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Trailbuilding and maintaining: It never ends.

Today we decided to take a much-needed break from the fun-filled extreme heat of working along Winowa Trail (or is it Winona Trail?) a.k.a. Islip Ridge, and worked instead within the cool shade along Golden Cup Nature Trail. After clearing Golden Cup we went to Cedar Canyon Trail and did some tread work, then most of us went to clear the stairs leading down to the lake.

In all it was a very busy day! We met at the Gateway Information Center across from mile post 17 on High way 39 in Azusa and promptly at 8:00 we packed up and headed North to the Rincon Fire Station. There we collected tools and equipment, called Angeles Dispatch on the radio to let them know where we would be working, and we again headed North in to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area.

I really was not up to working much today, and that's one of the nice things about turning out a volunteering with the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders in that one basically does as little or as much as one wants to do, doing only what one feels comfortable with. Today I was not well rested and was fatigued even before beginning so it ended up being a half day for me.

Fortunately Golden Cup was in great shape! The Trailbuilders had worked on the trail a number of times over the past three years or so and organized the famous "Ten Thousand Buckets" volunteer day which saw a lot of volunteers (anywhere from 8-years-old up to 70) digging up sand and rocks and carting it all to the trail in bucket after bucket of fill.

Today (after the daily safety run-down and review where we check the hazards in the area and covered the Project Activity Level -- PDF file) most of the effort consisted of cutting back brush that was growing on to the trail, scraping off the tree bark and pine cones, and uprooting the seemingly endless Yerba Santa plants growing along the trail, plants that are fairly easy to uproot but always like to grow in burn areas exposed to sunlight.

A section of newly-cleared trail.

Golden Cup is a very special trail, perhaps one of the most endearing trails in the Crystal Lake basin. It's very short, only about a quarter of a mile or so however there is always cool shade and a nice breeze with ancient oak trees and sugar pine offering climbing opportunities for boys and girls.

Deer and bear like to rest in the oak grove along Golden Cup and often when quietly walking slowly along the trail one can approach deer who will stay reclined and only stare as you walk quietly past. Bear mothers with their cubs will be startled and the cubs will climb trees while their mothers get between you and their cubs. It's a special place in the entire Basin.

Today at the end of the effort Golden Cup was completely maintained from end to end, and once again the short family-friendly loop should be a favorite to families with children who will eventually come to Crystal Lake once the campgrounds re-open (if ever!)

After finishing up at Golden Cup, the volunteers met in the parking lot, drank gallons of cold water, and then and we decided to look at Cedar Canyon Trail a bit. Cedar Canyon has a trailhead along the main road leading to Crystal Lake and there is a sign showing the trailhead which should help people find it.

Cedar Canyon Trail is another awesome trail which passes through a number of micro-environments. It follows water that eventually meets up with Soldier Creek and Half Knob Trail, all of which have had some maintenance performed by the Trailbuilders over the years.

This is the point where I could go on no longer and let the rest of the volunteers go on without me. Ben, Bryan and I had surveyed the trail the week previously and walked much of its length to examine one major tree downfall that is blocking the trail, so I decided to do some easier volunteer work since I knew working on the trail would be difficult today.

So while Bryan and I did lighter volunteer work near the U. S. Forest Service Visitor Center (repairing signs, clearing brush, fixing fences) the rest of the volunteers continued to work along Cedar Canyon. When we were finished, Bryan and I returned to Cedar Canyon and walked along the water, taking photographs (and I always like to drink the water despite being told it will kill me eventually!)

Volunteers clearing Cedar Canyon Trail

When the volunteers were finished on Cedar Canyon, we all returned to the vehicles and it was decided to take a look at clearing the stairs and landings leading down to the lake. There was a great deal of dirt and rock on the stairs since the hillside continues to come down, and tree bark as well as pine cones accumulate on the stairs.

The Trailbuilders have found that if the drainage culvert along the stairs gets blocked, mud can accumulate and inundate the entire length of the stairs, leaving everything buried in a foot or two feet of mud.

Many months ago the Trailbuilders removed a downed tree inside the culvert, a very difficult effort since the downed tree nearly exactly fit the culvert so some ingenuity was required to elevate the tree so it could be cut.

A month after the tree trunk was removed, the Trailbuilders returned to work on the metal corrugated sluice drainage which was mostly repaired the tree we had removed from the culvert had fallen against the metal and had pinched off the intake so things clogged up to the point where the stairs got flooded with mud. (A car jack and some clever thinking was used to open up the culvert after a saw was used to remove tension along the rim of the culvert.)

So today the rest of the volunteers headed off to clean up the stairs. Bryan had brought with him a gasoline powered air blower (which he completely rebuilt a month or so ago) which would help clear off the pine needles, pine cones, tree bark, and lose rock but shovels would still be needed to remove the compacted dirt, I expect.

I bid the volunteers farewell at that point since I would be spending the night somewhere outside of the Recreation Area. I had brought up a bicycle and a sleeping bag along with a can of mixed nuts and I had filled my water bottles from Soldier Creek so I was good for the night and the day of biking down that would follow.

Eventually the Trailbuilders called it a day and they headed down the mountain so I called our Dispatch Overlords who watch over us and let them know that we were all out of service and done for the day. Dispatch suggested we all have a good night and we were done for the day!

Another section of newly-cleared trail

A whole lot of work was accomplished and if I'm not mistaken, that should be the last time we much clear Golden Cup before the campgrounds open!

Filling my water bottles again from Soldier Creek, I cinched up my sleeping bag and got everything strapped to my old bicycle then I went looking for a cold, wet place down some ravine to spend the night, some place maybe in the Designated Wilderness.

Ah well, it didn't turn out that way. After turning right on Highway 39 as it started getting dark, I planned to spend the night down in a ravine with water some place below the closed section of the highway and further West in to the Wilderness however first the back brake cable on the bike snapped and then about five seconds later the front brake cable snapped -- much to my surprise!

To be sure I was carrying about 40 pounds of Soldier Creek water on my bake and this old bike was pulled off of a trash heap and fixed up however I had carefully examined the cables inch by inch when restoring the trashed bike and they had looked fine so it was a surprise to see them both snap. Apparently neither could handle the strain and bink! bink! both of them snapped one after the other.

So instead of spending the night down some muddy ravine while watching the occasional meteorite streak across the heavens and listening to Nirvana scream in my ears from my MP3 player (to drown out the bears sneaking up on me) I worked my way down the mountain in the dark and the majesty of the silence with the stars pinwheeling overhead, limping along on slightly blistered feet with one toe broken, awed by the quiet trees, rocks, and deer standing on the side of the road watching me slowly working past.

Volunteering to work in the National Forest is a massive privilege, it's the best way possible to stay physically in shape (for free!) and a great way to learn the "how and why" of hiking-trail maintenance and building.

Water along Cedar Canyon Trail

Some days the work is easy, some days it's moderately difficult, other days it's overwhelmingly exhausting, but it's always a joy. The work that volunteers do is greatly appreciated, by the Forest Service, by hikers who will never know who you are, and by colleagues who appreciate the mountains as much as you do.

GPS coordinates for things:

* At the Gateway Information Center the carved bear gets sun glasses and a hat
* Ben give sthe daily safety run-down and Job Hazard Analysis / PAL review
* A section of newly-cleared trail
* A volunter uproots the Yerba Santa blants along Golden Cup Nature Trail
* The Golden Cup Nature Trail trailhead
* Volunteers clearing a section of Cedar Canyon Trai
* The Cedar Canyon Trail trailhead along the road
* A section of newly-cleared trail
* Another section of newly-cleared Cedar Canyon trail
* And another newly-cleared section
* Water along the Cedar Canyon Trail
* A close-up of smoe of the water along Cedar Canyon Trail

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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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.

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