a reference to the large out-cropping of serpentine at the top of the canyon. The trail is better known today as Davy Brown Trail and connects from Figueroa Mountain Road down to Davy Brown Campground.

Blue Point Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Figueroa Mountain Serpentine Los Padres National Forest

“Blue Point” near the top of Fir Canyon

About a mile from the top of the canyon, Davison built a cabin, which he also used a base for patrol and trail maintenance, depending on which part of his area he was working in.

The cabin site, as well as the trails he built and patrolled can still be visited today. A hike along the length of Davy Brown Trail is about six miles round trip. The hike can be made into a partial loop hike with a visit over to Willow Springs, which adds another half-mile. A map of the trails around Figueroa Mountain can be found on Los Padres National Forest website, http://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf, under Maps & Publications or here.

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara, take State Route 154 to Los Olivos and turn onto Figueroa Mountain Road and continue a mile past Figueroa Mountain Campground to the pullout for Davy Brown Trail.

Conifers fir canyon davy brown trail hike Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara County

Fir Canyon conifers

From the trailhead, the trail leads down into Fir Canyon and quickly enters a mixed forest of grey pines, coast live oak, canyon live oak, and bigcone Douglas fir, with an understory of ceanothus, manzanita, and scrub oak. It is a place of vitality, that benefits from its elevation and location on the north side of the mountain. The creek has water flowing intermittently year round, and along the creek are alder, willow, and maple, all of which make for spectacular scenery in the fall.

About a mile from the top of the canyon the trail arrives at the intersection with Munch Canyon Connector and Willow Springs Spur Trails, both of which were built by Davison. Here, on the west side of Davy Brown Creek, Davison built his cabin.

Nothing remains of the cabin, but there is a commemorative plaque set in a serpentine boulder marking the site.

As a ranger, Davison was paid $60 per month and was required to supply his own horse and pack animals, gear and supplies. He was expected to put in an 8-hour day doing patrol and trail maintenance. House keeping and time spent feeding and taking care of his animals was to be done after hours. He was also required to keep a daily diary of his activities and whereabouts, which he had to ride into town each month to mail to his supervisor for review.

In his first week as a ranger, Davison fought and controlled a fire burning in Fir Canyon. As part of his fire suppression activities, he would clear cones and needles away from the base of pine trees, as well as clear space between the trees. He also posted fire warning notices at various locations in town and along the trails.

Roberts' Miner Cabin Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Los Padres National Forest Figueroa Mountain

Roberts’ Cabin site in Fir Canyon

Continuing from the cabin site down through Fir Canyon, the trail soon arrives at a second cabin site. This one an old miner’s cabin, set against the hillside near a small clearing along the creek.

Here, the rock type changes from Monterey shale which dominates the upper portion of the canyon to serpentine related material. In the creek are rocks and boulders with a subtle blue color, which is likely how the canyon originally came to be known as Blue Canyon.

As the trail descends it starts to transition into chaparral and the views open up out towards Hurricane Deck. The trail is steep at times and can be a workout hiking back up.

At about the 2.25-mile mark, the trail arrives at the intersection with Willow Springs Trail. From here it’s less than a mile downstream along Davy Brown Trail to Davy Brown Campground.

Cascade pool Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Los Padres National Forest

Cascade and pool along Davy Brown Creek

Just past the intersection, look for a short side trail that leads to the creek. The trail arrives at the top of a medium-sized cascade and pool that usually has some water in it year round.

From here, Davy Brown Trial, starts to level out and can make for a pleasant hike, except for the poison oak, down to Davy Brown Campground.

Returning along Willow Springs Trail provides a chance to see more of Davison’s handiwork. The trail doubles back along the creek from the juncture and then follows a ridge between two side canyons as it steadily climbs uphill.

As the trail nears the spring, an empty water trough can be seen from the trail. It’s hard to tell if the spring is flowing or not, but just past the trough the trail arrives at the juncture with Willow Springs Spur Trail, which leads over to the cabin site to complete the loop.

From this juncture, Willow Springs Trail continues to the top of the San Rafael Mountains. The trail wraps its way around the mountain westward and ties into Catway Road. This mile-long section of trail was also built by Davison.

Hurricane Deck Davy Brown Trail Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest

Hurricane Deck is seen from Davy Brown Trail

When Davison first starting working as a ranger, the best route to Zaca Lake was to continue down Davy Brown Creek to Manzana Creek. And from there, follow Manzana Creek downstream to Sulphur Springs Trail and ride the trail to the top of the mountains at Cedros Saddle and continue down to the lake.

As part of his trail work, Davison built a more direct route from Willow Spring along the top of the San Rafael Mountains, likely following a route similar to Catway and Zaca Ridge Roads. The route he built with Ranger John Libeu cut across the southern face of Zaca Peak, just as the route still does today, and along Zaca Ridge and down to the lake.

In 1901, Davison was laid off as a ranger. He worked various jobs, while hoping to be reinstated.

A year later, not only was he reinstated, he was also given a raise. With a salary of now $75 dollars a month he felt he had the means to marry his sweetheart, Grace Lyons, who was a school teacher in Ballard.

The couple honeymooned at Davison’s cabin in Fir Canyon.

Article appears in section A of the March 19th, 2018 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Manzanita blossoms flowers Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara County

Manzanita blossoms

 

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