Ojai Valley Guide Summer 2020

Page 87



By Karen Lindell

the sespe wilderness Justin Martinez of Ojai has a plea to hikers: Please stop trammeling.

The Wilderness Act, established by Congress in 1964, defines wilderness as a place where “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by” human beings. The backcountry north of the Ojai Valley, designated the Sespe Wilderness by a different congressional act in 1992, is 219,468 acres of (usually) untrammeled territory in Los Padres National Forest. A side effect of the coronavirus, however, has changed the area’s unsullied character. In May 2020, when hiking trails and beaches in nearby counties were closed to the public due to the coronavirus, trails into the Sespe Wilderness were still open. Martinez runs the recently established Sespe Wilderness Outfitters, a “drop camp” company that will carry backpackers’ and horse riders’ food and gear into the area via pack mules. He was dismayed at the visiting crowds who converged on the area and thronged trails that in non-pandemic times are usually lightly treaded paths. “The weekends are insane,” Martinez said. “I’m passing 200 people per day on the trail.” Free-from-quarantine trailblazers were apparently not being nice to nature. “Unfortunately, I’ve been noticing lots of graffiti and trash, and parking is crazy, with people wedging in cars so no one can get out,” Martinez said. He chats with hikers he meets on the trails, and said many of them are from out of town. “It’s really sad for the locals who cherish these places that are being overrun,” he said. Photograh: Roland Stone

Still, he doesn’t want to keep visitors from experiencing the wilds. For people willing