LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. — We’ve now officially entered into the dog days of summer.
Without as much to do thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic causing event cancellations and business closures, many people are heading up the mountains toward the Red Rock Camp in the Los Padres National Forest.
Enjoying nature at its finest, some visitors are cooling off from scorching hot temperatures while swimming and splashing around.
"We saw record numbers,” Los Padres National Forest ranger Shawn Brandow said. “It was a combination of high water levels and nobody having anything to do because of COVID-19 restrictions."
As a result of the recent surge in visitors, additional forest rangers have been brought in from other counties.
"Honestly COVID-19 has a big reason to do with that,” US Forest Service ranger Robert Sollami said. “They have a really good recreation here with a lot of people recreating in this area."
Most are soaking in the sunlight and enjoying their time outdoors.
However, some are taking part in risky behavior while climbing up cliffs and jumping into the water from high above.
"People are out here drinking alcohol and they're having a good time,” Brandow said. “Maybe they’re not using their best judgment."
Over the summer months, the water has receded from Red Rock due to a lack of rain.
This has elevated the potential danger for cliff jumpers.
Nevertheless, that isn't stopping some from leaping in.
"Doing it today was super scary because the water has changed,” cliff jumper Adirah Rodriguez said. “It’s like lost maybe a foot or two from the first time I did it."
It’s not uncommon for cliff jumping to cause serious injuries.
Aside from death, this extreme sport can cause serious injuries such as concussions, fractures, dislocated joints, broken bones, injured discs, and spinal cord damage.
Less than a month ago, a 23-year-old woman was airlifted to the hospital from Red Rock after suffering a compound fracture on her lower body.
"Boulders are moving underneath and you never know what's below you,” Brandow said. “It's incredibly dangerous, we've had a number of severe injuries out here."
"About two or three weeks ago, we had a guy jump off from up here,” Lompoc resident Fernando Rodriguez said. “He like almost cracked his head open."
For now, the forest rangers remain focused on keeping the swimming hole safe for everyone to enjoy a much-needed breath of fresh air.
"Might as well come to here because this is so open and free,” Rodriguez said. “There's a bunch of trails to hike on too so it's just a great place to come."
Each day, Red Rock Camp caps out at 400 cars entering its recreation area.