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A section before clearing begins

The San Gabriel Mountains are tasty! I certainly ate enough of it to acquire a growing appreciation for the flavor.

Welcome to another installment of the never-ending adventure that is volunteering with the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, the premier trail-working organization in all of Southern California.

Today we returned to Upper Bear Creek Trail to address a few remaining spots along the upper mile and a half, widening the trail from about mile post 2 up to Smith Mountain Saddle with particular attention being on branches and rocks that intrude upon the trail.

Today there were seven of us, joined by fire fighter C. J. who came to join the volunteer effort in the Angeles National Forest and to get better acquainted with the way safety is addressed in the United States Forest Service.

We started out like most volunteer days gathering at the Gateway Information Center directly across from mile survey marker 17 on Highway 39 a.k.a. Azusa blvd. a.k.a. San Gabriel Canyon Road. Promptly at 8:00 we packed in to our vehicles and headed North to the Rincon Fire Station (which is in the process of being dismantled so that a modern facility can be built) and there we collected our tools and equipment, called our Angeles Dispatch safety oversight facility to let them know where we would be working, then we set our wheels back on Highway 39 ever Northward to the "Valley of the Moon" parking lot and the trailhead there.

Trailbuilder Ben offered the daily safety review and a brief Job Hazard Analysis covering the local flora and fauna that we might encounter today, including poachers for which we wear bright day-glow vests and streaming bright orange plastic. We also covered the safe use of the various tools that we would be using, tools which consisted of a number of McLeods, two pick axes, and a lopper used to cut back brush.

The same section now cleared

After the safety review we set our boots on the trail and spread out across about 3.5 miles, some volunteers working on the switchbacks toward the start of the trail while others headed toward the Saddle intending to work their way down.

One of the first things to be repaired was a Sutter Wall that had some minor damage which the volunteers fixed quickly. The wood planks that were falling off of the wall was placed back where they belong and a metal retaining pipe was driven in to the ground and backed with rocks to hold the wall in place.

There is a lot of work that could be done on the trail to widen it to 3 or 4 feet however the entire length from trailhead to Saddle is in good shape, there is enough room for people to pass each other, horses can walk the trail, and even bicycles might manage to avoid injury if people take it slowly enough. Still, various places along the trail were widened today though other places that could use some effort had to be bypassed to address other areas.

Which brings me to eating dust! The first section of trail that I widened was some 40 feet long and it took about 20 minutes to widen. During that time the wind in that section was calm and I could work with my eyes open quietly and quickly without eating any of the dirt I was shoveling off.

Removing sluff from the trail by dragging the McLeod toward the edge of the trail and dumping dirt and rock over the side is fairly difficult work when one must dig through compacted material, or it is easy when it's sandy dust that has recently come down. Sandy, dusty material requires some expectation of where dust will settle after it is dumped over the side, and in calm to no wind, one does not need to worry too much about the dust one's raising.

After that section was completed I hiked up to see if I could find fellow volunteers. Upon joining the upper team we worked the trail that was exposed to blowing wind. Here when we dragged dirt and rock over the side, a lot of it came back at us, clogging us up with dirt and forcing us to spread out and be more concerned with where and how we dumped dirt and rock over the side.

It was a short work had for us, we worked maybe 90 minutes or more less than we normally do however despite that, we got some a moderate amount of work, enough so that it was a good day out plus we enjoyed the mountains which is probably most of the whole swatting point!

This might be the last time we visit Upper Bear Creek Trail this year since there is a great deal of work that must be done within the Crystal Lake Recreation Area and the ridge lines surrounding the Crystal Lake basin. It is hoped that California Department of Transportation will re-open the highway to afford vehicle access to the campgrounds some time this year, and the Trailbuilders will need to ensure that the hiking trails within the Crystal Lake region are free of obstructions and any serious safety hazards (as much as possible, any way.)

After the last of the volunteers returned to the Valley of the Moon parking lot, we packed up our tools and returned to Rincon to inspect and store the tools, then we were done for the day!

* Trailbuilder volunteers repair a Sutter Wall whose boards are coming out
* Most of the day's effort was spent widening the trail
* Here you can see a spot where a slide was removed
* A much longer section of trail was widened here
* A California Poppy -- the only State Flower that I could find anywhere
* Here is a "Before" photograph showing Yerba santa and rocks
* Here is the "after" photograph showing great improvement of the trail
* Another view of the "after" on this wide "turn out"
* Here's a look at a typical encroachment of rock and dirt that needs removing
* The new sign at the San Gabriel Wilderness
* On the way down more of the trail gets widened and cleared
* C. J., Tom, and Bryan working the trail
* The teams re-unite above mile marker 1
* When I got home, I bought HUGE jalapeno peppers!

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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