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Water bar is installed to reduce erosion

Today was a special trail project involving the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders and Ben Kvisler's Eagle Project where 10 very nice wooden steps were installed at the East Fork Trail head, the trail which gives access to the San Gabriel River and the famous "Bridge To Nowhere."

And what a great project it was! As can be seen in the extensive photographs, that section of the trail had been fairly steep with points of erosion which slowly got worse as time progressed, and while the first three or four miles of the trail has seen extensive repairs and maintenance over the past two years, the trail head was not seriously addressed until today.

The volunteers met at the U. S. Forest Service Gateway Information Center down at the base of the mountain along Highway 39, collecting at and then leaving the rally point earlier than usual, heading up the mountain to the Rincon Fire Station for tools, equipment, and the day's first safety review.

After Rincon we turned around and headed to Heaton Flats and the East Fork trail head. Once there the tools and equipment were unpacked and sorted through and then the Eagle Candidate called together the volunteers for the more detailed safety rundown offered by Ben.

Safety is always the first priority for the Trailbuilders, and every work day begins with a safety review involving the tools, equipment, and the local flora and fauna regardless of how experienced or inexperienced the volunteers are. Even when it's just long-time Trailbuilders there is a safety review, and when the day's efforts are technically involved such as today, the safety rundown takes time but is well worth it.

After the safety review, the Eagle Candidate picked up the coordination of the day's effort. Today would see the entire section of the trail head addressed in a number of ways, all of which had been meticulously measured and planned step by step on previous visits by the Candidate over previous weeks.

Drilling the steps

The East Fork Trail which leads to the "Bridge To Nowhere" is a heavily used and much-loved trail, and on any given week end, hundreds of hikers use the trail regardless of the weather and regardless of how high the river water is. On top of the high number of hikers, there are often something between 50 or some times 70 bungee jumpers that use the trail to leap from the bridge.

Some sections of the trail literally had hikers walking along a four-inch wide ledge on a rock face with a ten-foot drop if they fell, conditions which made taking pets and children on the trail somewhat hazardous however all of those problems had been addressed by the Trailbuilders and numerous other volunteers, leaving only the trail head to be made safer.

Above where the stair steps were to be installed, a deep trench was dug by volunteers in a diagonal across the trail and then volunteers located and dragged large boulders and rocks to be planted edgewise in the trench while other volunteers collected rocks, gravel, and sand in buckets to lodge the up-ended boulders solidly in to place.

Once everything was planted, more gravel and small rocks were carried in by volunteers to spread up and down the upper section of the trail where the newly-installed waterbar was located so that the trail head will no longer erode anywhere nearly as quickly as the previously untreated trail head.

While that was going on, another team worked on utilizing a gasoline powered electric generator so that a serious electric drill could be used to place slanted holes in to the 10 wooden stair steps.

The drilling required the repeated application of an ecologically friendly lubrication to be applied to the drill bit when the drill was turned off, and because volunteers are utilizing powered tools, all of the required safety equipment and clothing were utilized eye protecting goggles, long shirts, long pants, gloves, steel-toed shoes, fire extinguishers, medical kit, all the materials that are needed for safe use of powered tools.

Steps are installed one by one

Part of the day's fun was drilling on a blue plastic tarp to attempt to collect as much of the sawdust and wood chips as possible, an effort to ensure that hikers, bikers, campers, climbers, and illegal miners would not be able to see any mess left behind, all people will see are awesome new steps.

While that all was going on, other volunteers were digging out the trenches down the trail head where the ten steps would be embedded, and as each step came off of the drill platform, each step was set in to position, gravel, rocks, and sand were used to solidly seat each step, and re-bar was used to assure as little settling movement as possible while the steps are used.

Finally while all of that was going on, the Eagle Candidate Ben Kvisler kept coordinating the effort, walking (and some times running!) to and from the project's ends, directing the effort, kicking idle volunteers back in to motion, watching for safety problems, and making sure that the project would be completed in the fairly short period of time available.

The stair steps are all installed!

Everything went very well, everything was accomplished in time which speaks volumes about the planning and the implementation effort. The new steps look awesome, and hikers who had passed the effort while it was under way returned in the afternoon to find the new steps, many of them joking about being lost now that the trail head looks so different, and many people thanking the volunteers for that effort.

These stair steps and the erosion protection that was put in today should last for decades to come, and only minimal maintenance should be required to ensure that the steps are cleared of soil over the years. In all, these new steps greatly improve safety on the trail and visitors can see that volunteers really can make a huge difference which benefits community.

And what fun it was, too! One of the younger volunteers was a, er, um, "rambunctious" volunteer, who liked to walk along the ruins located at the trail head, something that isn't safe since it means a possible fall of some 20 feet, but I posted myself on the wall and made him stop. LOL! It seemed to me that everyone had fun.

* High density photograph: A look at the trail head while being surveyed
* High density photograph: Measurements are taken during the surveying
* High density photograph: Eagle Candidate and Bron take measurements
* High density photograph: Heaton Flats trail head sign
* High density photograph: Sheep Mountain Wilderness sign at Heaton Flats
* High density photograph: Duplicate of the previous photograph
* High density photograph: Another look at the trail head from the bottom
* High density photograph: A look at the trail head where the pavement ends
* High density photograph: A longer survey look at the trail head
* High density photograph: The trail head seen from end to end
* High density photograph: A close look at the end of the pavement
* High density photograph: A look at some of the ruins at the trail head
* High density photograph: Flagging is placed during the surveying
* High density photograph: A level is used to measure points along the trail
* High density photograph: A look at boulders placed along the side of the trail
* High density photograph: Looking down on the trail from the top
* High density photograph: These expensive wooden steps were donated!
* High density photograph: A final look at the stairs after being installed
* High density photograph: Another look at the final steps
* High density photograph: Another look at the final steps
* High density photograph: A final look at the erosion controlling gravel
* High density photograph: A view of the final steps from the top
* High density photograph: A closer look at the gravel and stone wall retainer
* High density photograph: Another look much like the previous photograph

* The volunteers at the Rincon Fire Station to collect tools
* Gathering at the Heaton Flats trail head
* Tools and equipment staging up
* Going over the project
* One of the volunteers who liked walking along the ruins' wall
* Ben goes through the tools and equipment that will be used for safety
* Ben of the Trailbuilders also covers the local flora and fauna
* Getting started ojn the project
* Considerable progress on the trail head is done quickly
* Plenty of long tools to go around, shovels, McLeods, everyone kept busy
* Another of the volunteers working with a long tool
* Eagle Candidate running to take care of a project issue
* More progress being made along the trail head
* Ben covers the use of the ecologically friendly drill lubricant solid
* Ben applies some of the lubricant to the drill bit
* Ben directs the starting drill holes to ensure they're placed at a slant
* Young volunteer with gloves assists in applying lubricant solid
* Excellent look at the gravel and rock installed to curb erosion
* The waterbar's trench gets laid with rocks
* You can see how extensive the drainage on the new water bar is -- done right!
* Hard work continues on the trail head
* An illegal miner squatting in the forest watches the effort with his dog
* 10,000 buckets of gravel, rock, and sand! An awesome effort
* Lean in to it! Get friendly or get angry with one's shovel
* A good look at the gravel and rock erosion effort as it progresses
* The stair steps start to be installed
* Two entrenching tools, one for each hand!
* The finished waterbar looks awesome!
* A hiker comes up the steps installed so far, examines them and comments
* More hikers come up the steps as they're installed
* Either of the steops so far!
* All ten steps have been installed, a first look at the whole project
* A volunteer takes a drink break
* The same volunteer takes a seat on the newly installed stair steps
* A final look at the volunteer
* Meanwhile the stream that feeds the drainage pipe below the trail head
* A closer look at the stair steps after being installed
* An even closer look at the stair steps
* Take a look at the rock retaining wall that was build to stall erosion
* Safety flagging was installed to let hikers know to pay attention
* More safety flagging to keep people away from the cliff edge

* High density photograph: Pausing for a group photograph
* High density photograph: Pausing for a group photograph
* High density photograph: A look at the whole stair step project
* High density photograph: A final closer look at the completed steps

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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