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

Recently joined the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society for a field trip near Figueroa Mountain focused on serpentine rocks, soil, and the plants that grow on them. The field trip was co-led by geologist Susie Bartz and naturalist Liz Gaspar. For a list of the group’s upcoming programs and events go to, ww.syvnature.org

Article appears in section A of 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.

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

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

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | April 7, 2018

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

Edgar Davison was one of the first forest rangers in our local area, serving in the Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve from 1898 until he retired in 1909.

His patrol area included the trails along the north side of Figueroa Mountain down to and including Manzana Creek. He headquartered in the cabin formerly used by C.E. Munch who homesteaded in Sunset Valley. Davison also built a cabin in Fir Canyon, which he used when working the trails in that area.

This article covers the loop hike that can be made along Munch Canyon, Sunset Valley, and White Rock Trails. A map of the trails around Figueroa Mountain can be found here on the Los Padres National Forest website.

Article appears in section A of the April 2nd, 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.

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

“Big Flat” along Munch Canyon Trail

 

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

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 31, 2018

Trail Quest: Big Cone Spruce Camp

Did an overnight backpacking trip with Sierra over President’s Day weekend to Big Cone Spruce. Lots of great water at all the camps along the way.

Article appears in section A of the March 5th, 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.

Manzana Creek backpacking hike San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Scenery along Manzana Creek near Manzana Camp

Waterfall Manzana Narrows Camp hike trial San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Cascade at Manzana Narrows Camp

Manzanita blossoms flowers Manzana Creek San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara County

Manzanita blossoms

Western scrub jay Manzana Creek trail San Rafael Wilderness Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara County

Western scrub jay

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 31, 2018

Trail Quest: Lake Lopez

Less than two hours from Santa Barbara, in San Luis Obispo County, Lake Lopez can provide a fun weekend getaway in our neighboring county to the north.

The lake provides a range of recreational opportunities, including camping, hiking, boating, and fishing.

The 4,276-acre recreation area features a network of trails that can be used to create a variety of loop hikes that offer views of the lake and its three main arms, Arroyo Grande, Wittenberg, and Lopez, which represent the three creeks that flow into the lake.

The two main loops that can be made are Duna Vista Loop, which lets you explore the peninsula between Wittenberg and Lopez arms, and the different trails east of the campgrounds, which can also be combined into a loop. The trails are open to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Lake Lopez High Ridge Fire Road hike

Lake Lopez is seen from High Ridge Fire Road

A map of the trails, as well as information about day use, camping, and campsite reservations can be found on the San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation website, www.slocountyparks.org. Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers also has a useful map on their website, www.cccmb.org, as well as maps for several other popular hiking and biking destinations in San Luis Obispo County.

To get to Lake Lopez Recreation Area from Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 north to Arroyo Grande. Exit at Grand Avenue and continue east towards the mountains as Grand Avenue becomes Branch Street and leads through old town Arroyo Grande. Turn right on Huasna Road, which more or less turns into Lopez Drive as it continues up Arroyo Grande Valley. Lopez Drive continues to the park entrance, crossing the dam, and offering views of the lake.

Lake Lopez has over 350 campsites ranging from so-called primitive sites for car camping to sites with full hook-up for recreational vehicles and trailers. At the marina is a boat launch, as well as boat, kayak, canoe, and stand up paddle board rentals. The marina also features a store and bar and grill. The recreation area also includes a water park and ropes course.

In some ways the best time to go is during the off-season, from October to April, when there are less people there.

Lake Lopez Wittenberg Creek Duna Vista Loop Trail hike

Wittenberg Creek is seen from Duna Vista Loop Trail

A satisfying loop hike that can be made starting near the campgrounds is to follow Cougar Trail north to Escondido Spur Trail and take it up to High Ridge Fire Road, retuning back along Blackberry Springs Trail. The full loop is about five miles and offers a mix of ridge-top views and canyon scenery. Most of the trails are well-marked with signs and are in generally good condition.

Cougar Trail runs behind the different camping areas that are east of the main road. The trail meanders through a mix of coast live oak and chaparral, crossing a number of small side canyons. Escondido Spur Trail leads up one of these side canyons and as it climbs offers views out across the lake.

About a half-mile up from Cougar Trail, Escondido Trail crests out of the canyon and branches. A short side trail to the left follows the ridgeline to an overlook. The main trail continues east along the backside of the ridge and connects to High Ridge Fire Road, which traces the eastern edge of the recreation area and parallels Upper Lopez Canyon Road.

The old fire road is more of single-track trail and offers views of the lake and surrounding area. Continuing south on High Mountain Fire Road, the trail passes another old fire road that leads back down to the campgrounds, before then turning westward and arriving at a four-way intersection. At the intersection is the top of both Turkey Ridge and Blackberry Springs Trails, both of which lead back down to Cougar Trail.

Blackberry Springs Trail is perhaps the more interesting of the two. The trail leads through a small canyon, leveling out briefly in a small hidden vale, before continuing down. The area feels more lush than the other canyons thus far and there is a rich mix of plants as the trail leads under a canopy of oaks. Along the trail is coffee berry, elderberry, ferns, and even silk tassel. Lining parts of the canyon are wild blackberry and of course poison oak. Further down, under many of the oaks is wild gooseberry. The trail connects with Cougar Trail to complete the loop.

shell fossils Monterey shale Lake Lopez hike

Shell fossils in Monterey shale

The other scenic loop that can be made is Duna Vista Loop, which follows the trails on the peninsula across the lake from camping areas. The full loop, including the two spur trails, is about 10 miles. The trailhead is reached by continuing along the main road, past the campgrounds, to the end of the paved road where there is a pullout for parking.

From there, continue about a mile along the unpaved road towards Camp French, which is managed by the Boy Scouts. The road essentially traces the edge of Wittenberg Arm before crossing the creek. Stay to the left as the road branches, which leads you past the Event Center. From there, continue across the open flat above the creek towards the beginning of the signed single-track trail.

The single-track trail continues downstream above Wittenberg Creek and leads through a mix of oak and chaparral. In the small side canyons, there is coffee berry, elderberry, sycamore, and some poison oak. In the more exposed areas there is chaparral with predominantly coastal sagebrush and the occasional lupine. Amongst the oaks are coast live oak and valley oak, with many of them featuring lace lichen dangling from their branches.

At about the 1.25-mile mark from the beginning of the single-track trail, the trail branches for the beginning of the actual loop. Staying to the left provides the shorter route to the two Duna Vista Lookouts, if one wants to shorten the hike.

From here, the trail starts its climb to the top of the ridge that separates Wittenberg and Lopez Canyons, and forms the long peninsula between these two arms of the lake.

Lake Lopez Duna Vista Loop Trail hike

Lake Lopez is seen from Duna Vista Loop Trail

As the trail climbs it offers views out across the lake. Here, the plants start to include toyon, ceanothus, and black sage. The trail then crests the top of the ridge and offers some great views out across the Lopez Arm of the lake and towards the ocean.

Here, the trail branches again. To the left, Duna Vista Spur Trail continues south another mile to Duna Vista Spur Lookout, which overlooks the dam. To the right, the main trail continues north along the ridge to complete the loop.

The trail to Duna Vista Spur Lookout has what feels like the most forested sections along the ridge, passing through toyon, oak, ceanothus and in some areas holly-leaf cherry and tanbark oak. The view from the overlook includes the dam, as well as Arroyo Grande Valley, Arroyo Grande, and the Oceano Dunes.

Construction of Lopez Dam began in 1967 and was completed in 1969. The dam was built to prevent flooding in the valley below, with the reservoir providing water for Arroyo Grande and the Five Cities area. The lake is currently at 50 percent capacity.

Continuing back along the ridge between Wittenberg and Lopez Canyons, the trail climbs to its highest point along the ridge, passing a second lookout spot, which offers views of both arms of the lake from a single vantage point.

The trail then starts to descend along the ridge, arriving at the juncture with the trail for the return loop and the beginning of Encinal Spur Trial, which leads down to the lake in Lopez Canyon.

Encinal Camp Lake Lopez hike oaks

Oaks near Encinal Camp

Encinal Spur Trail is definitely the least used trail on the peninsula. The slightly overgrown trail descends a half-mile down towards the lake and provides numerous opportunities to maneuver around poison oak. Near the lake, the trail arrives at a sign for Two Waters Trail, the previous name for Duna Vista Loop Trail.

At the sign, turn right and continue to Encinal Camp, which is situated in a large grove of coast live oak. The camp features a metal fire ring and grill and two picnic tables. Reservations for the campsite, which is only accessible by boat or along the trail, need to be made by calling the rangers at Lake Lopez.

From Encinal Camp, return back up to the trail juncture, and continue along the connector trail to complete the loop and return back to the trailhead.

Regardless of how far you hike you’ll get see a unique part of San Luis Obispo County.

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

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 8, 2018

Backpacking Made Easy

backpacking class Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forest

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backpacking class Santa Barbara los padres national forest

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Through this class, you will learn the basic skills and awareness to set out on our local trails and craft your own backpacking trips. Many of these skills can also be used for day hiking as well.

This class is unique in that it takes place on our local trails, as the best place to learn something is in the context in which it applies–in this case outdoors, not in a classroom. You’re also probably interested in backpacking because you want to get out on the trails and experience nature more. 

Past participants have said: “James and Sierra make a perfect team. They made the richness of the backcountry accessible to me, even though I started with very little experience. They helped open me to a level of connection with nature I had never experienced.”

“The best part was the combination of practical skills and teaching around nature connection, as the two together inspired the confidence that I can do this.”

In general, the class covers three main areas: wilderness navigation; nature connection; and gear/trip planning.

Our approach to wilderness navigation is also somewhat unique. You will learn route-finding and orienteering skills that are not dependent on having a GPS or compass. While we do use these tools on occasion, knowing how to navigate without them can help build the confidence to hike anywhere.

Nature connection is also a big part of our time out on the land. The richness of the natural world is what makes it worthwhile to invest the time and energy to head out into the backcountry, the exercise from carrying gear for many of us is secondary. Feeling a deeper sense of connection and immersion in the elements is the often the real payoff for being outdoors.

We will cover the gear basics and provide insights into how to evolve your own gear set. You don’t need to buy the latest gear in order to head out into the backcountry; what’s more important is to have the basics covered so you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy
Saturdays, March 24 – April 7

Santa Barbara and Ojai are home to a variety of incredible backpacking destinations, and yet, often the biggest obstacle is simply having the knowledge and skills to get started.

Through this immersive workshop, you will learn the basic skills needed to comfortably explore and enjoy our local trails.

Hot springs, waterfalls, epic views, and unspoiled wilderness are just some of the rewards for those who are willing to make the journey.

Each class takes place outside, on one of our local trails, and provides a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
March 24th 9AM-3PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the local landscape, and begin learning the skills and awareness that will help you remove the word lost from your vocabulary. Become familiar with maps and creating your own mental maps and how to navigate without a compass or GPS. Learn about the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you.

Nature Connection
March 31st 9AM-3PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more enjoyable when we take time to develop a meaningful connection with it.

Learn to see the natural world around you as an ally, rather than an obstacle to overcome, and shift your hikes from feeling like endurance contests to journeys of discovery. Learn how to feel at home in the woods. Practical skills include trail navigation, menu planning, personal care and basic first aid skills.

Pathfinding
April 7th 9AM-3PM

Many of our local trails are overgrown, particularly those off the beaten path. Learn how to read the trails, practice route-finding, and develop your own sense of “body radar” to help you navigate in the wilderness. Practical skills include trip planning, campsite evaluation, water assessment, and camp set up.

Optional Free
Overnight Backpacking Trip
April 14-15

For those who are interested, we will help organize a free, optional backpacking trip. Here’s a chance to put all these great skills to use, and build on the material covered so far.

Length of the hike and destination for the overnight trip to be determined according to current conditions and the capabilities and interests of the participants.

Guides:

James Wapotich is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service and the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. James leads guided hikes and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry.

Sierra Boatwright is a UC Certified California Naturalist, council facilitator, and nature connection guide. An alumna of Pacific Crest Outward Bound School, Sierra has backpacked in the Appalachians, Sierras, and our local backcountry.

Workshop is $225 per person, or bring a friend and both 20% off.
Limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 3-4 miles.

To sign up or for more information please contact:

James (805) 729-4250 jwapotich@yahoo.com
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Posted by: James Wapotich | February 8, 2018

Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Santa Barbara backcountry hiking backpacking los padres national forest trail rangers chumash vaqueros homesteads miners

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Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Wednesday, February 28th, 7:30PM – doors open at 7PM
Farrand Hall – Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA

This talk will highlight several historic trails that lead from Santa Barbara into our local backcountry. Trails that can still be visited today as part of a day hike or backpacking trip and connect with the San Rafael and Dick Smith WIlderness areas. Trails highlighted will include those used by the Chumash, early settlers, mercury miners, cowboys, and early rangers. 

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes and backpacking trips along these historic trails. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. He is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service, and is the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

For more information call (805) 729-4250 or email jwapotich@yahoo.com

This talk is sponsored by Santa Barbara Audubon Society, for information about their upcoming bird walks, fields trips, and other events go to www.santabarbaraaudubon.org.

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