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Crystal Lake

Click on the photograph on the right to see a great Google Earth satellite photograph of where today's work effort was held. The point on the photograph where the pin is located is the point at which the day's chainsaw effort ended.

Today was day number 5 of the Islip Ridge Trail restoration project, and unlike the first 4 days, today was cool and nobody ran out of water.

The day began with Ben from the Trailbuilders giving myself, Bryan, and Christopher a ride to the U. S. Forest Service's Gateway Information Center on Highway 39, across file post marker 17, right at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains.

While we waited for 8:00 we stepped in to the USFS office to see if there was coffee and we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was and that the Forest Service's Volunteer Coordinator had provided cinnamon rolls as well! Sugar-covered delectable nutrients offered not only to aging hippies like myself but also to anyone stopping in to get information, buy an Adventure Pass or who came in just to look around, while supplies last!

Two volunteers were already waiting before we showed up, one volunteer who had worked before on Trailbuilder projects while with the California Conservation Corps and another volunteer who had already acquired his chain saw safety training and certification as a class A bucker.

Since today was going to be another downed tree removing day, having another certified bucker in the effort meant that we could utilize two saws at the same time, two teams that could leap-frog from tree to tree.

Many of the trees had been killed in the Curve Fire of 2002, and many before then were killed by Bark Beetle and when the trees fall on to hiking trails, the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders are tasked with removing them.

Chainsaw bucking

After 8:00 arrived we climbed in to various vehicles and headed North on Highway 39 for about 8 or 9 miles to the Rincon Fire Station where we collected tools such as shovels, rock bars, McLeods, and lots of drinking water which we put on ice. From Rincon we headed further North and in to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area.

We left Bryan behind to work on a machine at Rincon in the hopes that he could evaluate the damage and work-up some assessment on what it would take to repair it. The machine is a large air compressor which can be used for a lot of things and due to wear and typical usage over the years, it had eventually become unworkable.

At the lake's parking lot and the trailhead we called in to our Dispatch Overlords over the radio to inform them that a total of 13 of us would be working along Islip Ridge Trail -- which is not correct since it's actually called Winona or Winana or something like that, I never could get the name settled in my damaged brain but no matter, our safety Overlords knew approximately where to find us if we needed them.

Ben gave the day's safety run down, briefly and quickly reviewing the typical safety hazards that we might encounter while working onh the trail, hazards such as the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (ouch!) and the dreaded arthropod scorpion as well as the often-possible poison oak (written up in song and legend) and the equally amusing Poodle-Dog Brush which were witnessed growing along the trail in the previous days' efforts.

Ben also offered the daily Job Hazard Analysis and made sure we were all aware of the day's Project Activity Level (PDF file) which ensured that we would stop utilizing our chainsaws promptly at 13:00 (always assuming we had enough energy to still be cutting by then.)

A snarl of tree trunks and limbs

Like the other days on this trail's effort we strung ourselves out along the trail, the two teams with the chainsaws hiking the 2.25 miles up the trail to reach the next point where the first large downed tree was located. Along the way we found two more tree trunks that had fallen on the trail in the four weeks since we had last been here which is testimony to the never-ending job required of volunteers.

The first large tree down across the trail was a difficult one. It had fallen on to a switchback which meant that the same tree now blocked the trail in two places and it had obscured the trail's location on the first day's effort to the point where most of us could not locate the trail.

The first team of volunteers consisting of Alexander and Jose (sawer and swamper) tackled the first large tree, cutting out wedges from the top because the tree trunk was suspended above ground and possibly utilizing wedges until sections could drop and be shoved off of the trail.

While that was going on the second team had gone on ahead to address the next series of trees. Tom, Mike, Victor and another volunteer worked on bucking up and removing a number of trees immediately after the large tree that the first team was working on.

In lower elevations Jeanette, Ben, Lou, and other volunteers continued to work on the actual tread of the trail, removing berms, rocks, tree limbs, bark, pine cones, trimming back bushes and uprooting the endless Yerba Santa plants growing in the trail in the aftermath of the Curve Fire burn.

Eventually as 13:00 approached the forward chainsaw crews met in the shade at 6700 feet where we dropped our equipment, drank a lot of water, and took naps (LOL!) We had passed a major problem on the trail just below where we found shade which requires a great deal of limbing before the trunk can be rolled off of the trail, but since 13:00 was approaching we left it for another day.

The hike down was fairly quick and my feet started blistering up again since my shoes aren't really right for my stupid feet and I had blistered them up and broken a toe while bike riding a couple of weeks previously. Still, getting back to the trailhead in good time we had enough time left over to drink cold water at the parking lot in the shade and continue to tell lies about each other until it was time to leave and head down the mountain.

I was left behind with a newly-repaired bicycle, a sleeping bag and a can of mixed nuts so I could provide some computer assistance to the Care Taker up there.

The large tree has been removed!

After letting our Dispatch Overlords know that we were all out of service, we were finished for the day! And we had gotten a whole lot of trail work done. Hiking down the mountain the chainsaw crews got to see the lengths of trail that had been reworked and cleared and the whole first 3 miles of trail is now looking pretty good!

The first thing I did after bidding farewell to the Trailbuilders was to head to Soldier Creek where I took a quick shower, scrubbed with sand, and filled up 10 water bottles from the creek so I would have something to drink on the bike ride down the mountain in the morning.

Nobody is supposed to drink the water in the San Gabriel Mountains because of Giardia, as well as Montezuma's revenge and other not-so-funny illnesses however I've been drinking the water in the San Gabriels for over 25 years without even light sniffles. Eventually I expect the Creeping Crud to get ahold of me but really I'm aware of how to avoid obviously dangerous exposed water.

After dark had fallen and the Moon started providing a little illumination I went looking for a place to spend the night, preferably along the bottom of a sandy ravine with water so that evaporation would help keep me cool during the night. After a long and difficult day my feet needed to soak to see if the blisters would be reduced so I went searching for just the right place.

If one is willing to hide one's bicycle and hike in a bit, one can find any number of sometimes-shaded places with running water to shove one's feet in to and spend the night gazing up at the stars, both Venus and Mars competing with Jupiter for attention.

The place I had parked was on the edge of the San Gabriel Designated Wilderness, a fairly open area which had a number of yipping coyotes talking to each other, falling silent as they walked around me and then resuming their conversations after looking me over.

In the morning I biked back down the mountain and it was another very good week end.

* Google Earth view of the point where the chainsaw was last used
* Climbing up the trail looking East
* The first major trail obstruction, Team #1 start cutting wedges
* A volunteer on Team #2 bucks up a tree
* This section may move once it's cut so other volunteers stay clear
* One section is a snag of tree trunks, limbs, and rocks
* Another look at the same jumble
* Mike pulls out what's lose so that the sawer has firm foundation to stand on
* Much of the snag has been bucked up and removed but still more work is needed
* The remaining section is examined and the trail starts getting cleaned up
* After the last of the obstruction is removed
* We take a look at the next set of branches that need to be removed
* Another look at the section of branches that need to be removed
* Much can be removed by hand and then the saw is used for the larger parts
* Resting the saw on the raw dirt ground while taking a quick break
* Looking generally South West in to the Designated Wilderness
* In some shade we pause for water
* One of the volunteers wearing vest to avoid being shot by drunk hunters
* Looking toward Twin Peaks and Mount Waterman
* Volunteers examining the falling hazards along the way
* The obstruction we did not get to today
* Another look at the many-limb obstructio
* Returning to the site of the first large tree, it has been removed
* Anothert tree that still needs to be removed by hand cleared on the way down
* We pause to examine the cleared tree
* Here's a cross section of the first large tree that was bucked and removed
* A section of the newly-cleared trail
* Moving another obstruction by hand on the way down
* The Trailbuilders establish stair steps along this section of the trail
* The stair steps from another viewpoint
* My backpack and flagging to avoid being shot by drunk hunters

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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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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