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The start

Greetings, everyone!

It was another fantastic day volunteering in the Angeles National Forest, working on building up a new rock bridge crossing across a gully within the Crystal Lake Recreation Area, mixing hard work with the wonderful fog and light rain.

Oh man, this is truly the best of days, enjoying the Great Outdoors (always capitalize that!) getting exercise as the gentle clouds come and go, caressing us volunteers, keeping us cool and comfortable.

Four tasks were successfully completed. (1) Build up a stair steps, (2) take down a hanging tree off of Soldier Creek Trail, (3) build up the retaining wall against the rock bridge, and (4) clean up the area surrounding the work site.

Overwhelmingly the new stair steps leading down on to the bridge crossing was a success (see the photographs offered below.) Moderately large boulders were dragged in to place after being collected from the surrounding area, and a considerable effort went in to fashioning the rocks in to perfectly flat stairs.

Hikers who walk along Lake Road Trail in the Recreation Area will start out with their very first steps walking down these stairs. Hikers will see and appreciate the sand a gravel walk across the gully, step from boulder to boulder across the water channel, and then continue on along the trail that is lined with rocks to confirm the trail's continued path as coming years work to obscure the trail.

The start

The effort that went in to the steps was well worth it, it seems to me. It shows that tremendous human effort goes in to building and maintaining trails, something that a lot of hikers tend to believe are created using machines. Hot and sweaty human effort coupled to commitment and years of hard work is the reality, and strong, perfectly aligned stairs like this one shows the reality of the human element involved.

Ben, Tom, and myself took one of the three grip hoists that the crew brought with us, and we went up to Soldier Creek Trail where a tree was hung up over the hiking trail posing a serious safety hazard (also shown in the enclosed photographs.)

Normally I would have expected that the heavy wire and chain be positioned to apply pressure at right angles of the primary pressure holding the tree up however after we examined the lay of the tree, we decided to attach the chain and position our stanchion point so that the pull from the grip hoist was 180 degrees from the main pressure point, in effect pulling the tree directly off of the other tree it was pinned against.

It only took something like 4 or 5 pulls on the grip hoist handle after the slack had been taken up, and the hung up tree came crashing down, lots of limbs breaking off and flying all over the place.

The start

While Tom stayed behind to cut that up and set it along side of the trail (we didn't push it all off of the trail because we didn't want to drop it all in to Soldier Creek) Ben and I walked further down the trail to look at another hanging tree that I have been wanting to pull down for over a year. That hanging tree is just as dangerous but would require half a day of careful effort to pull down safely so we decided against even trying.

Back at the gully crossing we joined the effort, Tom and I removing a hump of gravel and rock in the stream bed and moving it in buckets, dumping the fill up against the rock bridge so act as a retention wall in an effort to stop water from flowing over the bridge in the event of a really heavy rain.

For the most part it was the Boy Scouts that hunted down the boulders, tied baskets of heavy chain on to them, then used the hook and cable with the two grip hoists to move the boulders over to the area where they would be fitted in to the water channel crossing point where the adults got to decide how to position them.

Everyone, I believe, got an opportunity to work with the heavy rock bars to pry and position the huge boulders. One of the Boy Scouts came up with the excellent suggestion of using the metal bars as skids to slide boulders on -- and it worked well. We usually grunt and lean and sweat boulders in to place, forgetting that bars can be used to slide heavy things along.

As the effort was winding down, the Scouts took McLouds and shovels in to the hillsides and the surrounding rock plane and filled in the holes and tracks they had made, returning the area to a natural condition so that one could not see any effects of the boulder collection that took place.

The start

Back down at the Rincon Fire Station the tools and equipment were sorted out, the Boy Scouts hauling things to the local water pipe to wash the tools and equipment that had gotten dirty or muddy in the day's efforts, then the tools were stored away in the newly reorganized tool shed -- and we were finished!

The bicycle that I had had to abandon up there (after crashing and injuring my clumsy self two weeks ago) was checked out and carried to a vehicle, joy! Now I have my bicycle back and all is once again right with the world.

These are the kinds of work efforts that seem to come off so well, have just the right number of volunteers that I was once again very happy that I had stumbled across the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders and to be privileged enough to participate in the forest among friends. I have learned a great deal about how tools and equipment is used and how to use them safely.

* Trailbuilders and Boy Scout volunteers gather at the base of the mountain
* We collect our tools at the tool shed. Notice how well organized it is?
* Tools are placed in to the back of pickup trucks and carried up the mountain
* The fog lifts for a time so that we can organized our equipment at the site
* A first look at the status of the gully crossing before we resume work
* The gully crossing gets a lot of rain water some years
* A look at the crossing as seen by hikers who start out across the trail
* The Lake Trail sign needs to be repaired, treated, and get reinstalled
* The gap where the water shall flow still needs to be worked on
* We use two grip hoists with lots of cable to move large, heavy boulders
* Wayne and Lou take a look at the stair steps leading down in to the gully
* Ben covers the brief safety meeting covering some common hazards
* Ben, Tom, and myself visit Soldier Creek Trail to take this hanging tree down
* Tom sets up the grip hoist after we evaluate the hanging tree for safety
* About four or five pulls on the hoist and the tree comes down
* A close up of the grip hoist and how it's looped to a stanction tree
* The final view of the trail overhead -- much more safe for hikers
* A small trickle of water where I usually take a bath during Summer months
* At the Ampitheature where the new toilet is going in, a monument marker
* Looking back in to the Ampitheature parking where construction is going on
* The old rocks are being washed and retained for use in the Ampitheature
* The walkway to the Ampitheature is being reworked
* Here you can see the work going on inside of the Ampitheature itself
* A better look at the work currently going on inside the facility
* We return to the Lake Trail gully crossing and the rock bridge effort
* Boy Scouts identify large boulders for the project and dig them out
* Adult volunteers work on the EXCELLENT stair steps -- really a great job
* Boy Scouts and adults manouver 800-pound boulders in to position
* Scouts work the grip hoist, Tom and I shovel gravel in to buckets
* Two grip hoists were in operation being coordinated by the Eagle Candidate
* Wayne fashions boulders for the stair steps until they are a perfect fit
* Meanshile rock bars, chains, and digging tools continues to be used
* Tom and I removed a hump in the stream bed, use it to build a retention ramp
* The fog continues to come down and visibility continues to drop
* A close up look at the stair steps before they are cleaned off
* Four large boulders have been moved to the site so far. More are needed
* The hump in the stream bed has been completely removed. Time for lunch!
* The effort continues in the light rain after the lunch break
* I get an opportunity to crank away on one of the grip hoists. It's easy!
* Boy Scouts are hidden in the hills ad fog digging up another boulder
* After boulders are dragged in, they are moved in to place using metal bars
* The effort at the water channel so far. Boulders slow the water down
* A wider look at the whole work area
* And still a wider area that takes in the whole gully crossing and bridge
* Toward the end of the day the Boy Scouts and the adults pause for photographs
* A closer look at some of the Boy Scout crew
* And another look at the Boy Scouts, adults, and some Trailbuilders
* One last photograph before we wash the tools and store them back at Rincon

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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