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CCC removing rock/dirt slide

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders teamed up with the California Conservation Corps and students from Mount San Antonio College to continue work on the East Fork Trail along the San Gabriel River located within the Angeles National Forest.

The effort today was continued trail repairs beyond the John Seals Bridge which spans Laurel Gulch approximately 2 miles from the Heaton Flats trailhead. The East Fork Trail follows the river all the way to the infamous Bridge To Nowhere which makes this particular trail much loved by hikers regardless of the weather.

In addition to furthering the trail maintenance beyond the John Seales Bridge, the Bridge itself was on today's list for maintenance in that the old twisted foot bridge that the Trailbuilders made obsolete by building the new bridge continued to remain under the new bridge for the past 3 years, making it look rather untidy, so the old bridge was to be cut up and removed, hauled out of the forest.

Also we wanted to take another look at the two new river crossings in the on-going effort to redirect hikers around the rock cliff face that is still coming down at approximately 1.56 miles on the trail. The rock that came down continues to be something of a safety hazard, yet the rock that continues to come down literally every day also constitutes a significant hazard, so the Trailbuilders have worked a bypass.

We met at the Gateway Information Center maintained by the Forest Service above the City of Azusa. Promptly at 8:00 we packed in to our vehicles and headed North on Highway 39 to the Rincon Fire Station(PDF file) to collect our tools and equipment, then we turned around and crossed the East Fork Bridge and assembled at Heaton Flats.

Old bridge under John Seales Bridge

Along the way I called to our L. A. County Dispatch facility to inform them where the volunteers would be working today since being in the field means we may be called by radio to provide public assistance for the area, if needed, while also allowing Dispatch to inform us of any hazards or evacuations, weather or other issues which may come up during the day.

Today started with our daily Job Hazard Analysis where the local flora, fauna, and environmental safety issues were covered, followed by a brief review of the tools and equipment that would be used to work on the trail today. Because of the rock that continues to come down the canyon walls, proper Personal Protective Equipment was also covered, making sure everyone had a hard hat and gloves.

Once the JHA and Project Activity Level was reviewed, we headed toward the John Seales Bridge and got to work.

What we found was that the bypass we had established around the hazardous cliff face coming down was still in place, the blockage established in the effort to stop people from climbing over or through the rock was not entirely successful however the two new river crossings we provided were being used by almost everyone, so no additional work was needed there.

One team stayed at the John Seales Bridge to leverage the old twisted bridge underneath out to where it could be cut up with a chainsaw while the larger group continued on in to the Sheep Mountain Designated Wilderness. It had been a fairly large number of years since we had last worked in the Wilderness however reports from hikers tended to indicate that there were no serious trail issues that actually obstructed the trail -- and in fact we were informed about the cliff face that had come down a year after it had fallen which meant we can't entirely rely upon hikers to report issues, usually because hikers believe that they have already been reported.

So it was something of a surprise to find a number of significant trail issues past the John Seales Bridge. The first was trail erosion at a point where another water source drains in to the San Gabriel River, a concrete sluice-way where both approaches were badly eroded and somewhat mildly hazardous. In addition the walk through the sluice-way meant stepping down, walking across, and stepping up while stepping through flowing water.

Erosion and yucca

That point in the trail was heavily re-worked, both approaches were greatly improved while large boulders were hauled in to the concrete sluice to establish dry footing across the water source. Bayonet Yucca was cut back and the trail widened on the approaches so that hikers no longer had to jump on the slopes while also avoiding getting stuck by the plant's spines.

While that effort continued another team split off to continue working further up the trail, widening at choke points and removing boulders, establishing stepping stones and doing incremental improvements on the way to the next significant issue.

The next issue was an erosion depression flanked by a 20 feet drop on one side and three Bayonet Yucca on the other side. We watched to see how hikers negotiated the hazard and decided that either the Yucca had to be removed entirely or the plants needed to be cut back significantly while the surrounding area could be harvested for dirt and rock fill as a temporary measure to make crossing the spot safer.

That was a one-person job so I parked myself at that effort and got to work while the rest of the larger team continued on down the trail, turned the bend, and found a large dirt and rock slide obscuring the trail. That obstruction had a seriously-used temporary bypass trail established by hikers so once again we found a known trail issue that had not been reported to us.

The Conservation Corp and other volunteers got to work on that large slide, digging up the compacted slide and widening that point of the trail while not bothering to obscure the temporary use-trail that hikers had established.

The removal of the old twisted foot bridge out from under the John Seals Bridge was accomplished and the team working on that had time to spare, so they returned to where the cliff face is coming down and examined the area in terms of the geologist review of the rock still left to come down. The bypass we had established previously was altered on one of the approaches by this team, the distance from the cliff face coming down was increased, and the next volunteer effort will see the other approach distance increased with the associated trail on the far side of the river which bypasses the hazard reworked for easier hiking.

Erosion and yucca fixed

Toward the evening we were finished for the day, everyone met at Heaton Flats, checked the campground to break up illegal fire rings, then we returned to the Rincon Fire Station where we examined and stored our tools, informed Dispatch we were out of service, and were finished for the day!

On the way down the mountain one of our Trailbuilders got flagged down by a forest visitor, informing him that there was a vehicle over the side. Since the Trailbuilders did not have a radio he awaited myself and two other Trailbuilders who had a radio, flagged us down, and we called in the vehicle over the side.

Bryan rappelled down the 150 foot slope to check for human remains or living passengers and found the vehicle apparently unoccupied and with no visible human remains under or around the vehicle. He acquired the plate number by writing it in felt marker on his arm while a volunteer established a better climbing rope from the highway down to the vehicle.

This incident was good training for the four Trailbuilders in that we got to work with Dispatch and professionally examined the region for possible medical emergency. Another Trailbuilder rappelled down the slop to the vehicle to double-check the area for injured passengers who might have been ejected from the vehicle, systematically examining the whole distance.

Also the incident appeared to be a good source of training for the responding agcnies in that everybody seemed to get called out, from law enforcement, fire, ambulance, helicopter, and even the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team which is a highly decorated volunteer SAR that trails and operates within these canyons.

What was amusing was the need for every responding agency to acquire a license plate number so when anyone asked, Bryan go to walk over and show the person making their agency reports his arm. :)

So many emergency responders were showing up that the Trailbuilders were somewhat worried that our vehicles would get trapped, and since we were no longer needed for traffic control or any other effort, we continued on down the mountain.

And fun was had by all! Except for the person who owned that stolen vehicle. :) What was also amusing is that on Facebook I received a message from a witness who spoke with the people who stole the vehicle and shoved it over the side. Two vehicles were pretend with two men visible, the stolen vehicle was hung up on the edge of the ravine and the witness though there had been an accident.

The car thieves informed her that AAA had been called and that a tow truck was on the way. That was at 3:00 A.M. on this Saturday morning. When the witness was gone, the two men continued to shove the vehicle over the side. What fun!

* Removing the rock/dirt slide, in progress
* Removing the rock/dirt slide, in progress
* Removing the rock/dirt slide, in progress
* Half way there, the dirt is almost all removed
* All removed, some additional trail dressing is needed
* Me, pausing to allow some hikers to take my photograph :)
* Trailbuilders at Heaton Flats at the end of the day
* CCC crews at Heaton Flats at the end of the day
* The old twisted bridge under the new John Seales Bridge
* The old twisted bridge under the new John Seales Bridge
* The old twisted bridge under the new John Seales Bridge
* The old bridge has been extracted and awaits dismemberment!
* The old bridge has been extracted and awaits dismemberment!
* A rock bar is used to lift the tread from off the telephone poles
* Half of the tread has been removed so far
* Almost all of the tread has been removed
* And the whole twisted bridge has been ripped apart
* The unfettered bridge. Spray paint and the rest are going to be fixed soon
* The unfettered bridge. Spray paint and the rest are going to be fixed soon
* The unfettered bridge. Spray paint and the rest are going to be fixed soon
* All of the parts of the old bridge must be carried out of the forest
* Laurel Gulch is crossing has the old bridge completely removed! Joy!
* A look at the bottom of the John Seals bridge
* Another look at the unfettered bridge
* Goat! Ram! Some critters far above us knocking rocks down the hillside
* Volunteers leaving Heaton Flats and hitting the trail
* Volunteers leaving Heaton Flats and hitting the trail
* The first river crossing, the water level is low
* Volunteers waiting to cross the river
* The first river crossing, the water level is low
* The first river crossing, the water level is low
* The first trail section to be worked after the John Seals Bridge
* Three Legged dog out for a hike!
* The third river crossing about 2 miles in
* Working on the up-slope, extensive work was done here
* The slope here was greatly worked, boulders removed, tread widened
* Rocks removed and soil/rock placed to provide an actual trail
* One of the safety hazards along the way, 20 foot drop on one side
* The safety hazard reworked
* The dirt slide being worked, tool over the head is not encouraged!
* Dirt slide repaired
* Concrete sluice-way gets stepping stones to cross it now, approached worked
* A look down the river where people walk along the rock face
* One of the newly-worked approaches to the concrete sluice-way
* Stepping boulders placed within the concrete sluice-way
* One of the newly-worked approaches to the concrete sluice-way
* One of the newly-worked approaches to the concrete sluice-way
* On the hike back additional incremental improvements are performed
* Re-crossing the river on the way back to Heaton Flats
* Re-crossing the river on the way back to Heaton Flats
* Re-crossing the river on the way back to Heaton Flats
* Re-crossing the river on the way back to Heaton Flats
* Re-crossing the river on the way back to Heaton Flats
* Vehicle over the side -- This is what can be seen without zoom
* Here is the vehicle with a bit of zoom
* Vehicle hung up here and left plastic debris
* Helicopter Fire rescue comes in where we called for a response
* Helicopter Fire rescue comes in where we called for a response
* Helicopter Fire rescue comes in where we called for a response
* Helicopter Fire rescue comes in where we called for a response
* I want one of these helicopters
* Helicopter fire, law enforcement, Forest Service first on the scene
* Hook and ladder positions for traffic control and medical rescue
* Helicopter again, searching the water for floating human remains
* More rescue/emergency vehicles, fire crews performing traffic control
* Close up: Hook and ladder positions for traffic control and medical rescue
* Final work on the approaches to the concrete sluice-way
* Final work on the approaches to the concrete sluice-way

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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