To our participants in the Vision Quest and Counting Coup:
Darrell Vance, the District Ranger for the Trabuco District, sent me the following regarding the 1 year extension of the closure order until October of 2016.
We are in the process of completing the renewal of the order. At the moment, it will remain the same – we are still awaiting gates to go at the top to make the closure area smaller. Once those gates go in (we think late October), we will look at reducing the amount of roads closed.
Here is what I’ve been sending folks who have asked the ‘why’ of the renewal:
Thank for your inquiry into the Silverado Fire Closure.
The area affected encompasses a portion of the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest, which includes areas of Silverado Canyon and adjacent locations affected by the 2014 fire, an area of approximately 3,600 acres. The restrictions are in effect to address resource protection, protection of public property, and public health and safety concerns related to the ongoing watershed emergency. This closure is felt to be the most immediate and effective method to reduce the potential for loss of life, and loss of physical resource values on the forest. There are numerous natural hazards created by the fire, such as tree snags, rolling debris, and unstable slopes.
An additional threat to public safety created by the fire is flash flooding caused by loss of vegetation and exposed soils.
The time frame of a closure normally includes the first season of precipitation; however, the extended period of drought in southern California has affected the regrowth of vegetation in the burn area. The lack of precipitation on the burned slopes and the predicted onset of potentially elevated El Niño-driven storms have extended the period of concern for severe flash flooding and or mud flows in the Silverado burn area and adjoining areas. Increases in flows and erosion rates including debris flows much higher than normal are expected for several years with the greatest increases the 1st and 2nd year following the fire before returning to normal background levels. Most of the pre-fire area was covered in mixed chaparral, chamise, and California sagebrush that are expected to recover to greater than 30% cover within two years.
Silverado Canyon has geology and soils that are prone to mass wasting and have an erosion hazard rating of “Very Severe.” In the burn area, most of the slopes are over 50% gradient, and the topography of the area is steep with sensitive soils, which invites erosion when traversed by either mechanical means or on foot. Gullies and evidence of past slope failures are evident in the canyon and in the burn area.
The following link from USGS’s study of the Silverado Fire burn area displays estimates of the probability of debris flow (in %), potential volume of debris flow (in m3), and combined relative debris flow hazard. Estimates of probability, volume, and combined hazard are based upon a design storm with 10-year recurrence interval (i.e., a 1 in 10 chance of a storm of that magnitude occurring in any given year):
During multiple field visits over the last year, FS personnel have observed new slope failures, rock fall, and dry ravel in the burn area. To-date, Silverado Canyon has already experienced several debris flows, including during the July 19, 2015 storm, and now September 15, 2015. During this September’s event, approximately 2 inches of rain fell in Silverado Canyon, causing three mud flows including a 4-foot-deep debris flow that covered Silverado Canyon Road around 9:30 am, near Maple Springs Visitor Center, adjacent to the gate.
We appreciate your patience. The closure area was designed to provide for the maximum access to the vicinity for public and special use permittee use, while maintaining an appropriate area closed. As the danger to the public abates, we will take appropriate measures to reduce the amount of Forest lands that are affected by the closure.
Although we were disappointed by the extension of the closure order we understand the concerns of the Forest Service regarding protection the resources and the public. If the predicted El Nino occurs we expect major landslides in the burn area in which the Silverado Trail (Motorway) is located. It has already been affected by the rains we’ve had over the summer and were asked by the Forest Service in August to evaluate it’s condition. Upper Holy Jim also is in need of work due to the summer rains. We expected to bypass both these trails if the closure order was not extended. The extension of the closure order will allow us time over 2016 to repair the damages. As a registered volunteer group with the Forest Service, we are allowed, by permission from the District Ranger, to enter these areas under special permit to work on the trails once the weather stabilizes, most likely after the spring rains of next year.
We will be offering all participants the choice of a refund or transfer to the 2016 event, to be held on Saturday, October 22nd. Any open spots will be opened for registration on Active.com on November 1st 2015 at 8:00 p.m. We’ve had a big demand for any open spots at this year’s event and the same amount of inquiries as to the date of our 2016 event and when registration will open up.
Please email us if you’d like a refund. We will be offering refunds through October 24th after which time all those not requesting a refund will be transfered to the 2016 event. To save us time, please include your most current mailing address if requesting a refund.
We are planning a new event for 2016 to be tentatively held on Saturday, April 9th. The course will be up the Trabuco Trail, down Los Pinos, up the San Juan Trail to Long Canyon Road and the Main Divide and back down Trabuco. Due to the technical and isolated nature of the trails involved (and the support required), we will be limiting participation to 150 and allowing only current and past participants of the Vision Quest to register. Those who stay currently registered for the 2016 Vision Quest will be given priority in registering for this event. The cost will be $75, which will include an event t-shirt and food after the event. We will be notifying those who transfer to the 2016 Vision Quest more details about the event in about a month and when we will start emailing apps to those interested.
We do appreciate your patience and support and plan on having the trails ready for the public and for our 2016 events.
The Warrior’s Society