Rock retaining wall

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders returned to Islip Ridge Trail within the Crystal Lake Recreation Area to resume work on the trail's tread and to remove obstructions from the trail.

In addition the Trailbuilders provided safety oversight, tools, equipment, and materials for a Boy Scouts of America Troop to repair significant damage to the stairs, walkways, and hand railing that goes from the lake's main parking areas down to the lake itself.

It was a very good day for these kinds of efforts with the weather cooperating to keep things mostly cool so that those of us volunteering in the Angeles National Forest without shade were not beaten to the ground with dehydration and Sunburn; it was a comfortable ride throughout the day for most of us.

As always we met at the U. S. Forest Service's Gateway Information Center above Azusa along Highway 39, the small building across from survey marker 17 where there is a bronze statue of two children playing on a tree outside. Promptly at 8:00 a.m. we loaded in to our vehicles and headed North to the Rincon Fire Station where we collected the tools and equipment that we would be using today and then headed further North to Crystal Lake where we split up in to two groups.

The first group of volunteers headed toward the lake where the effort was already underway to repair and rebuild the hand railing and bench seating along the stairs that go from the lake's main parking area down to the lake itself. The stairs and the rest landings where people can put their feet up and enjoy the cool shade needed to be cleaned and repaired as well, and while some Trailbuilders had been working with the main Boy Scouts group performing the effort, we dropped off additional hardware, tools, and people while the second group headed toward Deer Flats Group Campground, the dirt road for South Mount Hawkins, and then the trailhead for Big Cienega.

Volunteers getting the tools and equipment

At the trailhead we had the daily Job Hazard Analysis which touched upon the tools, materials, and equipment that would be used for today's trail work, followed by a short review of the flora and fauna that volunteers might wish to avoid during the day. At the same time the Project Activity Level (PAL) was checked prior to heading up the mountain to make sure that the final time for utilizing any motor-driven tools needed to end at 13:00, and the need to stop using such equipment was also mentioned during the daily safety briefing.

After the review the trails crews split in to two groups, one of which would work on improving the trail North and South of the trailhead, the other which would be sent up Big Cienega to Islip Ridge and from there would work on removing significant obstructions along the trail while also laying down orange and blue flagging to assist in describing where the trail is located.

I was very much confused by where we were when we finished with Big Cienega Trail where it meets up with Islip Ridge Trail and Winnona Trail, so the volunteers up on the ridge lines started heading South toward the lake along Winnona which might have been what we wanted. Instead I suggested that we were on the wrong trail and asked if we should head North toward Mount Islip and eventually get to Windy Gap saddle, making sure that flagging got set down in some of the spots where the trail definition was nearly entirely obscured along the way.

Some maps show Winnona Trail listed as Islip Ridge Trail, and even the Los Angeles Times [1] and the sign at the lower trailhead shows it as Islip Ridge Trail. Somebody already smacked me and got my head straight on where exactly we were but when we were up there I wasn't entirely sure where we should be working.

Ah well, it all needs work and we got a good amount of trail cleared of obstructions though from where we finally finished at the end of the day we could see a whole lot of additional work that still needs to be done. Next time!

Volunteers getting the tools and equipment

While working on the trails we monitored a vehicle accident on Highway 39 which first responders were working. It sounded as though a vehicle had rolled over though with minor-to-no injury. Typically we monitor the radio with Angeles Dispatch to keep informed about fires, lost hikers, missing kids, and various other things that trained and certified volunteers might conceivably be asked to assist with, but always listening to vehicle accidents add a bit of worry to the day.

It took the volunteers working along the junction and upper ridge lines just over an hour to return to where the other trail-working volunteers were below where we got an opportunity to see some of the work that they did. A new rock retaining wall to hold soil back looked wonderful, and the endless Yerba Santa growing along the trail just South of South Mount Hawkins Road had all been uprooted and removed from the trail, making the approach to the road easier to see and navigate.

We left Deer Flats and headed toward the stairs effort to see what that effort had accomplished so far. The stairs and railing project was a difficult enough project to require two days so we would be seeing a work in progress but we could at least see whether the entire project was going to be completed within the time everyone expected while we returned to pick up Trailbuilder volunteers who would be leaving the project for the day.

Work on the stairs

I got a number of photographs showing just how much work was accomplished. Not only was most of the stair steps cleaned off but a runnel along the hillside was dug so that debris could accumulate for a time without inundating the stairs, and all of the hand railing posts that needed to be removed had been while the benches and rails were getting primer paint and Forest Service brown paint.

There was activity all up and down the stairs, many boys working with shovels and brooms, hand sanders, paint brushes, air compressors, and other tools, everyone working to complete the project as scheduled. In all the project looked great!

During the volunteer effort there were a large number of hikers on the trails, and many families used the stairs to get to the lake. Bicycle riders along the highway were numerous and the campgrounds had families having picnics. Exercise! Fresh air! It was a good day for most, and I learned later that the vehicle roll-over had no serious injuries which makes the driver's and passenger's adventures an unhappy one but which could have been worse.

The next time we head to the trails we need to decide whether to head South along what I call Winnona Trail, or whether we should head North and work along Islip Ridge Trail all the way to the Windy Gap saddle. Hikers take the route, usually up Windy Gap, across Islip Ridge, and then down Big Cienega making a big loop, so maybe we will work along Islip Ridge past Mount Islip all the way to Windy Gap saddle.

Yesterday I hiked up to Windy Gap saddle with others from Facebook and found obstructions that need to be removed and also something of a mess at the saddle itself which needs to be cleaned up. Maybe the next time out we can send some work crews to take care of those problems also.

And fun was had by most!

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/1990-09-23/travel/tr-1453_1_islip-ridge-trail

Grand Opening of Islip Ridge Trail
September 23, 1990|JOHN McKINNEY

Completion of a new trail is always a cause to celebrate. And that's just what the San Gabriel Mountains Trail Builders intend to do next Saturday at the grand opening of the group's Islip Ridge Trail.

The trail provides a new route from the Crystal Lake Recreation Area in Angeles National Forest to the top of Mt. Islip. The Trail Builders, a volunteer group under the leadership of Charles Jones, worked thousands of hours to blaze, then build, the pathway.

Work on the stairs

Trail connoisseurs will appreciate the look--and feel--of a hand-built trail. The moderate grade, well-engineered switchbacks, rock work and the way the path gently crosses the land are due to the skill and hard work of many dedicated volunteers.

Mt. Islip (pronounced eye-slip) is not named, as you might guess, for a clumsy mountaineer, but for Canadian George Islip, who homesteaded in San Gabriel Canyon a century ago.

The mountain is not one of the tallest San Gabriel Mountain peaks, but its relatively isolated position on the spine of the range makes it stand out. The summit offers the hiker fine views of the middle portion of the Angeles National Forest high country and the metropolis.

Mt. Islip has long been a popular destination for hikers. The mountain was particularly popular with Occidental College students, who, in 1909, built a huge cairn (heap of boulders) dubbed the Occidental Monument atop the summit.

The monument, which had the name Occidental on top, stood for about two decades until the Forest Service cleared the summit of Mt. Islip to make room for a fire lookout tower. Today, the monument and fire lookout are long gone, but the stone foundation of the fire lookout's living quarters still remains.

The new trail to Mt. Islip climbs the forested shoulder of the mountain, and intersects a summit trail that leads to the peak.

Directions to trailhead: From the Foothill Freeway (210) in Azusa, take the Highway 39/Azusa Avenue exit. Drive north on Highway 39 for 24 miles to the turnoff for the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. After a mile you'll reach the Forest Service entry station ($3 per vehicle).

Continue another mile to the Crystal Lake Visitor Center, which is open on weekends from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., then a half-mile to a large dirt parking lot on your right and signed Windy Gap Trail on your left.

(Next Saturday morning only, you'll be able to continue past the parking area another mile to Deer Flat Campground, where the trail dedication ceremony takes place.)

The hike: Ascend moderately on Windy Gap Trail, which passes near a campground and heads into the cool of the forest. The trail crosses a Forest Service road leading to Deer Flat Campground, ascends some more and reaches the dirt South Mount Hawkins Truck Road. Cross the road and look left for the beginning of Islip Ridge Trail, which some of the Trail Builders like to call the Big Cienega Cut-off because it passes near Big Cienega Spring.

Enjoy the pleasant trail as it ascends moderately, more or less west, through pine, spruce and cedar forest. A bit more than a mile from the top, Islip Ridge Trail turns sharply north into a more sparse alpine forest.

The trail intersects the path coming from Windy Gap. Turn left and walk a short but steep distance to the top of 8,250-foot Mt. Islip.

Dedication ceremonies for the new Islip Ridge Trail will be held next Saturday at Deer Flat Group Campground in the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. Breakfast will be provided by REI outdoor gear and clothing store of San Dimas and the Big Santa Anita Historical Society.

Breakfast will be from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., dedication ceremonies from 9:45 to 10:15, with a 10:30 hike along Islip Ridge Trail to Mt. Islip. For breakfast reservations, call REI at (714) [obsolete] begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (714) [obsolete] end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Windy Gap, Islip Ridge Trails

Where: Crystal Lake Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest.

Length: 9 miles round trip, 2,200 foot elevation gain.

Terrain: Mountains, pine forest.

Highlights: New trail, grand views.

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.

Precautions: Pace yourself at 8,000-foot altitude.

* Setting down flagging along the trail
* Trail definition gets lost at higher elevations
* At the trailhead getting tools and equipment together
* At the trailhead getting tools and equipment together
* Flagging laid down along Islip Ridge Trail
* The Big Cienega / Islip Ridge Trail junction
* Fred wonders where we are. LOL. Yeesh
* A pause in the shade on the way back down
* Big Cienega still has some water running across it
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* Notice the amount of work that was done along the hillside
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The stairs and hand railing at the lake getting worked on
* The rock wall along the trail below the Big Cinegea / Windy Gap junction

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

This web site is not operated or maintained by the US Forest Service, and the USFS does not have any responsibility for the contents of any page provided on the http://CrystalLake.Name/ web site. Also this web site is not connected in any way with any of the volunteer organizations that are mentioned in various web pages, including the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders (SGMTBs) or the Angeles Volunteers Association (AVA.) This web site is privately owned and operated. Please note that information on this web page may be inaccurate.

E-Mail Crystal Lake Camp Ground