Photographs are provided at the bottom of this web page. A video of these photographs and a hanging tree removal is also provided.



Getting Dirty Up At Windy Gap

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders returned to Windy Gap Trail in the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. Two weeks ago while clearing downed trees from across the lower sections of the trail, a group of hikers passed through our work area and had reported that a section of the upper trail had been covered in a sock slide so today we returned with the tools we would need to clear it.

I bicycled over to the usual meeting place in Azusa, California, and met with the others who would be heading up: Ben, Mario, Lou, Tom, Mike, Jeannette, Erik, Bron -- did I forget anyone? And what fun we all had, too! We even got to see John and Larry again which is always the high point of every volunteert's day!

We gathered our tools at Rincon Station, then decided that in addition to clearing the rock slide we might as well bring a couple of long ropes and a "come along" and pull down a hanging tree that we had not taken care of two weeks ago. And since I've been trying to look more manly than usual, I tied the coils of rope to my pants belt -- which was also a length of rope -- and stuffed my favorite hand saw in my new belt. Ready to go!

Walking up Windy Gap Trail from the trail junction at the road which leads up to South Mount Hawkins, we encountered a number of downed trees and limbs across the trail so we kind of spread out along the trail for about a mile with crews clearing various down falls, catching up later with other crews.


Eventually we all met up at the rock slide except for Jeannette who stayed far below to work on clearing a section of the trail that had not burned in the Curve Fire.

It wasn't hot working up there, but it was very dry with the relative humidity somewhere down below ten percent, so when we started looking at the slide, every shovel full of rock and dirt brought up a cloud of dust that the wind brought back to cover the trail workers.

We all got extremely dirty but had a great time! It was EXTREMLY dangerous crossing the 15 foot section of the trail where the rock slide was, and its something of a wonder that the hikers who had crossed it two weeks ago had managed it safely.

There was some discussion about how much of the slide to remove and whether all of it could be since every time rocks and sand was moved off of the trail and dumped over the side, more socks and sand would slide down the hillside to fill the small hole our shovels and picks made.

By digging a series of shelves and carefully watching the rocks and dirt as it continued to slid down the hillside ravine toward us, we eventually saw that given a lot of effort, we would eventually deplete the loose shale sliding down on us to the point where we could start actually clearing the trail.

By the time we broke for lunch we could see that we would have enough time to clear the entire rock slide from the trail and still have time to pull down that hanging tree from the lower trail.

Take a look at the "before" and "after" photographs. I think we did an excellent job! Bron and the rest were looking at the section and thinking about maybe coming back to put in a retaining wall, maybe having Boy Scouts performing the project since there's a degree of engineering and planning involved as well as hauling of materials, and as a Scout project the engineering aspects of such an effort is valuable experience.

With the rock slide cleared, we went down to the lower section of Windy Gap and took a look at the hanging tree that was looming over the trail. While it's true that the tree would probably have fallen all by itself eventually before the camp grounds open, the fact that we have hikers using the trail means that hanging trees are still safety hazards -- and safety is a huge issue with the U. S. Forest Service and volunteers like us always have our eyes open for hazards to reduce where possible.


I suggested that Ben take the rope and climb up the tree to attach the end so that we could pull it down, maybe with him hanging on to shake loose branches. That was vetoed immediately and a counter suggestion was made that the smallest volunteer among us should climb up there and attach the rope. Jeanette (the shortest crew among us) vetoed that idea.

Eventually Bron tied a rock to the rope, threw it over the top of the tree, and the "come along" was used to pull the tree down -- with me standing out of the way and getting video which, if it turns out okay, I'll post to the end of this page.

Did I mention how much fun this stuff is? It's SUCH a privilege to be able to volunteer along side of professionals who know what they're doing and have the proper tools to do it. It's hard, hard work most of the time, of course, and trail maintenance never actually ends, but being allowed to volunteer to work in our National Forests -- which belong to all of us -- is a great privilege and great fun.

And a good time was had by most!


* On the way up to the rock slide, trees are removed from trail
* Some downed trees have interlocked branches -- No chainsaw!
* Mike climbs up with the axe while the rest clean the trail
* That first tree is actually very large
* Ben, Tom, and Mike retrieve their tools after a removal
* Some trees like this one can be hauled off by hand
* Tom waits for the rest to catch up to him. Looking South
* Ben and Mike crest the ridge line on the way up Windy Gay
* There is minor brush and branches in several spots
* Some burned trees still are growing toward the top
* A wider look at where we are going
* Windy Gap is the dip in the ridge line on the right
* Along the way there are retaining walls put in by Marvin
* Looking back toward the direction we came from
* These ravines allow flood water to pick up a lot of speed
* Another retaining wall holds up Windy Gap trail here
* Some trees will work their way down to the trail eventually
* A long section of retaining wall before we reach the slide
* First look: Note the heavy rock laying along the hillside
* As we clear the trail, more rock slides down the hillside
* We take turns with the shovels and picks and stuff
* We make progressive ledged for safety to stand on
* A look back at the section we are working on
* Looking back across the CrystalLake Recreation Area
* We also work from the other side of the retaining wall now
* Most of the slide has been removed and the hillside cleared
* It is VERY dusty work and some of us use bandanas
* We're mostly done. Packing up most of the tools
* The slide has been removed. The trail is cleared for now
* On the way down we take a look at another fallen tree
* We remove that with rope and a rock bar and a lot of effort
* Some trees hang over the trail but won't fall any time soon
* We lock the gate behind us when we're done
* A last look along the road to South Mount Hawkins

To download a copy of the photographs in video format (which also shows some video taken of the hanging tree that was pulled down) RIGHT CLICK HERE and then save the file and then view it.

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

This web site is not operated or maintained by the US Forest Service, and the USFS does not have any responsibility for the contents of any page provided on the http://CrystalLake.Name/ web site. Also this web site is not connected in any way with any of the volunteer organizations that are mentioned in various web pages, including the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders (SGMTBs) or the Angeles Volunteers Association (AVA.) This web site is privately owned and operated. Please note that information on this web page may be inaccurate.

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