Posted by: James Wapotich | March 23, 2012

Trail Quest: In Appreciation of Kerry Kellogg

In many ways Kerry Kellogg has become a fixture of our local backcountry, in his role as Trails and Wilderness Manager for the Santa Barbara Ranger District, he oversaw roughly 200 miles of trails and roads within the southern Los Padres National Forest and is recognized by many for his outstanding role in working with trail groups and volunteers to help keep the trails open.

On December 24, 2011, Mr. Kellogg retired after 35 years with the Forest Service. And part of what makes Mr. Kellogg’s connection to our trails so special is that he has the somewhat unique distinction of having spent all 35 of those years in the same ranger district. In fact it’s hard to find someone who’s spent any time in our local backcountry over the years who hasn’t heard of Mr. Kellogg or doesn’t have a story to share about him.

Kerry Kellogg Santa Barbara Ranger District Los Padres National Forest

Kerry seen assessing trail damage along the Santa Cruz Trail following the Zaca Fire

The Los Padres National Forest is comprised of 5 Ranger Districts, Monterey to the north and Santa Barbra, Santa Lucia, Ojai and Mt. Pinos here in the tri-countries area. The Santa Barbara Ranger District includes all of the Santa Barbara front country trails within the National Forest, the Santa Ynez Recreation Area, as well as a significant portion of the Santa Barbara backcountry including parts of the Dick Smith and San Rafael Wildernesses.

Mr. Kellogg was born in Pasadena and moved to Santa Barbara with his family when he was 3 and grew up on the Mesa. His first introduction to the outdoors was through the city of Santa Barbara’s Camp Conestoga summer program which took kids camping locally and on backpacking trips along the Tule River in the Sierras.

Later when he graduated from Santa Barbara High School, Mr. Kellogg became the camping director for the Santa Barbara City Parks and Recreation Summer Camps Program and led programs similar to those that had been offered by Camp Conestoga. One of the places that he’d take kids through that program was Paradise Campground, which set the stage for the next chapter in his story.

After completing college at San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and California Teaching Credential in Physical Education, he found himself in need of a place to stay and hit on the idea of becoming a campground host. In the summer of 1976 he was selected and became the campground host at Paradise Campground while continuing to look for work as a teacher.

Eight months later Mr. Kellogg was offered a forestry technician position in the Recreation Division with the Forest Service. Several month later he was reinterviewed by the Forest Service and told that “men don’t do Recreation, men do Fire” and so for the next 5 years Mr. Kellogg worked in Wildland Fire Division, first as a fire prevention technician and then as part of the California Interagency Los Padres Hot Shot Crew. His first big fires were the Marble Cone Fire in the Monterey District and the Sycamore Canyon Fire locally.

In 1981 when funding became available to support a Wilderness Ranger for the district, Mr. Kellogg took that as an opportunity to reconnect with what drew him to the Forest Service in the first place, and from 1981-1983 Mr. Kellogg served as the Wilderness Ranger for the Santa Barbra district.

In interviewing Mr. Kellogg, one of the things that really came through is his passion for the backcountry and how he was inspired by the writings and lore of those who came before him. “Quite honestly that’s why I kept a journal,” Mr. Kellogg shared, “There were other journals going back to the first Ranger at Davy Brown. I remember reading how he’d spent 2-3 days raking needles away from the biggest pines up on Figueroa Mountain, selectively protecting them during a forest fire. And I’d love to hear him grouse about having to pay 50 cents for a shovel, or having to pay $35 to get a Rough Riders uniform and being told to ride all the way from Los Olivos to the Santa Barbara Harbor to meet Teddy Roosevelt.”

As the Wilderness Ranger Mr. Kellogg managed trail crews, lead stock, patrolled the trails and camps and whatever else was needed. Often riding in on horseback from the Ranger Station at Los Prietos along the Santa Cruz Trail staying at Santa Cruz Station.

In fact, I first met Mr. Kellogg at Santa Cruz Station when I was in the Boy Scouts on one of our backpacking trips. And the image of a Wilderness Ranger staying in a cabin and hiking all of the trails stayed with me over the years, so much so that I was disappointed when I later returned to backpacking and learned that the tradition had been discontinued due to lack of funding.

In 1983 Mr. Kellogg transitioned out of the role of Wilderness Ranger to start a family taking on administrative duties with the Forest Service. A year later funding from OHV license fees allowed the Forest Service to create the position of OHV manager, which Mr. Kellogg stepped into, patrolling some of the same roads and camps he visited as the Wilderness Ranger, but now on motor cycle. 2 years later Mr. Kellogg became the District Trails and Wilderness Manager.

Over the years the Forest Service has seen a steady decline in funding and one of the areas most impacted by that decline is trail maintenance. It doesn’t help that our local trails are some of the toughest to maintain. Mr. Kellogg has been instrumental in working with volunteer groups to help maintain the local trails.

“I don’t remember the date, but somewhere in the late 80s, we lost a lot of front country trails” Mr. Kellogg explained, “We had a real wet winter and I got a phone call from someone saying they couldn’t find the Rattlesnake Trail. I went down there and sure enough it was gone. The Santa Barbara News-Press did an article on the trail damage with photos and quoted me about wanting volunteers and all of sudden the phone started ringing off the hook. And for a while there I was going out every weekend with church groups, schools and other groups doing trail work.”

Prior to the article volunteer trail work was largely limited to and initiated by the local Sierra Club. However with the increase in volunteer activity Mr. Kellogg’s unofficial role as volunteer coordinator was turning into a full time job, until a co-worker, Jeff Saley, suggested having the volunteers manage themselves. And that shift is what has allowed a number of groups including the Los Padres Forest Association and the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers to actively pursue trail maintenance as a way to giving back to the trails. Over the years Mr. Kellogg has trained hundreds of volunteers on how to do trail work and maintenance.

Kerry Kellogg Santa Barbara Ranger District Los Padres National Forest

Kerry taking in one of the trails in the Los Padres National Forest

In 1998 Mr. Kellogg was recognized nationally by the Forest Service for his work with volunteers. The award is both a reflection of Mr. Kellogg’s commitment to keeping the trails open, and this community’s willingness to step up and support the trails that so many of us use.

When I asked Mr. Kellogg what he liked best about working with volunteers he offered, “Their enthusiasm, you’re working with the people who love the trails the most.”

It’s unlikely that Mr. Kellogg will disappear completely from the forest he’s spent so much time taking care of, he currently works part time for the Montecito Fire Department as a Wildland Fire Expert and plans to continue to participate in volunteer trail work.

This article originally appeared in Section A of the March 23rd, 2012 edition Santa Barbara News-Press.

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