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Snow up in the mountains

Cold frozen ice falling out of the sky and whanging off of our hard hats as we trek up Upper Bear Creek Trail in the rain, what could be funner than this?! This is perfect! Strung out along the trail in cold solitude with the sound of hail drumming on the helmet and the water running in the ravines and canyons, wrapped snug and warm in thermal clothing, this is absolutely wonderful!

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders returned to Upper Bear Creek to resume work on the trail and to re-establish the tread at the site where last week much explosive was used to remove much granite. Today it was Jeanette, Bron, Wayne, Tom, Ben and myself hiking up two and a half miles, cutting back brush, removing rocks, boulders, and tree limbs from the trail, and making progress on the gap that was blasted.

My morning began at seven in the morning when Stevie Nicks started singing on the radio about the Landslide that brought her down after she climbed a mountain and turned around. Oh man, I hear you, Stevie. I grabbed my new very manly back pack, crammed some water bottles in on top of my work gloves, made sure that my camera, medical kit, and papers were safely encased in tightly zippered plastic bags, then I laced up my boots, getting ready to go.

Today I would not be climbing aboard my borrowed bicycle and humping it for the Gateway Information Center at the base of the mountain since Ben would be picking me up, allowing me more time to get a cup of coffee together before saying "goodbye" to Stevie Nicks, leaving for a mountain of my own for the day (hopefully without landslides.)

Ice starts falling

Ben and I got to the Gateway Center and waited for the other team members to arrive and once everybody was present we drove up to the Rincon Fire Station, collected some tools and equipment, then headed up to the Valley of the Moon, hitting the trail and getting to work.

For the first two miles I used loppers to cut back brush and branches encroaching upon the trail, working rocks off the trail with my feet, and basically committing such a horror of a sap bath with my sharp blade that I guess I must have killed a thousand plants (none of which could run away, poor things) by the time I was done.

You know, the first time I went out with the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, I had a really hard time uprooting my first plant to remove it from the trail, so much so I almost couldn't. I'm such a tree-hugging hippie that killing someone living peacefully on the trail was really difficult, but now I slaughter them left and right, drenched in their sap and covered in their shredded green remains.

Bron, Tom, Wayne, and Tom had hiked on up the mountain and got way ahead of me, and for a while Jeanette and I worked our way up together but I stopped to clear the trail until eventually I was a mile behind the others, taking my time working in the rain, peace, and solitude.

Up at the blast site I found that the rest of the team had already been working hard of re-establishing the trail at the gap, moving large blocks of granite and prying lose granite down from what is left of the cliff face, hauling dirt down to make a deep shelf for walking on.

Working on the new tread

I crossed the work site (at times literally stepping on my fellow volunteers) to get to the other side, and while Jeanette continued to cut back brush and plants from the trail on the far side, I worked on my side, sawing away at a tree trunk that was embedded in the trail.

The other Trailbuilders worked while also planning how the trail would be re-established, figuring out how the trail would be retained, perhaps with welded wire baskets, retaining walls, rebar, and the other things including something ominously called a "dead man."

I tend to let the professionals and College graduates do the thinking. Hand me a shovel and point at something to move and I can do that but ask me to think and I'll seize up. This works out well since I get plenty of exercise without having to work up sweat thinking. A strong back and a ruggedly handsome face, that's me.

On my side of the trail a lot of boulders, rocks, and dirt had come down with the blasting, so I got busy working on clearing that up - with my hands since I only carried up loppers and a bow saw to take off the limbs from that tree trunk embedded in the trail. Basically the easiest way to do that is to bend over and grab rock after rock, throwing it blindly behind you until the pile is gone, then crab-walk a couple of feet up the trail and attack the next rock pile.

The cliff face being worked

When I was down to two very large boulders in the trail and had fully excavated them, I decided I wouldn't wreck my back trying to remove them despite the ragging I was getting from across the ravine which was calling in to question my strength and that ruggedly manliness I'm so well known for. Instead Bron came over and remove the boulders for me, saving my back. Thanks, Bron!

Eventually someone called out that we were ready to turn around and head back down the mountain. Though a whole lot of work got done, I still wasn't finished with the section of trail I had wanted to get cleared today but, well, if I didn't stop working and fell behind I could lose my ride back down the mountain.

Walking across the blast area where the team had been working I found that I could walk easily and reasonably safely across, stepping high up on the dirt face and allowing my weight to compress the mud to create a shelf. On the far side I found that the team had laid the base for maybe six or seven feet of new trail, all of it looking wide and good.

On the way down we strung out along the trail once again, separated a good long distance with Tom way ahead of me and the other team members some where behind.

Back at Rincon the tools got cleaned up a bit and were stored away and then we were done for the day. Getting home at five in the afternoon I dropped my pack, pried off my wet boots, and punched up the song on the radio. Now I found Stevie Kicks singing about Free Falling and talking about the bad boys standing in the shadows.

What a great day out it was!

Photographs are high resolution and fairly large.

* Snow from around 5000 feet, view from Valley of the Moon
* Valley of the Moon has newly painted lines
* Better look at the snw up on the mountains
* To the West clouds are starting to move in so we get going quickly
* The hill overlooking the Valley of the Moon parking lot
* On the hike up the clouds start rolling in quickly
* A look South West. We have some Sunlight still with us but it's closing up
* Rain and ice to the South sweeping toward our location
* Many of the ravines have water running through them now with plunge pools!
* Some of the ravines are dense brush with dead trees due to lack of rainfall
* Some lightening strikes way across San Gabriel Valley as clouds move in
* Jeanette works on clearing brush and rocks from the trail on the way up
* The trail still yet to hike
* Snow falling not too far above us, plenty of fog where we are
* Rain falling in the drainage valley we were on half an hour ago
* Newly cleared section of the trail with lots of brush removed
* At one ravine we take a look at the growth that has blocked off the trail
* After clearing and cutting back the brush and tree limbs, the section is open
* Another look generally South while snow flakes start to come down where we are
* With the rain and ice starting to fall, the camera gets put in a plastic bag
* Heavy rain down where I am, no rain yet where the Trailbuilders are right now
* We're all at the blast site, ice falling and bouncing off our hats
* Bron, Wayne, and Ben working in the rain, ice, and cold
* Heavy rain to the South of us but we're not getting it that heavy
* McLeod, rock bar, and gloves to haul rocks and dirt around
* New section of fallen rock that came down during the last week
* From the other side of the blast area we take a look at the work going on
* Lots of rock, dirt, and shredded tree limbs on the trail -- I'll clean that up
* Ice stops falling for a while, we get a clear picture of the work area finally
* Bron, Wayne, Ben, and Tom work out a plan for re-establishing the trail
* Woops! Bron goes after a dropped tool. Ropes? We don't need to stinkeen rope
* Boulders are pounded in to place and plans for retention walling is made
* Tom gets up close and personal with a large boulder
* A look at the work site from where I'm sawing away on that tree limb
* I have cleared the rock, dirt, and some of the embedded tree limb
* Some of the rock should be pulled down and removed before it falls down
* Jeanette continues to work on cutting back brush on the down side of the trail
* The rain lets up for a while and even to the South the rain has stopped
* At the end of the work day we take a look at what has been accomplished
* A view of the re-worked trail so far from the down side of the trail
* On the hike back down we get very little rain
* To the South of us most of the rain has stopped and we can hear streams flowing
* The first 2 miles of the trail are in pretty good condition
* Fog is still heavy to the North
* A good look at a long section of the Upper Bear Creek Trail
* Panning left we get another look at more of the long section of trail
* While we continue to hike down the flg drops lower
* Far off in the distance almost invisible are some Trailbuilders coming down
* More Upper Bear Creek Trail zig zagging off in to the distance
* Almost back at the Valley of the Moon, the rain starts and stops
* The trail seems to go on forever
* The fog has nearly caught up to me! Eeek! There's SOMETHING in the fog!
* One last look at the rest of the hiking trail. Highway 39 in the distance

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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