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Soldier Creek gets cleared

Thunder and lightening! At least that's what we expected for the day, so considering the possibility that we might get clobbered while working on the ridge lines, the Trailbuilders decided to change plans, not work along Wawona Cutoff and Islip Ridge and instead work on Tototngna Trail, splitting in to two teams once again so that dead trees blocking Soldier Creek could also be removed.

Since I was on the Soldier Creek Trail effort, I didn't get a look at what was accomplished there, nor did I get a chance to see what the flora and fauna currently look like along the various micro-environments along that trail which affords hikers a very wide variety of flowering plants to enjoy along the way.

Still, Soldier Creek had dappled shade which is a very good thing since it was hot! We parked down below along Crystal Lake Road, grabbed our hardware, tightened our various belts and buckles, strapped everything on, and headed up the trail looking for obstructions rumored to be lurking across the trail.

Overall the trail is in good condition; give it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. This puppy burned a bit in the 2002 Curve Fire so we're seeing the usual endless procession of dead trees coming down, some times slowly with grace, other times crashing down smashing everything along the way depending upon the Fates.

All of the obstructions were rather minor however we continued to examine carefully many of the tree trunks and limbs that are hung up in the canopy above and to the side of the trail, looking to see what is significant that should be brought down safely, taking a proactive approach to mitigate safety hazards but also to tackle obstructions before they some down.

One of the snags that we spent a great deal of time examining is hanging up in three spots, the rootball of which is resting on a hill top, suspended in the middle by other trees, and then suspended again at the end of the tree by still more trees. The dead tree trunk is large and heavy, suspended safely on green, healthy trees, yet still looks like a hazard that should be removed.

Block and tackle

The sawyers discussed the effort needed to remove the hazard safely and decided that it is the job of a Class "C" sawyer which can be done by "A" and "B" sawyers with supervision however it also means a full day's effort. Any certified sawyer could buck up and remove that snag and probably do it with complete safety however the Trailbuilders don't mess around, if there is any chance of safety being compromised we don't do it, we'll leave it for another day or schedule another effort to bring it down properly, slowly, and with virtually zero opportunity for injury.

After Soldier Creek Trail was cleared of all obstructions, we hiked the Pinyon Ridge Trail loop to ensure that everything there was cleared and open, finding only some growth that should be removed from the moist meadow at the bottom of the trail loop.

From there we hiked up to the picnic area of the campgrounds, splitting up again so that fuel reduction could be done in the picnic area where two very long trees had fallen and smashed one of the new concrete table's benches, and so that tree limbs resting on the Visitor Center roof could be cut off to reduce the fire hazard there.

Looking at the Visitor Center what I saw was that the constant trimming of the tree branches was not going to end, the growth on the tree that hangs over the Visitor Center is vibrant enough that minimal trimming was not enough. Instead to ensure that the tree limbs were cut well back from the building we went ahead and removed the limbs that we needed to, reducing some of the shade for the building but isolating the building from the forest much better than otherwise would be the case.

While that was going on the fuel reduction in the picnic area continued, the two trees that had fallen had significant rootballs that had at one time sharp ends which children would walk upon which had always made me want to get the dead trees bucked up and removed, so getting them today now allows me to remove that puppy from my list! Much joyness there.

The team working along Tototngna called via radio to let the rest of us know that their efforts were winding down so we asked if any of them might like to come join us and lay a hand on some block-and-tackle we were using to elevate a section of the last truck that remained so that we could buck it up quickly since we were running out of time.

With a heave-ho of the ropes we got the trunk lifted, set on wood rounds, and the final bucking was quick and easy, leaving the only thing left to do cleaning up the grounds where the two dead trees had fallen to rest. The damaged picnic table we could do nothing about but perhaps we can come back and cut the exposed rebar, excavate the seats concrete stand, and create a new wood bench but that's the job for another day!

In all it was a rather long day for most of us. As you may know, the Williams Fire broke out the next day and many of the volunteers working in the canyons assisted a bit with the evacuation of some 12,000 people before getting out themselves. Fortunately everyone made it out of the canyons with no reported injuries which makes the weekend a good one despite the fire which still burns, some 48% contained right now.

Hopefully the next volunteer day on the 15th will see us able to return. Full containment is scheduled to be completed by the 13th and it is expected that Highway 39 will be re-opened before then. East Fork might remain closed to all but Camp Williams residents, but we'll see!

* Bucking on Soldier Creek Trail, and doing it slow! And carefully.
* Fred poses for a photograph trying to pretend he's everything
* LOL -- Okay, somebody tell Fred to get back to work and stop playing around!
* Above in the canopy we decide to leave the snag as it is for now
* Pinyon Pine along Pinyon Ridge! Looks like 2 still survive up there
* Pinyon Pine along Pinyon Ridge! Looks like 2 still survive up there
* Trimming back the branches from off of the Visitor Center
* Thought I would share an issue: People block other people from parking
* Parking like this is one reason why people are forced to park on dry brush
* The fuel reduction effort half way through in the picnic area
* The bench for the concrete table that was smashed, support driven in to the ground
* Block-and-tackle used to hoist the last remaining section of dead tree
* We get everyone on line to haul away when all is ready
* It's a community effort to haul the trunk up
* The new sacred ring in the picnic area, useful for summoning flying saucers
* We're done! All; clean! Looks great!

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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