From there it crosses over Highway 166, hugging the coastal route along Highway 1 from Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria and San Simeon before finishing at Botchers Gap at the north end of Big Sur, within the northern Monterey Ranger District.
“This is one of the most difficult portions of the Condor Trail,” said Bryan Conant, a cartographer who works for the non-profit Los Padres Forest Association, referring to the Sisquoc River section. “There’s a lot of work to be done. Our mission is to keep it off of dirt roads and in the wilderness as much as possible.”
The Condor Trail was originally hatched by a Los Padres National Forest Service historian and tireless trail-worker, Alan Coles. He had the vision of connecting the backend of Lake Piru to the Manzana Schoolhouse in the San Rafael Wilderness. According to Conant, Coles enlisted close friend Chris Danch. Danch was seduced by the possibilities of creating a route, and, eventually, he took the bull by the horns expanding on Cole’s original plan.
The Condor Trail, and its role as habitat for the California condor, is a work in progress — a labor of tough love — and, according to Conant, that might always be the case.
“Chris felt the trail should extend across the entire length of forest up to Monterey,” said Conant. “He took the reins on furthering the route.”
Danch ran the trail project for a decade and, according to Conant, made huge strides in the development of the Condor Trail. He introduced the concept to the public while garnering support from the U.S. Forest Service. However, as time rolled on and for unspecified reasons, Danch ran out of steam in the early 2000s, and with it the Condor Trail fell dormant, hibernating away in the dense, tick infested chaparral.
While Danch gathered support for the trail, Conant — who was in the throes of mapping the Los Padres National Forest — attended a lecture in the late-1990s delivered by Danch at the Santa Barbara Public Library. Conant fell in love with the project.
“Afterwards, I had some time and started poking around to see where the Condor Trail was,” continued Conant. “I found out that nothing was going on with it, and so I decided to resuscitate it and bring it back to life.”
From that point on, Conant dug in his heels, created a non-profit called the Condor Trail Association, created a website and developed a following of like-minded hikers and backpackers spanning the length of the Los Padres National Forest. Since then, Danch has rejoined the effort moving forward to enhance the route.