Trail Work Before Trail Work After

17/Feb/07, North Fork Road. San Gabriel River Ranger District

List of photographs are offered below

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders and Angeles Volunteer Association teamed up with Jeremy (spelling?) an Eagle Scout candidate who organized a large group of volunteers to continue the effort to build an access trail from Highway 39's North Fork Road down to the San Gabriel River below.

This is the second work day on this trail, a part of the overall restoration and rehabilitation process in the San Gabriel Mountains in the aftermath of fires, floods, and -- at times, it seems, equally devastating -- human pollution.

The crew of young volunteers assembled at the Rincon Fire Station across the street from the Environmental Education Center where they waited for the rest of the work crews to arrive. At Rincon we assembled the tools that we would be using - McLoudes, shovels, buckets, rock hammers, sledges, a gasoline-powered rock drill, picks, work gloves, fire extinguisher, gloves, medical kit, helmets, goggles, and other equipment.

Access to the section of the river is currently limited however a key was used to get the vehicles and the crews through the locked gate so that they could park at the bottom of the river canyon -- while I walked along the highway above to take photographs.

It was Jeremey's job to break the volunteers into the five groups which would be tackling five distinct areas of work that needed to be accomplished that day.

The access trail consists of three legs, the route having been carefully surveyed and agreed upon by members of the San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders and also surveyed by Jeremy two weeks previously. The first leg of the access trail didn't get worked on until today though the second leg of the trail had had a very good start two weeks ago. The third leg of the trail cuts right through a boulder field and will require the most technical effort of the entire trail.

Later, it is hoped, a U. S. Forest Service sign will be placed at the top of the trail so that people can find it and use the trail rather than scramble down the canyon wall, possibly injuring themselves of their children. (Also the establishment of safe trails helps to reduce erosion and litter by concentrating it along designated routes.)

But this access trail is part of a larger effort by the USFS to reduce human pollution. The trail is intended to provide safe access to the newly-installed toilet building down at the floor of the river canyon, an effort to keep people from fouling the river with their biological wastes.

A number of areas where visitors to the area picnic and camp in large numbers have seen sanitary facilities installed in an effort to improve the water quality along the length of the San Gabriel River, and access to the facilities is one of the points of effort outlined in a UCLA suit of recommendations which details a lot of good solutions to the seemingly endless problems that the River canyons face.

Tens of millions of us rely upon the water collected in the series of dams and reservoirs in the San Gabriel Mountains, and each year during the Summer months the San Gabriel Mountains provide ten thousand visitors with recreation on any given week end.

Unpaid volunteer efforts like this one are the only financially feasible method of ensuring water quality while assisting in maintaining recreation facilities for the Los Angeles and San Bernardino county cities. (It's also a good way for volunteers to get exercise and to stay in shape!)

The Eagle candidate was expected to ensure the safety of all volunteers, and to ensure that all five aspects of the effort were fully crewed.

Area one: The long-time Trailbuilders worked extensively on the first leg of the access trail and accomplished probably the most amount of finished work in one morning that I have seen done on any project so far. The soil is lose and a great deal of work will still be needed to install baskets, rock walls, and other method of soil retention.

Area two: The second leg of the trail got extensive attention two weeks ago and the whole length of the trail had been established and worked on. Much of the second leg was left at around one and a half feet wide however eventually the whole length of the access trail will need to be at least three feet wide. Smack in the middle of this leg there's still some boulders that need to be slid down the canyon wall a few feet until they're out of the way.

Area three: The third leg of the trail loops around an ancient oak tree and swings back down through dirt flooring before the boulder field is encountered. The start of this leg of the access trail also required the clearing of brush at the switchback and the trimming of a few dead oak tree limbs. Rocks and boulders needed to be relocated a bit.

Area four: The boulder field itself requires the use of the Punjar (spelling?) gasoline-powered rock drill to slice boulders in half, a grip hoist and chain to pull boulders into position, and a lot of steel rock bars to lever rocks and boulders around to where a safe surface can be built.

Area five: The fifth area of effort was the collection of sand and gravel from the riverbed. About one thousand pounds of sand were gathered and assembled in a pile near the bottom of the boulder field so that once all of the boulders have been positioned in to place, a firm and unmovable foundation can be established under the boulders with the sand and gravel.

Ben offered anyone who wanted the opportunity to do so to have some time on the drill however it looked to me as though getting the drill started and keeping it running was difficult and it may be that not everyone who wanted to got time on the drill. Despite the problems with run-time, volunteers were able to use metal feathers, rock spikes, and sledge hammers to gently and safely split huge boulders, the flat surfaces of which will hopefully be used to provide safe footing once the trail is completed.

I also noticed than Ben was yelling about getting buckets of cold water from the river with which to cool the drill's bit and to reduce the grit being thrown into the air. Amusingly he was asking that the young volunteers go all the way out to the middle of the river so that the coldest water could be got -- Ben's way to see if he could prompt someone to fall in, ha ha.

I spent my time working on the second leg of the trail, trying to widen it some. After about two and a half hours, though, I found myself getting dizzy and exhausted so I stumbled down to the river in a gray haze and pretty much threw myself in -- which revived me almost immediately.

Lunch was provided for those of us who eat animal remains. A BBQ of hot-dogs and hamburgers was set up and everybody broke for lunch. I took my book -- "Sunstorm" by A. C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter -- and a wrapper of salt crackers and walked down the river a ways until I was alone with the roar of the river. Unfortunately I was surrounded by spray-painted rocks and the odd scrap of litter -- such is pandemic, sadly, along the river's length.

By the time I returned to the work site lunch had been long over and everybody else was hard at work, sweating in the Sun. I took some more photographs so that it would at least look like I was doing something, then I stopped by the BBQ to see if there was anything I could eat -- there was, bread, mustard, pickles. Feeling much refreshed I returned to work on the second leg of the trail.

The work day ended rather abruptly. I had noticed that most of the young volunteers were breaking off to walk barefoot in the river and that tools were being collected and were being assembled down below. Those of us working at the top legs of the trail weren't sure whether just the kids were leaving or whether all of us were packing it up but eventually we found we were all calling it a day.

Since this was the end of the second day of work on this access trail, I made sure to get another set of photographs of the aftermath. I was again impressed by the amount of work done on leg number one.

Lot of work remains to be done, and I noticed that the switchback that starts leg three needs to be redone. A line of rocks along the switchback that were placed there prematurely will be removed and the trail will be repositioned and widened before such nice, neat finishing touches are done.

Back at Rincon the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders rolled into the parking lot to start putting the tools away -- with various degrees of soreness, sunburn, scrapes, dislocated toes and what not. The tools were removed from the back of Brun's pickup, inspected for wear and damage, and then were neatly stored away for next time -- which took a lot of time.

Next time is two weeks from now where the morning's work will probably see leg two and the boulder field get more attention. That day -- March 3'rd -- is also an awards gathering at the Environmental Education Center so it will be a half-day for all of the volunteers who come.

* At Rincon Station getting tools.
* Collecting tools from San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilder tool bin.
* Waiting for the tools to be assembled.
* The rest of the crew at the Rincon Fire Station.
* Tool safety orientation takes place at Rincon Fire Station.
* Eagle candidate goes through paperwork while Ben covers tool safety.
* Most of the volunteer crew still at tool safety meeting.
* Still at safety meeting.
* Finishing up the tool safety meeting.
* Vehicles drive up to the gate where we will be working.
* Opening the access gate.
* Leg one of the trail before work begins.
* Leg two of the trail got a lot of work done before today.
* Another look at leg two of the trail before we resume work on it.
* Another look at leg two of the trail before we resume work on it.
* Leg three of the trail has not been touched yet.
* A look at where leg three will be coming to an end.
* Vehicles start to assemble down below at the work site.
* A look up at leg three, two, and one from below.
* Tools and other equipment getting unpacked.
* A closer look at leg three of the trail before work begins.
* Ben starts to assemble the work crew.
* Standing on leg two looking toward where leg one will switchback.
* Turning around and looking down the rest of leg two.
* A first look at the work crews assembled below from leg two.
* Tools have been assembled and the required tasks brown up into groups.
* Leg one makes lots of progress after about two hours.
* Working at the start of leg one.
* A longer look at the work accomplished on leg one so far.
* On leg three the rocks are being moved into useful positions.
* Getting ready to drill and split some boulders.
* A great deal of sand and gravel is being collected fromj the riverbed.
* The gasoline-powered rock drill is being used.
* Rock drill again. It doesn't like to start or run very well.
* Rock dust from the drill is kicked up. Helmets and goggles are worn.
* More work with the rock drill.
* A grip hoist gets used with some chain to move boulders.
* Work is done at the bottom of the access trail.
* The pile of sand continues to grow below.
* A look at the project so far, from the river bed.
* Looking up at a volunter working on leg one, looking from below.
* Leg one of the trail continues to show great improvement.
* A closer look at two of our volunteers on leg one.
* A look at leg one again.
* And a closer look at the leg one effort.
* At the switchback from leg one to leg two. Leg two work was also done.
* Break for lunch! Hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, and other things.
* Back to working on the boulder field on leg three.
* Using feathers and spiles to gently split boulders.
* A close look at the tools used to split boulders safely.
* Before starting to finish up for the day, taking a look from above.
* One of the final looks at what's been accomplished on leg one.
* Backing off a bit by walking down the road, taking a long look.
* Grip hoist again: you can see the chain being used in this photograph.
* A look at crew workong along leg two of the access trail.
* More work on leg two. Boulders in the trail will need to be relocated.
* On leg two looking toward switchback and the anciel oak tree.
* Still working on leg two.
* Leg two and the bottom of the river canyon.
* Leg two and the switchback that leads to leg three of the trail.
* Pause for a group photograph near the second switchback.
* And a closer group photograph.
* One last look at leg three of the trail.
* The switchback between legs two and three of the trail.

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