Hiking up to the blast site

Not so many blisters today compared to last time but damn if I didn't grab ahold of a lot of poison oak again. I would scream if I wasn't saving my strength for the itching and scratching soon to come.

Still, today with 16 people working on Upper Bear Creek Trail along the first 2 miles, we got so much work done that the poison oak was worth it! We split in to three teams to tackle three particular tasks, Tread clearing and maintenance, Blasted-gap tread building, and Tree branch removal -- with fun and exercise thrown in.

Today we had a hiking club join in the fun, lending a very welcome hand and, by doing so, showing how much the hikers appreciate the volunteer maintenance done on trails by volunteering themselves. It is always good to have younger and physically fit volunteers digging in (literally most times) and shifting the dirt since a lot of progress can be made in just a single day.

A number of drainage paths were carved in to the trail to allow rain to flow correctly off of the trail instead of down the center of the trail. I got some good photographs of that work on the way down the mountain and the new work done today should keep a long section of the trail from developing gullies.

Gullies are kind of the number 1 enemy of trailbuilders. Um well that and big rock slides. Oh and also downed trees. Come to think of it sharp stabbing yucca plants and ouchy poison oak are also number 1 enemies of trailbuilders when they're in the trail. So is wide gaps formed from trail that have slid off in to the canyons below. Come to think of it everything that can go wrong with a trail is our number 1 enemy.

Working on the blast site

Up at the area where we did some blasting to remove a granite bulge and overhang where a section of the trail disappeared down in to the canyon below, a large number of volunteers worked with McLeods, picks, a gasoline powered hammer drill or two, and resumed carving out the trail from the dirt and granite.

My personal project for the day was to see if I could remove the tree trunk that was down in the trail just past the blast site, a trunk that was pressing down in to the trail that had originally been buried in rock and dirt. The trail around it had been cleared out during the past two work days so the only thing left was this tree trunk.

I scrambled up the hillside and tied off a rope around a rock or two up there and then one of the hiking club volunteers -- Criss, if I recall the name properly (and please feel free to smack me! if I got your name wrong) -- climbed up using the rope and we traded off using the bow saw while another hiking club volunteer worked below tying off tools and sending them up to us when we needed them.

I really hate to admit it but man, I destroyed a valuable tool today, the first time ever! We had top binding on the tree trunk so the bow saw was getting stuck. Added to the complication was we didn't have good footing so we ended up cutting an "S" instead of a straight cut. The last inch or so of holding wood we couldn't reach well because the bow was bottoming out and underbucking standing on a steep slope was very difficult.

San Gabriel Wilderness

So I asked the hiking volunteer assisting with tools to send up the little hand tool that's like a mini Polaski and I used the wide blade as a wedge, driving it in to the tree curf using a sledge hammer pounding on the sharp pointy end of the tool.

Yeah, it worked but that sharp pointy thing on the end quickly became a round dull thing on the end. Added to the death of the tool was the fact that I used the handle as a pry bar which twisted the wedge end about 20 degrees out of plumb. The result: One profoundly dead tool that will be deducted from my pay.

With the tree removed we got busy bringing down more of the hillside and shifting it off of the trail, proactively removing material that would continue to come down in the future.

And then it was lunch time! I walked up to the San Gabriel Wilderness (walking through heavy clumps of brush) which begins at Smith Mountain Saddle, took some photographs and some video, yoinked off my clothes to remove about one thousand ticks (actually I didn't find any, I had got them all removed from my pants and shirt earlier) and then headed back to the work site.

Work that still needs to be done

Along the way back to the work site I paused to photograph some of the areas of the trail that will need to be repaired. There are surprisingly a large number of areas that will need work, either with trees and branches getting cut up and removed, work slides to remove, tread to be re-established, or dense dead brush that needs to be removed.

So from the work site up to the Saddle there is another couple of days of work that needs to be done. One downed tree that the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders cut up and removed from the trail has encroached close to the trail and we may want to bring a chainsaw up there to cut it back again.

Back at the work site I took a look at the tread that is being built across where the blasting was done and it's looking perfect. It's wide and flat across the whole 68 feet and is very much usable just the way it is. Large boulders are being used to define the edge of the tread and to retain the soil, and it may be that the volunteer engineers will decide that a retention wall will need to be built, but right now it looks to me to be safe.

On the hike back down to the Valley of the Moon I got to get a good look at the tread work that the other team had made. That team had hiked up to take a look at the blast site, leaving Ben and a USFS volunteer still working on the tread far below.

About finished for the day

And then we were done! Since it wasn't dark yet and because it keeps me awake at night, we took a very quick run up to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area to see if we could do something about the blocked drainage culvert along the stairs that go down to Crystal Lake. Unfortunately the snow was still too deep for us to get to that problem so we couldn't fix it this time out.

On the way down the mountain we had a tailgater driving very badly behind us so Ben pulled off of the road and allowed the driver to pass. About ten minutes later our local law enforcement officer passed us lights and noise. Getting on the dispatch radio we listened to Azusa Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and our local cop trying to capture the clown.

Down below at Sierra Madre the cops had the guy so I expect that the cop that passed us was chasing the clown so it's a good thing we got out of their way.

And with that we were done for the day! And what fun it was, too!

Photographs! We have them!

* We gather at the Valley of the Moon
* One of the hiking club's volunteers that joined the effort today
* Ben gives a brief safety rundown on the tools and the conditions
* There is still a little bit of snow up on the mountains
* Me -- looking angry for some reason. And I need to shave. LOL!
* A wider look at the Valley of the Moon parkig area
* On the hike up I fall behind
* A first look at the blast area that we will be working on today
* A hiking club volunteer and I trade off on the bow saw to cut the tree up
* Not very safe rope placement, huh? I move it to a better location later
* While cutting up the downed tree we get a look at one of the other teams
* The tree has been cut and I'm about to go down the rope
* The other hiking club volunteer suggests I'm not very safe -- I'm not!
* Back down on the trail we get a look at the tree before it's pulled down
* Across the way the tread continues to be widened
* The tree has finally been removed! Now we lean in with shovel and McLeod
* Hiking club uses McLeod and shovel to remove rock and dirt
* During lunch I hike up to the San Gabriel Wilderness to check the trail
* A wide look at the Wilderness -- totally excellent
* A look at the distant Wilderness with the boundary sign
* A look at the Wilderness from down the trail a short distance
* Bear Creek Trail continues another 7 or 8 miles heading generally South
* Another look at the Wilderness from down the trail a short distance
* No telling what the rest of the trail in the Wilderness looks like
* TO BE DONE: Trees and brush needs to be removed eventually
* TO BE DONE: These trees were cut previously but need to be cut again
* TO BE DONE: Lots of the tread up to Smith Mountain Saddle needs to be worked
* TO BE DONE: Branches intrude on the trail and tread almost burried in brush
* TO BE DONE: Lots of the tread is burried in brush like this
* TO BE DONE: Branches intrude on the trail -- not difficult to cut back
* TO BE DONE: McLeod work needs to be done to scrape off the trail
* TO BE DONE: McLeod work needs to be done to scrape off the trail
* TO BE DONE: Large snag of dead branches and more tread work to get fixed
* TO BE DONE: Some sections of trail are almost gone entirely
* TO BE DONE: Another look at the snag of tree branches
* TO BE DONE: An older section that Marvin's crew should have fixed
* TO BE DONE: An older section that Marvin's crew should have fixed
* TO BE DONE: Lots of plants growing along sunny sections of the trail
* TO BE DONE: Brush growing up across the trail
* After lunch I return to the blast work site and I start cleaning the stream
* More shovel and pick work
* The work continues on the tread building across the previous gap
* I get the stream cleaned out and flowing again
* Toward the end of the day the other hiking club members come up to see
* The tread REALLY looks great!
* TO BE DONE: Hiking back down I stop to take a look at a few remaining spots
* TO BE DONE: Just needs to have the growth scraped off from the trail
* Jeanette continues to work the trail
* Look out below! I'm on the switchback above Ben and another volunteer
* Ben and the other volunteer remove a large pile of dirt and rock
* The hiking club worked tread and carved out drainage in many places

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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