Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thanks to Volunteers, Campfire Restrictions Lifted and Other News

Thank You to the King Range Wilderness Ranger Volunteers who dedicated their summer here in the King Range. They spent lots of time and energy helping to keep your wilderness clean for your enjoyment and to preserve its wilderness character. Below are a few stats of what we accomplished out there this year:

We turned fire rings like this
Into this, 275 times

We made 123 toilet paper piles disappear and buried 55 exposed turds (ET)

Toilet paper and ETBs continue to be an issue. Please read this blog post regarding human waste disposal.

The bottom line is that we ask you to completely BURY your waste, including your toilet paper. Even better is to pack out your toilet paper - carry a zip-lock bag with you specifically for this purpose. I’ve seen folks cover the zip lock with duct tape which seems to be an effective way to keep the gross factor down.  

We removed 172.5 pounds of trash left behind from visitors. The above picture is the trash hiked out of Big and Miller Flats last week. 

Removed 488.5 pounds of Trash originating from the ocean.

Removing fallen trees from Rattlesnake Ridge Trail

Dismantling a driftwood shelter

Many hundreds, and possibly thousands of people will be camping at the same places that you camp after you leave them behind. Which would you rather come to at the end of a day of backpacking on the Lost Coast:

Campsite 1: A clean site with a small, well contained fire ring and no trash.

Campsite 2: You see wrappers and cans littered throughout the site; Large fire ring that is spilling out ash, rocks and half burnt logs;  Several wads of toilet paper poking out of the soil and from underneath rocks just feet from where you set up your tent.

Overnight visitation to the King Range Wilderness has doubled in the past 3 years. There are more and more of us discovering this amazing and beautiful landscape and it will take all of us to help keep it as pristine as it should be. 

I’d also like to thank the American Conservation Experience trail crew who spent several months maintaining the trails in the King Range. They spent most of their time cutting back the encroaching vegetation:

Saddle Mountain Trailhead to about half way down Buck Creek Trail

Most of the King Crest Trail between Saddle Mountain Trailhead and the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail junction.  

They worked their tails off out there while the majority of the time in sweltering heat. This is slow, hard and grimy work. From their efforts now you can enjoy waking on these trails without having to swim your way through the bushes. If you ever see a trail worker during your journeys be sure to thank them for what they do. 

The Crew

Lopping on the King Crest Trail

Before 1a. 

After 1b.

Before 2a

After 2b

Before 3a

After 3b


Other News

The King Range National Conservation Area has lifted the restrictions on campfires. If you do decide to have a campfire please enjoy it responsibly.

1. Use fire rings that already exist before building anything new

2. Burn only dead and downed wood that you can easily break by hand and that fits into the fire ring. Burning large diameter/lengthy pieces of wood breaks down the fire ring and spreads rocks and ash all over the site.

Below are examples of fire rings that broke down due to the burning of wood that is too large.

Unsightly, isn't it? 

3. Foils and cans do not burn. Only put items into the fire that will completely burn in one sitting and pack out all other trash.

Fire rings are not trashcans

Fire rings are not trashcans 

The wilderness is not a trash can. Please pack out your garbage. 

4. Extinguish your campfire with abundant water and stir with a stick. Please do not put the fire out with sand – this fills the ring and makes it unusable for other visitors, which prompts them to build a new fire ring, multiplying the impacts. 

5. Gargantuan fire rings are a tremendous eye sore. If the fire isn’t warm enough for you – GET CLOSER to the fire.

Below are examples of gargantuan fire rings. These fire rings are unnecessary and take a lot of effort to rehabilitate.

Lastly, this is what a fire ring should look like: 

Small and clean - Please help us keep them this way

I was at out on the coast not too long ago and came across these items at one of the campsites:

A 4-person tent, Surf board wax and 5 empty food cans. 

This time of year, when people head out here to ride the waves and camp out on the coast I find A LOT of abandoned property. Tents, tarps, household pots and pans, sleeping bags, food items, etc. 

It's always the same type of gear that folks leave behind: cheap and heavy. They haul it out here and then decide that it's too heavy to hike back with them. To justify leaving their junk behind they say that they are either a) going to come back for it and/or b) leaving it for others to use. 

The truth is this: abandoned property is the result of laziness. 

Over the past 7 years we've removed enough abandoned gear (all from the surf spot) to fill a dumpster. 

Inside of the tent (pictured above) there was a note that read, "for the next campers that need it." 

Are the five empty food cans that were scattered around the site also for the next campers that need them? It all looks like a bunch of garbage to me that someone was too inconsiderate to pack out. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Now, that's the end of my rant. Let's end on a positive note. 

The second plein air painting event recently took place in Shelter Cove. 
Peter McNeill won the "Kings Choice" award for best capturing the life, spirit, natural and cultural qualities of the King Range. 

As always, if you have any questions give me a call or send me an e-mail (give me at least a few days to get back to you)

Your Wilderness Ranger
Paul Sever

PS, back in March a journalist went out hiking with me and he wrote up this great article about what I do out here - in case you haven't read enough already you should check it out. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Status of Springs and Streams

Many of you may be interested in hiking in the "upland" trails in the King Range (King Crest Trail, Cooskie Creek Trail, Rattlesnake Ridge, etc).

What you need to know is that there are limited water sources once you leave the beach on the Lost Coast Trail. With the drought, many of the upland water sources are at a lower flow compared to what they would normally be at this time of year.

Maple Camp: (above) low flow; dry along some stretches of stream bed; shallow pools

Miller Camp: Water difficult to find. When you get to the bottom of the switchbacks, head west for a few minutes and you should be able to find some small pools of water among the rocks. 

Bonus Spring (on the Miller Camp loop): DRY

Nick's Camp: (above) Abundant; you should have no problem finding water in this small stream

Bear Hollow Spring: (above) Slow trickle; small pool of water ~ 3" deep.

Telegraph Spring: 10/11/2015: Flowing @ 10 min/Liter 

More information as it comes in but that's the info as of now. Be sure to bring plenty of water if you are hiking on the upland trails - it's hot up there. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Campfires Currently Prohibited

Do to the extremely dry conditions campfires are currently prohibited in the King Range National Conservation Area outside of developed recreation sites: Mattole, Honeydew, Wailaki, Nadelos, Horse Mountain, and Tolkan campgrounds.

It is very DRY and often very windy.
Even if it’s foggy the vegetation is still very dry. Also, conditions change frequently and rapidly here on the coast. I very often see the weather change from calm and foggy to hot and windy in an hour or less.

If you are backpacking in the King Range Campfires are prohibited  

If you see a fire ring such as this:

This does not mean you are permitted to have a campfire. The Bureau of Land Management did not build these rings. We maintain and dismantle these fire rings but never build them.

Every year since I’ve been here we have had an escaped campfire or fire started from a camp stove.

Use extreme caution with camp stoves – be well away from dry grasses.

The instructions for the Whisperlite stove Mountain Safety Research says to, “keep combustibles 4 feet away from all sides.” MORE than 4 feet would be a VERY good idea, especially in the extremely dry and windy conditions of the Lost Coast.

The NorthCoast Journal published an article on February of 2013 by a backpacker who accidentally started a fire on the Lost Coast. The article is well written, eye-opening and very educational. Here is an excerpt:

“Right then, a gust of wind hit, and this ball of flame took on a life of its own, jumping maybe 10 feet to my right and landing on a steep bank of dry grass. In seconds, the entire hillside was a crackling wall of fire. And that's all it took. It was out of control.”

Also in the North Coast Journal:

Advice for Backpackers (Novice and Veteran)

I started backpacking and camping when I was 13, and I'm now 70. I'm a 57-year wilderness veteran, Queen Scout (U.K. equivalent of an Eagle Scout), Sierra Club member, champion of outdoor ethics, and I don't like open wood fires (too dangerous).

So how do I explain the fact that I burned down almost a square mile of wild grassland? And what can I say that might help prevent this from happening to anyone else?

1. Think "fire." When we picked our campsite, I was thinking flat area, water, beautiful view. In my over-confidence, I barely gave a thought to what should have been my No. 1 priority: a safe area for a fire, clear of any vegetation.

2. Think "wind." The wind blows down the Lost Coast hard, which is why everyone hikes north-to-south. We'd been seduced by the previous half-hour lull, instead of assuming that the next big gust might be seconds away.

3. Think "stove safety." Hundreds of safe, non-eventful lightings of our stove led to a sense of complacency. Stoves are not foolproof. They can leak. Fuel left in the bowl does evaporate -- fast, as we found out. A Coleman-fuel stove like ours sometimes blows out in wind. If it does, it should be allowed to cool before re-lighting, to prevent flare-ups.

There have been many escaped campfire or fires started from camp stoves the past several years.

See pictures below of these incidences:

 Photo courtesy of Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers 
Spanish Flat, escaped camp stove

Spanish Flat, escaped campfire

Kinsey Creek, escaped campfire

Cooskie Creek, escaped campfire

Spanish Flat, escaped campfire;
The high winds threw a small ember into a large structure of driftwood, igniting it nearly instantly. 

Cooskie Creek, escaped campfire;
It was fortunate that this did not catch the adjacent hillside on fire

If you have questions don't hesitate to contact me
(give at least a few days for a response)

Your Wilderness Ranger, 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fascinating Creatures of the King Range #2

This past week while out on patrol of the King Range Wilderness I witnessed quite the spectacle. What appeared to be a large fly/wasp was carrying a caterpillar underneath it as it scurried along the ground next to where I was eating lunch. It eventually reached a small hole in the ground where it dragged the caterpillar down into. The insect came back out empty handed then proceeded to shovel soil and debris into the hole to cover it up - much in the way a dog would cover it's bone.

I have no idea what this insect was so I contacted an entomologist named Eric who identified it as:

"cutworm hunter wasp in the genus Podalonia, family Sphecidae"

Eric also says of the cutworm hunter wasp:

"Cutworm wasps are named for the habit of the solitary females to hunt for soil-dwelling caterpillars (“cutworms”), paralyze them, and store them as food for the wasp’s offspring. The wasp digs her burrow after she procures the prey, which is the opposite behavior sequence of most wasps in the Sphecidae family. Only one caterpillar goes in the bottom of each burrow, and a single egg is laid upon it. The opening of the tunnel is then sealed and the wasp begins seeking another victim to repeat the process."

So There you have it! Very  fascinating.

For more about Eric and insects visit his blog at:

On another note, I was at the Punta Gorda Lighthouse this past week and noticed some new graffiti and trash left from visitors.

The graffiti says, "Evarything is still good! Don't want to bring back coffee cream sugar and TP."

Not only did this individual litter but they also graffitied a historic building. Please, pack out all of your trash and leave your graffiti out of the wilderness. YOU ARE NOT DOING A PUBLIC SERVICE BY LEAVING YOUR UNUSED ITEMS (aka, littering). 

A sad sight. And yes, they spelled everything wrong. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

American Hiking Society and Wilderness Volunteers Visit the King Range

From May 4th-8th six individuals with the American Hiking Society, a national organization that organizes and coordinates volunteer vacations on public lands, joined me on the Lost Coast Trail to perform campsite and trail maintenance, and to restore wilderness character.

 30 campfire rings maintained (cleaned of all ash and trash, and made smaller)
 35 campfire rings destroyed (removed fire ring and rehabilitated impacts)
 4 driftwood shelters destroyed
 153 pounds of marine garbage removed
 10 pounds of visitor garbage removed
 300 feet of trail rerouted away from steep cliffs (~ 1 mile north of Big Flat Creek)
 4 piles of toilet paper buried
 1 exposed human waste buried

a) Campfire ring before
a) Campfire ring after 
b) campfire ring before 
b) campfire ring during maintenance 
b) campfire ring after maintenance 

Please, whenever possible, use existing fire rings. We ask that you use existing fire rings and keep the fire small by using only small pieces of wood that you can break by hand. This helps contain the fire in the ring and also helps to keep the campsites clean for other visitors. Larger pieces of wood tend to spread ash outside of the ring and breaks down its perimeter. In turn, this leads to an eye sore for other visitors and encourages them to build another fire ring - multiplying the impacts. 

PLEASE help your friendly ranger by keeping your campfires small (if it's not warm enough just get closer!!) and contained withing the ring. Also, this will keep the area looking natural and undamaged for other visitors. 

what used to be the monstrosity in the above photo...

Now looks like this! 

This is the most undeveloped and natural I have ever seen this site. A huge success for restoration of wilderness character. The entire section of the Lost Coast Trail that the BLM manages is within designated wilderness. Wilderness areas have very specific mandates that must be managed for: untrammeled, natural, undeveloped, and solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation, in addition they may have unique supplemental or other features. 

I admit, when I first hiked the Lost Coast Trail I thought these structures were fascinating. But, the more I learned about wilderness and Leave No Trace the more I understood that these structures are really not that great and actually a nuisance. Let me explain: 

  • Driftwood structures don’t fit with wilderness characteristics that we manage for. Section 2(c) of the 1964 Wilderness Act states that:                                                             
" A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which
(1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint
of man's work substantially unnoticeable…”

  • Leave No Trace teaches:
Leave What You Find
  1. Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  2. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  3. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  4. Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.


  • Wood structures are great habitat for small rodents, especially structures that bring in a new supply of food every night. The one time I stayed in an established structure I had rodents scurrying all over my gear and sometimes me! Also, keep in mind that rodents attract snakes.
  • Large structures made out of dry wood are a fire hazard. We have had numerous incidents of driftwood structures catching on fire. This poses a threat to the forest, adjacent land owners, other visitors and YOU. Heavy winds, dry and densely packed fuels and fire are a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty easy for an ember to blow into the cracks of one of a driftwood structure and turn the whole thing into a ball of flames within minutes.

Below is a picture of a driftwood structure that caught fire. A father and his son were staying in it on a windy night, a tiny ember flew off of their fire and into the cracks of the driftwood. According to them, the entire structure was engulfed with flames in only a few moments. 

It just so happened that I was camped nearby with a Leave No Trace class; One of our classmates saw the flames as he went out to the beach to brush his teeth. We spent the next 3 hours throwing bear canisters full of water onto the flames to keep it from lighting up the nearby grasses and driftwood. 

I understand that it can get very windy out on the Lost Coast..if you make a wind break I ask you to please keep it small, don’t build onto existing structures, and PLEASE restore the site to its original condition by taking the drift wood back to where you found it. It is very easy for a small wind break to turn into a scene from Gilligan’s Island or Lord of the Flies as each visitor that camps at it builds a little more in an attempt to make some kind of “improvement.” Better yet, find a way to deal with the wind without manipulating the site and degrading the wilderness. 

Now, where was I...
Hauling nearly 100 pounds of marine garbage 

The site of a development, before we restored it to a more natural condition

The site after restoration 

From April 19-25, seven individuals with Wilderness Volunteers, a non-profit organization created to organize and promote volunteer service to America's wild lands, joined me in the King Range to perform trail maintenance on Horse Mountain Creek Trail and undertake projects to restore wilderness character.

 4.2 miles of trail brushed (cut back of encroaching vegetation) 
 4.2 miles of trail logged-out (trees and branches across the trail have been removed)
 25' of galvanized metal culvert pipe removed and carried out for discard.
 2 stream crossing improvements
 726 feet of trail tread repair
 390 feet of wire fence removed; 16 t-posts and 5 wooden posts
 30 pounds of marine garbage removed from the beach
 15 pounds of abandoned property removed
 3 water bars installed




and more brushing! What a great crew to work with with positive attitudes the whole time!


Removing the old culvert

.. and hauling it piece by piece 2 miles out to the trailhead

Just a small sample of the work that was accomplished by these amazing volunteers with AHS and WV for you and our public lands. 

Your Wilderness Ranger
Paul Sever