---

Sutter Wall #7 Damaged

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders returned to Windy Gap Trail to start repairing the damaged Sutter Walls which a paid contractor installed along the trail about 9 years ago.

Normally the walls themselves do not fail, the walls are well designed, the heavy metal uprights and the treated horizontal wood used for the retaining walls usually rarely fail however the anchors that the contractor applied for all 12 walls was something less than hearty enough to hold the catastrophic loading that one of the walls encountered, and the incremental loading that two other walls experienced, so three walls have been damaged over the years.

The Windy Gap Trail is one of the most-loved trails within the Crystal Lake Recreation Area, it affords a fairly short (about 2.5 miles) hike from approximately 6500 feet altitude at the campgrounds below, up to Windy Gap Saddle at 7582 feet, so while parts are fairly steep, it's a short enough hike that fatigue isn't really a problem.

Windy Gap Saddle itself affords access to Vincent Gap, Mount Baden-Powell, Little Jimmy Trail Camp, Mount Islip, and because the saddle itself is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Saddle is a jumping-off point for the entire 2663 miles of the trail, so hikers confronted with the trail signs at the Saddle may choose to head South toward Mexico, or North toward Canada.

And what a great day out it was, too! The weather could not have been better, it was fairly cool and cloudy down in the cities below yet passing through 3000 feet altitude we broke out in to Sunshine even as the temperature continued to drop the higher we got up the mountain.

Sutter Wall #7 exvacated for now

Upon reaching the trailhead along South Mount Hawkins Road, the Trailbuilders had the daily Job Hazard Analysis review, a safety meeting which touched upon the tools and equipment we would be using today, and touched upon the flora and fauna within the region we would be working which we might wish to avoid. The Southern Pacific Rattler is common to the area and every year people get bit, plus there are scorpions and ticks to avoid! Fun!

After the safety meeting and a review of the Project Activity Level for the day, we broke up and headed up the trail. Since this was a repair day and also a survey day, I took photographs of all of the Sutter Walls along the trail, the damaged ones as well as the healthy ones, and acquired the GPS coordinates for all of the walls.

To ensure I got all of the walls, I hiked all the way to the Saddle and took a short nap on the couch that we carved out of a long pine tree up there, amusing some of the many hikers and trail runners that came through. To make sure nobody thought I was sleeping on the job I assured them that I'm a volunteer who gets paid in jalapeno peppers and avocados, not tax dollars.

While I was shoveling rock slide off of the trail while working my way up to the Saddle, the other volunteers were working on the trail tread, removing tons of rock along the trail and also working to excavate several destroyed sections of the second wall whose anchorage had failed. In order to replace the wall section, all of the rock and dirt behind the wall needs to be removed, and that is literally tons of material for some of the sections of retaining wall.

After leaving the Saddle I worked my way down the trail, and got to the second major destroyed wall, then started to excavate the materials that had buried one of the sections. Here, hikers had established their own trail to bypass the destroyed section, yet parts of the metal uprights and metal caps for the wall were sticking out, something of a minor scratching hazard that could tear people's pants.

Excavating the rubble from off of the wall was a major effort since some of the boulders resting on the wall were hundreds of pounds. When working on bringing materials down off of a steep slope like had to be done here, one must work to the side of the materials one is bringing down, which means that all of the force being applied to bring the materials down safely and to wrest the debris off of the trail is done at a less-than-optimal angle -- which can be tiring.

Sutter Wall #5 exvacated

Trailbuilder Alan worked on that excavation effort, then Trailbuilders Victor, Bernie, and Ben hiked up to join the excavation effort and to evaluate the short term and the long term repairs that were needed on the wall.

Eventually we were able to uncover a section of the destroyed wall, remove it from the trail, and then continue the excavation of the trail itself, re-establishing the tread so that hikers don't need to go around any more. We successfully removed the metal laying horizontally whgich could possibly rip clothing, and stacked the wall fragments mostly neatly along the up-slope of the trail.

Because this wall is within a major rock chute, and because we're not usually allowed to use explosives to bring down all the rock proactively, this wall will continue to have boulders come down, so rather than replace the destroyed sections with new Sutter Walls, for now it seems we will restore soil retention using rock walls. There's plenty of large boulders we can use, and as each section gets destroyed we can simply excavate and rebuild a new wall, otherwise we'll have to repeat the expense of putting in Sutter Walls -- which look nice but can be expected to be repeatedly buried at this part of the trail.

Hiking back down to where the other major effort was taking place, I was amazed to see that the other volunteers had fully excavated two sections of the other wall, getting all the way down to dirt at the level of the trail tread. I had thought that perhaps half of the materials behind the wall could be removed, prompting the need to return for a second day however the volunteers were able to get everything removed in one go.

In all, it was a very successful day, the main objectives had been achieved and we have a good idea of what the job effort will be the next time we come up and continue to repair the trail along the rock chute.

It is always a privilege to be allowed to work like this in the Angeles National Forest, the U. S. Forest Service provides us volunteers with annual training in a wide variety of things which assists volunteers in performing much-needed recreational work in a National Forest which has seen its budget cut repeatedly, paid employees laid off, and an ever-increasing difficulty in maintaining and administering the public lands.

How better to enjoy the outdoors and to get heavy exercise while improving recreation opportunities on the land that we all own than to volunteer to work the trails, staff the Visitor Centers, collect and haul trash, swamp out toilets, scrap off spray paint, assist with medical emergencies, patrol for smoke and fire, lead hikes for school children, all the rest of the many things that unpaid volunteers do every day in the forest?

* Sutter Wall #7 gets excavated
* Almost finish with Sutter Wall #7
* The damaged wall sections get stacked up out of the way
* Many hikers waiting for us to get out of the way
* The finished trail tread at wall #7
* At the end of the way we gather back on South Mount Hawkins Road

Higher resolution photographs of Sutter Wall #5 Repairs

* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* Excavating behind the Sutter Wall
* The corner of Sutter Wall #5 fully excavated, still bent outward
* TYhe corner of the wall needs to be pulled in to shape
* Corner of the wall continues to be worked on
* Corner of the wall continues to be worked on
* Corner of the wall continues to be worked on
* Excavating behind the larger section of the wall
* Much of the dirt also needs to be removed for new anchors later
* Rocks set aside for the other side of the trail tread for a retaining wall
* Fully exvacated
* We get a first look at the entirely wall section having been removed
* Across from the wall a rock retaining wall gets established
* Across from the wall a rock retaining wall gets established
* Across from the wall a rock retaining wall gets established
* The destroyed sections of the Sutter Wall gets stacked neatly
* Across from the wall a rock retaining wall gets established
* More rocks are stacked for the rock wall going in
* More rocks are stacked for the rock wall going in
* More rocks are stacked for the rock wall going in
* More rocks are stacked for the rock wall going in
* Some of the flowering plants along Windy Gap
* Wall fragments get stored behind the wall
* The long section of the wall having been removed completly
* Removed wall section and new rock wall
* Removed wall section and new rock wall
* Removed wall section and new rock wall
* A look at the rock retaining wall from behind the Sutter Wall

* Looking across the San Gabriel valley from Windy Gap
* Resting on Windy Gap Saddle
* New pine trees at Windy Gap Saddle

* The mile post 2 here needs to be re-planted

Survey of trail signs at the Windy Gap Saddle

* Sign photograph 1
* Sign photograph 1
* Sign photograph 3
* Sign photograph 4
* Sign photograph 5
* Sign photograph 6

Survey of all 12 Sutter Walls

* Sutter Wall #1
* Sutter Wall #2
* Sutter Wall #3
* Sutter Wall #4
* Sutter Wall #5
* Sutter Wall #6
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #7
* Sutter Wall #8
* Sutter Wall #9
* Sutter Wall #10
* Sutter Wall #11
* Sutter Wall #12

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.

E-Mail Crystal Lake Camp Ground