Thanks to broad community support, volunteers for everything imaginable, and a talented trail crew Phase III of the Franklin Trail was restored more or less along the historic route in spite of the devastation caused by the Thomas Fire just before the end of the year.
The program to rebuild the trail to U.S Forest Service Trail Standards began with a Franklin Trail Assessment, Analysis, and Plan of Work for Phases I and III prepared by Ray Ford.
It is hard to think of a better way to kick off the new year than a ride up Franklin Trail. Otis Calef and Mark Wilkinson saddled up mules Floyd and Annie for a trek to the top of the trail. The weather was perfect for the nearly 16-mile round trip trail ride. The wide ranch roads above Frank’s bench are a prelude to the wilderness experience that begins at the 5-mile mark—a long walk by any standard.
Just after the five-mile mark, the trail crosses into the Los Padres National Forest, and the trail turns into a single track. When the trail was built, prior to the Thomas Fire, it wound through a forest of Ceanothus trees. Today the chaparral is bouncing back and verdant after the recent rains, but the charred trunks of the oldest of the old trees remain like sentries watching over the landscape. All other plant life was taken down to mineral earth.
Along the route to the top, the views of the ocean are sweeping as well as breathtaking. The professional trail crew and volunteers did a spectacular job reclaiming the trail after the fire. The loss of vegetation created landslides across the path and did the job of re-building the fire-damaged route as challenging as the first go at it.
A steady stream of folks to the top of the trail will reward the hiker or trail runner with a coastal wilderness experience like no other and also help compact the trail tread. When you reach the top, be sure to travel about 1000 feet westward to see the picturesque pond (34.468150, -119.509022) with a view of the islands in the distance.
Franklin Trail is open to the top and waiting for you to explore its most distant reach.