The lower bridge footing

Oh my poor tired feet! Things went right today and things went wrong today, but fortunately we had more right than wrong as the new wood foot bridge was airlifted from the Rincon Fire Station and gently set down at its new home.

Today began unlike most others since I awoke with a smile on my face, anticipating the opportunity to watch and videotape the helicopter delivery of the new bridge and to begin the final effort that would bring the bridge project to a successful conclusion.

Since the weather was going to be hot, the morning began early with Ben coming to pick me up to drop me off at Heaton Flats in the Angeles National Forest after which he continued on to the Rincon Fire Station.

The plan was for me to hike up to Laurel Gulch with members of the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps to assist in whatever way I could with the airlift, then to spend the night, waiting for morning when the SGVCC would return along with volunteers from the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders so that the bridge could be reassembled.

Hot Shot crews

In to my backpack went two cans of vegetarian chilibeans, can of black olives, crackers, mixed nuts, some Good And Plenty candy, about seven or eight bottles of water, some habenero chilies, a book to read, video camera, GPS, no end of other bits and pieces of tools and things I wouldn't need, then a sleeping bag and tent was roped to the bottom of my pack and I was ready to go!

Oh, I almost forgot my hard hat which would have been very bad since without it I would have been badly sunburned -- today was hot!

After being dropped off at Heaton Flats I immediately hit the trail, trying to stay ahead of the SGVCC since I tend to be a lot slower in my dotting old age and I had expected the SGVCC to catch up to me quickly. Instead I managed to stay ahead of them for the entire hike up, probably because they did formal exercises back at the trailhead to work the kinks out before setting out.

It was really strange walking through the forest and cutting thousands of spider webs strung from bush to bush. I must have been the first one on that part of the trail this morning since I was getting covered in spider silk and even eating the stuff since my stupid yap hung open from the morning's exercise.

What was even stranger was some human further ahead screaming "Bobbo" over and over again as loudly as he could down by the river that I was following. Eventually I came out of some trees and saw that a man was crouched down along the river shirtless and grinning, looking rather beat up and dirty (but then we all look like that out here after an hour or so) and apparently hiding from the screamer.

Rugged helicopter rigger

I waved, yelled "hello" trying to see if he was having some kind of violence or medical problem by judging the response, if any. I got back a wave and a grin so I continued on to where the screamer was standing along the river.

"Did you see a guy named Bob?" the guy asked. I looked him over carefully also, shirtless, bulging gut, covered in scabs and sunburn.

"There's a guy down the river about a hundred feet," I yelled across the river. "That may be Bob," I added since I didn't know the man's name.

"Just down the river?" the screamer yelled back.

"He's watching you screaming," I yelled back at him then I continued on.

It was really strange. The grinner was fairly thin, also sunburned, short cropped hair but also not what I would have said was physically fit either. It was strange these two would be out so early in the morning a mile and a half from the trailhead, no shirts, no packs, no visible drinking water, no nothing. Very strange.

I got to Laurel Gulch and examined the bridge footings. They looked great! The wood forms around them had been removed by the SGVCC so the concrete was exposed and looked to me to have only a few minor flaws, perfect for the new bridge coming in.

Waiting for the helicopter

After looking around I climbed down the cliff face and set up my tent out of the way, and when the other team members showed up and we found there would be a delay while a helicopter rigger hiked in, I dug out my book, sat in my tent, and read for an hour.

When the helicopter was ready to come in, the SGVCC sent two teams up and down the trail to ask hikers to stop for a while as the helicopter was overhead in the unlikely event a load needed to be set free or set down. Safety first! The two Hot Shot crews made sure that safety was our priority.

When the helicopter rigger hiked all the way in, the helicopter at Rincon lifted a second rigger at the end of a long rope, and while hanging from the bottom of the helicopter the guy was lifted over the mountain ridges and through the river canyons all the way to Laurel Gulch.

The riggers and two Hot Shot crews attached a hanging load to the line vacated by the "Dope on a Rope" guy, then the helicopter left.

The bridge tread gets lifted in

Well, the guy who had been lifted in under the helicopter was amusingly talkative, a little nicked up and bleeding a bit in places because of the short diversion down the trail, but other than that things were on track and going fine.

After the helicopter returned to Rincon, the bridge at Rincon was picked up slowly, lifting off of the concrete work apron slowly because of the weight and the high temperature which was around 90F by then. Back at Laurel Gulch we could hear the ship approach so I was able to get good video of the actual delivery every second that the ship was in sight.

Oh man, the wash coming down from the helicopter was phenomenal, gale force winds that kicked up good sized rocks and a lot of dirt that slammed in to the riggers, our engineer, the two Hot Shots, and myself, most of us wearing the proper protective gear including goggles.

Unfortunately the camera that I used got hammered a bit and as the bridge was being jockeyed in to position the shutter assembly on the camera was damaged so it does not open any more. Still, I managed to get good video. Now I need to disassemble the shutter and lens assembly and clean everything to see if I can get that camera back working again.

After the heavy bridge was shoved in to position, more tools were tied to the lines and were lifted off back to Rincon.

After the dust cleared, we got a good look at the bridge and how it sat on the footings. To me it looks perfect! Absolutely perfect with no need to nudge it even the slightest bit since it looks to me like it was settled perfectly in to place. Looking at the video again I can see that there was a lot more shoving to get the bridge in place than I remembered from real life, so the crews did an excellent job placing the bridge.

There was one more airlift from Rincon, the railings and the curbing came in about 20 minutes later and was dropped perfectly in place once again, this time without any need to shove things around, and then the second helicopter rigger who had gotten a bit scratched up climbed in to the cab of the helicopter as it hovered down by the river, then we were done!

Lunch and then the SGVCC, the Hot Shots, and the engineer left, leaving me behind so that I could sit next to the river on a boulder reading while staying cool. A rattle snake snuck up behind me so that when I stood up to dump some river water over myself, it shook and moved off so I grabbed my stuff and found another boulder to sit on.

The bridge railing and curbing gets lifted in

Over the radio I heard talk about someone needing to telephone home, so I turned the volume up and found that it was our Dispatch Overlords talking about me. Since I could only hear Dispatch and they could not hear me, I couldn't tell them I was on line and to pass on whatever information they had, all I could get from the chatter was that I needed to call home.

I looked around and did not find a telephone. In fact the only cell telephone coverage I was aware of was back down at the base of the mountain about 20 miles away so it was frustrating sitting there trying every frequency the radio has and swapping out to fresh batteries trying to get a line in to find out what was up.

Eventually after the Sun started heading West, I tried the radio again and managed to get some back and forth to be told that I should hike back to Heaton Flats for a "non emergency" which left me even more puzzled and worried.

Ah well, I decided I had better get going even though the message was several hours old, planning on hitchhiking to civilization once I got to Heaton Flats' parking lot so I could get to a telephone and find out what was going on.

I crammed everything in my backpack, abandoned my tent up there after rolling it up and shoving it under the new bridge, then I double-timed it all the way to Heaton Flats, burning up and sweating. There I found Ben waiting for me, saying he had been planning on giving it another seven minutes before leaving.

And on down the mountain we went, leaving the bridge behind to wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow the crews will be heading back up without me and will be putting the hand railing and curbing back on. After that the only thing left is to build the dirt walkway up to the bridge and then it will be done!

And it will be awesome! There was a group of four hikers heading to the Bridge To Nowhere that were the first actual hikers to use the bridge so they had their photographs taken, saying they felt like celebrities. Once fully reassembled, the new bridge will be Awesome times 2.

John Seales

Email to the Crystal Lake Web SIte

c> Oh, quick question --
c> Who is the Seales Bridge named for?

Greetings, Casey!

John Seales was the Wilderness Coordinator for the San Gabriel River Ranger District of the U. S. Forest Service, and before that he was a fire fighter protecting forests across the Western United States. He was the epitome of the hard-working, get-it-done, no-nonsense protector of the wilderness, a guy who lived for the forests he was sworn to protect.

When he was a little kid he was attacked by a buck deer which he had to grab and wrestle to the ground to avoid getting gutted, and from that day on he knew he wanted to be a wilderness ranger. He saw the crapping up and destruction of the nation's wild places and did what he could to try to save whatever the fat cat Washington politicians hadn't already sold to corporate criminals.

He was in many ways another Edward Abbey, living up at Camp Williams and for a time at the abandoned fire station within the Crystal Lake Recreation Area, and working long hours in the forest without pay, always quick to lend a hand or to read someone the riot act for dropping a piece of litter or for shooting firearms in the designated wilderness.

He took his duties to safeguard America's wilderness seriously, making sure that no wheeled vehicles or tools, no oil-based lubricants, nothing banned from Designated Wilderness was ever used within the wilderness, and to get things done without modern tools he was creative and tireless.

He was with the Trailbuilders on a last major trail effort, using crosscut saws in the Mount Waterman Designated Wilderness, two extremely hot, very exhausting days and one sweltering night working along the trail using hand tools to clear one of the nation's most loved trails of very large downed trees.

Despite the disease he was fighting and the pain he continued to do his job with wit, humor, laughter, and with a smile that would lift the spirits of the rest of us. The last I saw of him before he died, he was hiking up Upper Bear Creek Trail heading toward the Smith Mountain Saddle and the San Gabriel Designated Wilderness beyond, heading up, I suspect, to survey the placement of the new wooden Forest Sign that proclaimed the vista beyond the Saddle to be a protected wilderness.

He was the best of the best among dedicated, dirty, sweaty, hard working, low paid Forest Service employee, and the new bridge at Laurel Gulch is a fitting monument to John since it's located just 40 feet from the Sheep Mountain Designated Wilderness, a boundary that separates the realm of Mankind and His machines and the realm of the Wilderness where wheels, gasoline, and all that implies is not allowed, the gateway to a small plot of the diminishing legacy our grandchildren might never get to see.

That was John but he was so much more. I miss him terribly.

Photographs! We have a few!

* Some flowers along the hike
* The concrete bridge footings before the day's work begins
* The upper concrete footing
* Hot Shot crews attempt to reach Rincon via radio
* The first helicopter rigger who hiked in
* Waiting for the helicopter

Eric Martindale took better photographs which are available here

* A clean look at the upper bridge footing
* A clean look at the lower bridge footing
* The lower footing has one minor flaw in the left
* Overall view of the existing bridge and the two footings
* A picture of the helicopter
* A picture of the first cargo to be hauled out
* The helicopter and first cargo batch heading back to Rincon
* Helicopter almost gone past the first bend on the way to Rincon
* Here comes the bridge!
* The helicopter overhead with the new bridge
* The bridge at eye level coming in sideways to the footings
* Excellent photograph of the bridge being lowered in to place
* The helicopter above
* The helicopter above
* The bridge gets lowered off center so it gets lifted back up a foot or two
* The helicopter above
* The bridge being shoved back in to position once again
* The helicopter above
* It's done! The new bridge gets set exactly in to place
* The rigger removes the haul lines from the bridge
* Riggers and Hot Shot crews watch as the airship positions for more cargo
* The second batch of cargo gets lifted back to Rincon
* The helicopter about to disappear over the ridgeline
* The Hot Shot crew remove the tie lines from the bridge swivel hooks
* This big red V showed everyone which end points generally North
* Here comes the railings and the curbing with some additional tools
* A closer look at the second bundle of bridge on the way in
* An even closer view of the second bundle coming in
* The second bundle of bridge gets lowered exactly in to place
* Take a look, the end of the bridge matches the footing on both ends
* Here is the upper footing with the bridge
* A picture of the new bridge tread
* Another look at the l;ower footing and bridge
* A view of the bridge tread from the lower end
* The old bridge is kept under the new one but will be hauled out eventually
* Looking under the bridge
* Here is what the second bundle of bridge parts looks like after brought in
* The first actual hikers to use the bridge get their photograph taken!
* The first groupo of hikers pause for "official" photographs
* Another look under the bridge

Helicopter Rigger Reggie Sully's Photographs

* At Rincon, the bridge tread is ready to be airlifted out
* The second bundle of bridge is also prepared to be lifted
* Bernie, someone else, and Ben stand out of the way of the propwash
* The helicopter comes in for the first load
* A close view of the helicopter coming down
* An amusing closeup of a crack in the ground at Rincon. LOL!
* TOTALLY EXCELLENT view of the Rincon Fire Station grounds from the air
* Reggie takes a photograph of his own shadow -- that is so totally awesome!
* View of the area from the air while hanging from a long line
* Reggie takes a photograph of the helicopter's shadow
* Totally awesome photo of the general low brush of the region seen from above
* The hillsides are green, seen from the air
* Flying through the canyons along the San Gabriel River, what fun!
* Another excellent view of the river in the way to Laurel Gulch

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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