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 1898, Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Reserve became the first forest reserve created in our local area and one of its first rangers was Edgar B. Davison.

Davison’s patrol area included the trails along the north side of Figueroa Mountain down to and including Manzana Creek. He built what is now known as Davy Brown Trail in Fir Canyon, Willow Springs Trail, and various connector trails. And with ranger John Libeu he built Zaca Ridge Trial and the trail down to the lake.

This article covers Davy Brown Trail with a loop over to Willow Springs. 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 March 19th, 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.

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

Fir Canyon conifers

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

Manzanita blossoms

Banana Slug Fir Canyon Davy Brown Trail Figueroa Mountain Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara County

Banana Slug

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
Sierra (805) 708-4058 sierraboat@yahoo.com

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.

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 5, 2018

Trail Quest: Yellow Banks, Santa Cruz Island

Visited Santa Cruz Island over the holiday break for a 3-day camping trip. On the second day made the hike over to Smugglers Cove and extended it over to Yellow Banks. Plenty of foxes to be seen on the island.

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.

Santa Cruz Island fox climbing tree toyon Channel Islands National Park hike Scorpion Canyon

A Santa Cruz Island Fox feasting on toyon berries

Santa Cruz Island fox climbing tree toyon Channel Islands National Park hike Scorpion Canyon

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Smugglers Cove hike Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Smugglers Cove

Yellow Banks hike Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Yellow Banks is seen in the late afternoon light

Santa Cruz Island fox napping Channel Islands National Park

A Santa Cruz Island fox settling in for a nap

Scorpion Anchorage Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island frames a view overlooking Scorpion Anchorage

 

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 24, 2018

Trail Quest: Gifford Ranch Trail

Hiked the Gifford Trail from Highway 166 to the old ranch site, and then made a large loop along the jeep roads that trace the east and west sides of Gifford Canyon. From the top of the loop there are great views out towards the Carrizo Plain, Caliente Peak, Cuyama Valley, and Sierra Madre Mountains. From the loop, I extended my hike over to Gillam Spring. Both the trough at the ranch site and at Gillam Spring have a steady trickle of water that could conceivably be filtered for drinking.

Article appears in section A of the January 22nd, 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.

Caliente Peak Mountains Gifford Ranch Trail Cuyama Valley hike Los Padres National Forest

Caliente Peak and the Caliente Mountains are seen from the trail

Gifford Ranch Trail cattle chute hike los padres national forest cuyama valley

An old cattle chute is seen at the Gifford Ranch site

oak Gypsum Canyon Gifford Ranch Trail hike los padres national forest cuyama valley

An oak is seen along the trail in Gypsum Canyon

Posted by: James Wapotich | January 8, 2018

Trail Quest: Through smoke and fire

This week’s article is about fire, grief, and renewal, drawing on my own personal experience and perspective on loss and the power of nature.

“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom, and fill with singing birds.” –Nicholas Black Elk

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.

Posted by: James Wapotich | December 18, 2017

Trail Quest: Hans Christian Andersen Park

Made a loop through Hans Christian Andersen Park in Solvang. The park is shaped by the contours of Adobe Canyon and has two main trails, one on each side of the canyon or creek, that can be combined into a loop hike of about a mile. The 52-acre park has enough undeveloped open space to make for an interesting meander while visiting Solvang.

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.

Hans Christian Andersen Park hike trail Solvang

Coast live oak and valley oak add to the scenery at Hans Christian Andersen Park

 

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