Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: State parks

California State Parks closures target 70 of the state's 278 parks

Tufa formations have an unreal look on Mono Lake at sunset.

Come fall, Californians could find themselves with fewer parks to visit and fewer services available at parks that are open. That was the tenor of the plan that California State Parks officials outlined Friday as they targeted for shutdown 70 of the state's 278 parks because of budget problems.

The closure plan is far from final, and if it does come to pass the closures wouldn't go into effect until September, said State Parks Director Ruth Coleman.

Coleman also raised the possibility of diminished services -- i.e., closing bathrooms, lifeguard towers and other facilities -- throughout the state park system to cut $11 million in the coming fiscal year and $22 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year. But the budget details haven't been finalized.

Times Daily Travel and Deal blogger Mary Forgione has the details, including the full list of parks slated for closure, on her post: California State Parks: Salton Sea, Palomar on list of possible shutdowns

Photo: Tufa formations have an unreal look on Mono Lake at sunset. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times


Outposts looks back at 2010: Unusual news 2

With the year ending, it is worth looking back at memorable posts of 2010. Each day this week through Friday, Outposts will recount some of the records broken, the achievements reached, the notable passings and the downright unusual during 2010 in the outdoors, action and adventure world.

Hunter's ticking timepiece attracts some interesting clock-watchers

Deer seem to be checking the time in these images taken by a trail camera. Minnesota bow-hunter Doug Strenke received a surprising, and amusing, reaction after hanging up a large, white-faced clock near the infrared trail camera he installed on the property he hunts, wanting to keep track of when deer visit the area, since the cam had no time-stamp function.

The St. Paul Park, Minn., resident was worried that the clock would scare everything away "within miles." Instead, his trailcam began photographing lots of deer and, Strenke said, "A lot of my pictures show the deer looking at the clock."

Photo credit: Doug Strenke

Bigfoot alive and well and living in North Carolina

North Carolina resident Tim Peeler drawing the Bigfoot creature he had a close encounter with. Bigfoot has apparently gone blond and lives in North Carolina. At least according to Cleveland County resident Tim Peeler, who told local authorities of his encounter with the 10-foot tall creature.

Peeler thought he was calling coyotes, but instead got surprised and frightened by what -- or who -- came a-calling.

"This thing was 10-foot tall. He had beautiful hair," said Peeler.

Screen-grab credit: NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36, North Carolina

Sailboat struck by breaching whale

A southern right whale breached and landed on a sailboat off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa on July 18. The whale broke the mast and then swam away, but the boat's occupants were uninjured.  A couple sailing off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, on July 18 got the surprise of their lives but were uninjured when a breaching southern right whale crashed onto their sailboat, damaging the vessel.

"It was quite scary," said Paloma Werner, who had been out sailing with her boyfriend and business partner, Ralph Mothes of the Cape Town Sailing Academy. "We thought the whale was going to go under the boat and come up on the other side. We thought it would see us."

Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency

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Bigfoot alive and well and living in North Carolina

Bigfoot has apparently gone blond and lives in North Carolina. At least according to Cleveland County resident Tim Peeler, who told local authorities of his encounter with the 10-foot tall creature, reports the Charlotte Observer.

Peeler thought he was calling coyotes, but instead got surprised and frightened by what -- or who -- came a-calling.

"Instead of them, him," Peeler, who lives in a rural area near South Mountains State Park, told NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36.

"This thing was 10-foot tall. He had beautiful hair," said Peeler, adding that it looked like the creature had six fingers on each hand.

"I come out here and rough-talked him and run him off," continued Peeler. But then the creature returned.

Luckily the encounter ended safely when Peeler got a bit more aggressive. "I said, 'Get away from here! Get! Get!' and he went right back up that path again."

Sgt. Mark Self of the Cleveland County sheriff's office responded to the suspicious-person call placed by Peeler.

"It scared me," said Self. "This is just totally blowing my mind that they even brought it back up," adding that the Sasquatch legend has been in the county since the 1970s.

"It doesn't bother me now -- I don't think there's anything to it," Self said. Still, the sheriff's office plans to continue its routine patrols of the area. "If we see something, we’ll try to capture it and take it into custody," he added.

So campers and hikers visiting the state park, one of North Carolina’s least-developed recreational sites, be forewarned -- you might want to plan on carrying a big stick, and leaving the coyote caller at home.

-- Kelly Burgess

Video from NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36, North Carolina

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Polo, hiking and rattlesnakes

Calling all horse-loving hikers: Check out Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades, where on weekends you can watch polo and go hiking on the park's ocean-view trails. For free. Where else in L.A. can you do this? Nowhere.

Will Rogers polo The Will Rogers Polo Club plays at the only polo field in Los Angeles, a pristine patch of green in a gem of a park. If you think this all too "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," don't worry about it. It's a casual crowd picnicking on the grass surrounding the field. But the attitude is civilized: You won't see beach balls and boomboxes, and kids need to be well-behaved. The play is fast-paced, kind of an equine cross between hockey, soccer and football.

After watching the season opener last weekend, we hit the Inspiration Point Trail. With its easy elevation gain and amazing views, this is the hike to take an out-of-towner on.

Inspiration Pt trail And with weather warming in the Santa Monica Mountains, it's also rattlesnake season. As our two Labrador retrievers nosed around the brush, we were warned of a baby rattler on the trail ahead, and sure enough we came across it. Luckily, our Labs were oblivious. Those with nosy rovers might want to check out the Rattlesnake Avoidance Workshop for Canines on May 15 and 16. Sponsored by the Mountains Restoration Trust, the $70 workshop in Calabasas will use real rattlers (fitted with a protective helmet), and an electric training collar for poochie will simulate a snakebite. Register online or call 818-591-1701.

Baby rattler Want to find out more about hiking with your canine companion? A new L.A. Times interactive shows you some dog-friendly trails and tips on how to keep Fido safe.

A note about the Will Rogers Polo Club: Matches are Saturdays 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., through early October. Admission is free, but parking this season is now a whopping $12. You can also park for free on Will Rogers Park Road and walk into the park.

 -- Julie Sheer.

Photo credit: Julie Sheer

Free guide to California campgrounds now expanded to include more sites

Barbara and Erik Jan Gerke, from The Netherlands, enjoy camping out in Yosemite Valley near Half Dome.

With temperatures warming, plants abloom and birds merrily chirping for mates, it's obvious that spring is here -- a time when one's thoughts may turn to getting outside to enjoy the change of season by taking a camping trip.

For those looking for campgrounds in California, a free, handy guide has recently been updated to include almost all our Golden State has to offer to campers.

The "Camp-California! Guide -- the Camper's Guide to California" now includes all federal, state and locally run parks as well as privately owned campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts.

The additions have increased the database to more than 1,000 campgrounds throughout the state, said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Assn. of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which compiled the information.

"We think consumers will love what we've done because we're creating a one-stop-shop for people looking for camping opportunities in California in both public and privately owned campgrounds, RV parks and resorts," said Sipe.

Next year, the association plans to also include the nearly 1,000 U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in the state.

"Consumers want complete content. They want to get all the information they need in one spot," said Sipe. "But until now, there was no single source for all camping information in California."

The complimentary guides are available at visitor and welcome centers statewide as well as at RV shows. They can also be requested sent via mail on the Camp California website or by e-mailing info@camp-california.com. Those in a hurry can also view a digital copy and/or download the guide on the website.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Barbara and Erik Jan Gerke, from The Netherlands, enjoy camping out in Yosemite Valley near Half Dome. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

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Hikers' encounter with mountain lions prompt temporary park closure

A mountain lion on a ledge.

Two brothers hiking in Pescadero Creek Park in San Mateo County had a close encounter of the threatening kind when they came face to face with two aggressive mountain lions, prompting the temporary closure of the park.

The California Department of Fish and Game reports that the men were hiking in the park late Sunday afternoon when one of them was approached by a mountain lion showing aggressive behavior. The man picked up a large stick and started swinging it at the lion while shouting. His brother, who was nearby and heard the shouting, came to his aid and then noticed a second lion approaching.

The mountain lions remained outside the range of the swinging stick, but just a few feet away. Together, the men eventually scared off both animals.

The hikers told DFG wardens that they were confronted for an estimated two to four minutes, which is highly unusual for mountain lions. Thus, the animals were deemed a threat to public safety and the park was closed.

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California state park districts announce widespread cost-saving reductions


Get used to it. California's state parks, which thankfully will remain open at least well into 2010, will no longer resemble the well-kept, freely accessible facilities park-goers have grown accustomed to.

On Monday the Inland Empire district announced its cost-saving service reductions, which include weekday closures at some facilities, and reduced hours. Today all districts announced their reductions and it's more of the same throughout the 279-park system.

Here are a few examples:

--Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego will experience 50% lifeguard reductions off-season  (September through February).  Trash cans and fire rings will be removed from the beach and many
restrooms will be closed.

--The visitor center at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

--Popular beach parks in Orange County will reduce by half the number of trashcans on the
beach. Restroom cleaning and fire ring cleaning will be reduced by half.  There will be no off-season chemical toilets and lifeguards will be limited to response by permanent staff. Trail upkeep and habitat restoration will be reduced by 50%.  Educational and interpretive programs will be reduced by 25%. Irrigation will be reduced by 25%.

--Mt. San Jacinto SP campground will be closed Monday through Wednesday and backpackers--who had enjoyed free access--will be charged $5 per person.


The list goes on but precise details at many parks are not yet clear. State Parks, as of 3:30 p.m., had not yet posted full details for each region on its website, but they should be forthcoming and available under the "News Releases 2009" tab. A news release issued Tuesday afternoon contained only an example sheet and a checklist with Xs marked under various categories.

At Malibu Creek State Park, for example, there are Xs under the following categories: reduced hours, closed camps/loops, close some day use, close some restrooms, reduce cleaning, reduce trash service. These are common reductions throughout the system.

It could be worse. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had threatened to close more than 100 parks to help alleviate a severe budget deficit. But it's hardly ideal and, to be sure, some of these reductions--notably the weekday closures--will take getting used to.

-- Pete Thomas

Top and bottom images were captured recently at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Credit: Pete Thomas / Los Angeles Times


Service reductions, weekday closures announced for Inland Empire state parks

Families picnic under the shade of trees at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area in the summer of 2008.
Inland Empire hikers, bird enthusiasts, campers and anglers will be disappointed to learn that five popular state parks in the Southern California region will experience considerable service reductions and even weekday closures beginning Sunday.

The reductions are part of a statewide effort to save money and prevent the total closure of perhaps more than 100 parks. The Inland Empire district announced its reductions Monday. They are:

--Lake Perris State Recreation Area: Park closed to public and vehicle entry for day use and camping Tuesday and Wednesday until March 31, 2010.  Park will be open for day use and camping Thursday through Monday and any holidays until March 31, 2010.  Day-use hours changed to 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Starting April 1 to June 30, 2010, park will be open seven days a week with day-use hours changed to 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

--Silverwood Lake SRA: Park closed to public and vehicle entry for day use and camping every Wednesday and Thursday until March 31, 2010.  The park will be open for day use and camping Friday through Tuesday and any holidays until March 31, 2010. Day-use hours changed to 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Starting April 1  to June 30, 2010, park returns to being open seven days a week with day-use hours changed to 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

--California Citrus State Historical Park: Park closed to general public and vehicle entry for day use Monday though Thursday until June 30, 2010.  Park will be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and any holidays until June 30, 2010. Day-use hours changed to 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Weddings and Sunkist Building rentals will still be available seven days a week through the California Citrus Non-Profit Management Corp.  School tours will also still be accommodated by park volunteers on a case-by-case basis. The main park sector office located at the Citrus Park will be completely closed to the public until June 30, 2010. Business and phone operations will temporarily be transferred to Lake Perris SRA.

Continue reading »

Fish and Game Q&A: Are hunters a threat to hikers and campers?

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday afternoon or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: As an avid outdoor hiker/camper ("primitive") in the wilderness, I have just learned that there is year-round hunting of some sort throughout California, especially on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Since I wear and use materials that "blend" with nature, I am now very concerned about whether I should be changing my pup tent and clothing to international orange! As much as I respect the right to hunt and recognize its importance in helping to manage wildlife, I am very concerned about the safety of hikers/campers like myself being shot in the crossfire!  What are the statistics concerning hunting accidents of this nature in California? (Pam K.)

Answer: Public hunting is allowed on most U.S. Forest Service and BLM properties but not within national parks or California state parks. In addition, most wild game in California have very regulated seasons. Accidents due to careless hunters as you describe here are rare.

According to Hunter Education Administrator and Capt. Roy Griffith, California sells nearly 300,000 hunting licenses per year, yet averages only about 16 firearm-related hunting injuries per year, with two or fewer resulting in death.  In these cases, the injured person is typically a member of the shooter’s hunting party. This year California had its first injury in more than 10 years in which the victim was not a hunter (a farm worker received a minor “peppering” when an individual shot at a dove out of season).

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Camping increases in popularity, in part because of recession

A recreational vehicle at Yosemite Falls in 2007.

I've noticed during recent travels to the Eastern Sierra that more people seem to be utilizing campgrounds. I've also seen more Cruise America RVs on the roads.

Now it's official. More people are camping, in tents and RVs. Why? Because more people are trying to save money by enjoying  a simpler existence.

The Outdoor Foundation, in partnership with the Coleman Co., have released a report stating there was a 7.4% increase in RV, car and backyard camping in 2008.

"In today's economy, people are returning to simpler lifestyles -- the 'less is more' ethic," said Christine Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. "Reservations for campsites and sales for camping gear are up. Camping provides fun, affordable opportunities for families to enjoy time together."

Among the "Special Report  on Camping's" key findings:

-- 33.7 million Americans participated in car and backyard camping in 2008, an increase of 7.4% over the previous year.

-- 16.5 million Americans went RV camping in 2008, compared to 16.2 million in 2007.

-- Camping participants made more than 597-million outings in 2008, averaging 14 camping days per participant.

-- 56% of campers were male and one-third of them were between the ages of 25 and 44, and most campers have a household income of $50,000 to $74,999.

Unfortunately, during my recent travels in pursuit of wary trout in creeks that happen to be close to campgrounds, I've noticed a drawback to all of this: a lack of solitude.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A recreational vehicle at Yosemite Falls in 2007. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

State park fees to increase; widespread closures still expected


California State Parks announced it will increase camping fees by $10 to $21 a night, and day-use fees by $2 to $5 to help offset devastating budget cuts. The increases will go into effect Monday.

This will not prevent widespread park closures expected to be announced soon after Labor Day. Unless The Department of Parks and Recreation can rally significant support from partners in the public and private sector, it may be forced to temporarily close 100 or more of the state's 279 parks.

The fee increases are expected to raise, at most, $200,000 by the end of the year. The cut to state parks this budget year is $14.2 million, so park lovers throughout California can expect the gates to close at one or more of their favorite parks, and to pay more to enter parks that remain open.

This is not intended as criticism of California State Parks, which is in a hard place and in dire need of any extra funding it can acquire, simply to function.

If anyone deserves criticism, besides the state and its governor for allowing the budget deficit to skyrocket beyond the stratosphere, it's the millions of parkgoers who for years have cheated the system by parking their vehicles outside park limits and walking in for free.

One estimate places this number at greater than 60%. Perhaps the parks could benefit by requiring visitors to carry proof of payment, as many private fishing lakes do. Of course, that plan could be  perceived as insulting and backfire. But so might the fee hikes backfire, by causing even more people to cheat the system.

Meanwhile, the fate of some parks, for now, seems to rest outside state government. Individual parks that end up on the closure list might be spared only with the help of their surrounding communities and nonprofit corporations.

It's an ugly and unfortunate mess and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few weeks, and over time. My prediction is that most parks that are closed will not reopen for a long, long time. I hope I'm wrong.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Emily Nitikman and Peter Davidson enjoy the view of the Pacific from Topanga Canyon State Park. Credit: Brian Vender Brug / Los Angeles Times

Smokey Bear celebrates 65 years of service

Smokey Smokey Bear turned 65 this weekend.

The iconic fire prevention figure, known to outdoor enthusiasts and nature and animal lovers young and old, has changed little since first gracing U.S. Forest Service posters in 1944.

In all these years, the catch phrase associated with Smokey has only been updated twice. The original, "Smokey Says -- Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires" was switched to "Remember...Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires" in 1947, then again modified in 2001 to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires," to better cover natural areas other than forests that may be affected by fires.

Smokey did also go through a name change, when "the" was added in 1952. It wasn't a "legal" change though, and was only inserted by songwriters to help maintain the rhythm in an anthem. Smokey enthusiasts still debate the correct name. (The Times style book states the correct usage is Smokey or Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear.)

No matter how you say it, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

An ironic side note: Smokey's "birthday" coincides with the opening weekend of bear hunting season in California.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Smokey Bear poster. Credit: U.S. Forest Service


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.