Illegal usage trail work

Another wonderful (short) day in the Angeles National Forest, cold wind, clouds, the occasional rain, and fun! Today we performed a survey of the North Fork Access Trail which leads from Highway 39 down to the San Gabriel River where a new restroom facility was installed -- well by "new" I mean back in 2007.

The trail was completed in April of 2007 and has not been looked at by the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders since then but in our defense, we have been kept rather busy with other things, including the new bridged at the Environmental Education Center, and, well, lots of other things.

Today only two volunteers came out since it's not a regularly scheduled work day and since there were no plans to actually start work on the trail. The survey was to take a look at what the condition of the trail is and get an idea on what is needed to restore it.

On the drive up we passed by a really cool vehicle fire conveniently parked in the dirt driveway of the water company facility up there around mile marker 20. A quick stop by the Rincon Fire Station for tools and then we headed up to mile marker 28 where the trail begins.

We grabbed our tools and walked down to the trailhead, both of us volunteers limping down the highway. The other volunteer had got injured again on his bicycle the previous night, and last time that I had whanged up my ankle in a bicycle crash was 10 weeks ago -- and it still hurts! -- so we both limped along.

The first thing that we noticed was that there is a lot of litter along the highway in that section and along the trail itself. When the trail was being established Jeanette spent a considerable amount of time and effort collecting all the litter around the area and hauling it to the trash bins down at Rincon. Well today 20 months later the area is pretty trashy.

The news doesn't get any better.


To begin with, the trail head sign that was supposed to be installed some day on the highway was never installed. That's not much of a problem except that it means that some 40 feet away from the actual trailhead there is an illegal usage trail that has been created by people going up and down, people who probably did not know that a real, safe trail existed just up the road.

But the start of the trail is in bad shape with a second usage trail having been created by people walking up and down because the actual trail section has collapsed and basically disappeared, leaving people with no option but to create their own trail.

On the plus side the spray paint that had been reported previously has been cleaned off by volunteers recently so there is not a lot of paint along the trail. Once one gets down to the actual river, of course, every rock, every tree, every bush, and the ground itself is spray painted, but at least the trail looks clean of paint.

There are two usage trails that need to be blocked off and the start of the trail needs to be reworked so that the rest of the actual, safe trail that we built can be used correctly. The trail blockage that needs to be added will need to be really heavy, something that's built up on both ends of both illegal trails and will need to be blocked off so that the whole mess will not be easy for people to remove.

The rest of the work that's needed is just trail work, cutting back in to the hillside some more and leveling out the trail. It seems to me that the work on the trail will be less of an effort than locating and dragging materials in to block off the illegal trails.

To successfully block the illegal access trails we might consider sinking wood posts deeply in to the ground and using them to lock in tree limbs and brush, perhaps bringing in materials from up and down the canyon to use along with big boulders which can't be moved easily. If we drive posts in to the ground, we could attach chains and use that to also tie in materials.

The San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders might consider searching for a Boy Scout group who could create a trailhead sign post, paying for the materials, engraving the sign themselves, painting up the letters and installing the new sign themselves, something of a four-hour project or so.

So as it stands right now, the trail is unsafe.

* Limping down the highway to the trail
* Trash all along the highway
* A look at the general area from the highway
* The trail start is in bad shape with this boulder down in what's left
* Much of the start of the trail is still in good shape
* A closer look at the ruined section of the trail
* The illegal access trail on the right, correct trail toward the center left
* Upper trail section needs lots of work
* The correct trail for the upper part goes through here past the tree
* The other volunteer works a bit on the second illegal access trail
* Illegal access trail slopes off to the left, correct trail center
* The illegal trail goes down steeply and is not at all safe
* A look back from the correct trail
* The rest of the trail -- the second leg of the trail -- is in good shape
* The second switchback leading to the third section is also in good shape
* At the second switchback there is another illegal usage trail, also dangerous
* The third leg of the trail is also in good shape
* The rock section of the third leg also looks good
* A minor usage trail down toward the bottom also needs to be blocked off
* Returning down the mountain the burned up vehicle is being carted away
* There were five police vehicles working on the burned vehicle

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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