Cartographer and friend of Juniper Ridge, Bryan Conant has been the primary advocate and organizer of a trail project called The Condor Trail since 2008. The Condor Trail is a backpacking/hiking thru-trail that extends the length of the Los Padres Forest along the coastal mountains of Central California.
Conant loves the deep wilderness in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, where he’s self-published two must-have maps — one detailing the forest’s San Rafael Wilderness, the other on the Dick Smith and Matilija wildernesses. Today, Conant continues with what just might be his most daunting endeavor ever: the establishment of the Condor Trail, a hiking thoroughfare that would link the redwoods of Big Sur to the gorges of the Sespe Wilderness near Lake Piru, close to where Interstate 5 emerges from the L.A. Basin.
The ambitious 400-mile route through the Los Padres — which was originally envisioned in the mid-1990s as a Central Californian version of the popular but much longer Appalachian and Pacific Crest thru-trails — would trace the endangered California condor’s historic flyways, jumping from the rock art-covered boulders and wildflower prairies of the mountain porteros down to the hidden hot springs and waterfall-lined canyons in forgotten corners of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “It’s just a fantastic forest,” said Conant. “The Condor Trail will be a highlight show. Eventually, it could be the crowning jewel of the Los Padres.”
Like the first visionaries, Conant’s eyes are fixed on the Pacific Crest, Appalachian and Continental Divide trails as models. “Like those trails, the ultimate plan is to have trail signs out there, maybe even kiosks, and have a community of hikers,” he said, explaining that the 400 or so miles would probably take anywhere from one to three months to complete. “Unlike those others, you can do the Condor Trail in the wintertime. That’s actually the preferred time to do it.”
Juniper Ridge is a proud supporter of the Condor trail. Are you interested in helping out too? Bryan is looking for volunteers to do everything from field research, to serving as an officer, to legal assistance, to swinging pulaskis along the trail. If you have any skills or time to lend towards the Condor Trail, they’d be more than happy to put you and your talents to good use. Please fill out the Contact Form and they’ll get back to you.