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Working on the erosion and clearing off the wood steps

Today the Trailbuilders returned to the East Fork Trail of the San Gabriel River located within the Angeles National Forest.

Today's goals were numerous, a list of tasks that needed to be accomplished was acquired the Saturday previous after a formal survey of trail conditions by Trailbuilders volunteers.

Today we had members of the California Conservation Corps and students from Mount San Antonio College join the effort which was greatly appreciated since there was no possible way that the Trailbuilder volunteers could have accomplished the work load slated for today.

In all we had 28 volunteers working the day's tasks, splitting up in to two groups so that the wooden steps at the trailhead and the erosion problem could be fixed while at the same time the larger team spread out along the trail to wrest boulders out of the way and to shovel off rock slides.

One of the wonderful think about getting younger volunteers to join such efforts is that the older volunteers can point at 800 pound boulders and suggest it be moved, then step out of the way and relax while the younger volunteers do it. :) LOL It sure helps muh poor back when trail work consists of supervising. :)

But that was what I personally did most of the day, basically provided safety oversight because working around the cliff face and the river crossings, the experienced Trailbuilders often do nothing but safety oversight and make sure that everyone has their protective clothes and equipment on and that everyone has something to do. The rock cliff face that is still coming down (however slowly) constitutes a significant safety hazard and thus significant safety oversight, so that's what I did most of the day. Easy on my poor back!

One portion of the trail has seen serious hillside movement which caused rock and dirt to encroach on to the trail, forcing hikers to walk on the slope and re-establish the trail on top of the slope. For that area we brought down the hillside, re-built the trail back in to its original location, and filled in sections with rock and sand so that what had previously been high step-up areas were now short steps, often with an inclined slope.

The California Conservation Corps was awesome, from the moment their tools hit the trail they were always at work, I don't think they even stopped for lunch but I'm not sure. There were a number of very large boulders that needed to be moved and the CCC members had enough people who could shove boulders out of the way that it was done despite the difficulty involved when rigging equipment does not get carried to the field.

Hiking back to the trailhead

The San Antonio College students spent a great deal of effort working on a section of the trail that was getting a new retaining rock wall built and rock and sand moved to fill in behind it, and to fill in a very large step-up. Many buckets of sand were filled and dumped. Good exercise! Makes my arms sore just watching, though.

The crews working on the wood steps and erosion along the trailhead met up with the group working on the trail section getting filled in with rock and sand, and when that effort was almost completed, most volunteers continued on the trail removing boulders along the way until getting to the cliff face that had come down.

Previously the Trailbuilders had flagged the rock pile which by my calculations (however wide my error bars) is about 4 million pounds of boulders. It is a BIG boulder pile, and there is a cornice overhang that still needs to come down and maybe another million pounds of rock on the cliff face that needs to come down.

Because of water freezing to ice and expanding behind the rock, eventually all of that will come down and add to the pile currently covering the trail, so we had previously flagged it and blocked off access to keep people from climbing over the top. Well, someone removed the work that we did, allowing people to climb over the top of the pile which is not very safe.

So today we blocked off both ends of the rock pile, doing so with a great deal of rock and dead tree limbs and trunks. We also placed warning signs asking hikers to cross the river twice more while we're in the process of solving the problem.

At the same time two new river crossings were established with boulders being moved, dead tree trunks being laid, and foot paths going to the crossings being established. On the far side of the river another 50 feet or so of new trail was established connecting the two river crossings.

The crossings themselves are temporary, the tree trunks that careful hikers can use to assist in crossing (if the don't want to get their feet wet again!) will not last very long. The first heavy rain that comes through should see much of the tree trunks get moved about, so this is a temporary solution to a much more difficult problem.

What we have here is a section of the trail where a cliff face has come down and covered the trail. Two problems now exist. (1) More rock is going to come down over time constituting a safety hazard on top of the usual safety hazards always assumed when hiking in the forest and (2) It would be about 18 months for volunteers to remove the rock to uncover the trail.

Removing a large boulder from the trail

A solution is to blast the cornice overhand and cliff face to proactively bring down all the rock that is going to come down, then use expansion compounds and more explosives to break apart the larger boulders on the ground, then use rigging to drag it all away, spreading it around, uncovering the trail and re-establishing the trail's original path,

Another solution is to leave the rock pile as it 8is, haul over some of the moulders and create a raised trail section that rounds the rock pile, filling it all in with rock and sand so that even high water runs will not wash it away. And that's perfectly doable and reasonable, not mention take less time than 18 months.

Only the problem with the second solution is that it still leaves the need to blast to bring down the rock so that people walking the new proposed raised trail loop won't be hit by flying rock as more of the cliff face comes down naturally.

The professional geologists and the Forest Service are looking at solutions, as are the engineer professionals with the Trailbuilders.

A serious solution needs to be implemented because this hike is a very popular one, the trail is well loved. Whatever solution is decided upon, more volunteers will be asked to join the effort and hopefully Mount San Antonio College will send more helping hands, and hopefully the California Conservation Corps will continue to assist with this much loved trail.

Eventually the new crossings were completed, all of the tools and equipment were collected, and we paused to take one last look at how well the route over the rock pile was blocked off. There is no way to stop people from climbing over and through safety hazards, all that can be done is try to discourage people from doing so which is what we accomplished.

One the way back to the trailhead we encountered two additional tasks that needed to be done. There is a bit of a climb on the far side of the river after which a narrow section of trail has been eroding. While some volunteers worked on moving boulders to establish a rock retaining wall and to fill that in, the rest continued on toward the trailhead and moved one last large boulder off of the trail, then continued on to the trailhead.

While we waited for all volunteers to come in, we broke apart illegal fire rings at Heaton Flats and used our McLeod tools to rake the ash in an effort ti discourage people from setting illegal ground fires.

After that we were done for the day! Everything got accomplished which is always very satisfying. We returned to the Rincon Fire Station, inspected and put away our tools, and a fun time was had by all!

* CCC and San Antonio College students filling in along rocks
* One of the new temporary river crossings
* Finishing a section filled in and re-established
* CCC and Trailbuilders Joshua
* Fill being taken from the river bed and then the river bed is cleaned up
* Access through the cliff face boulder pile has been blocked off
* Volunteers working on establishing the trail on the far side of the river
* A look at the river during low tide :)
* At the end of the day returning to the trailhead
* Hiukers cross one of the new temporary river crossings
* Meeting at Heaton Flats for the daily JHA safety meeting
* Meeting at Heaton Flats for the daily JHA safety meeting
* Meeting at Heaton Flats for the daily JHA safety meeting
* Meeting at Heaton Flats for the daily JHA safety meeting
* Working on the wood steps and the erosion at the trailhead
* Volunteers on the trail
* A look up a side canyon where water usually comes down
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* CCC carrying in boulders for the soil retaining wall
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* A wider look at the first major work effort for the day
* At the cliff face on the first approach
* View from across the river at the volunteers working near the cliff face
* Volunteers crossing one of the new temporary river crossings
* Hikers crossing one of the new temporary river crossings
* View from across the river at the volunteers working near the cliff face
* A look at the rover and the rock on the far side
* One very large boulder that came out of nowhere :)
* Volunteers sitting under the large boulder
* Two of the CCC crews sitting on the boulder they're about to move
* Lots of hikers came out today, it was almost like Summer
* Some of the trail on the way to the cliff face
* Volunteers walking on the trail
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* Back at the first major effort filling in the trail
* A look at the river
* I work with two CCC crews to bring down the hillside and restore the trail
* I work with two CCC crews to bring down the hillside and restore the trail
* Across the river volunteers work on establishing the new trail segment
* Volunteers cross one of the new temporary river crossings
* Part of the new trail that affords access to the first new river crossing
* Another look at how the first use trail through the boulders was blocked off
* Another look at the volunteers working on the cliff face side of the river
* At the end of the day hiking back to the trailhead
* At the end of the day hiking back to the trailhead
* Volunteers sitting under the big boulder
* You can kind of see how the area becomes a meadow in some places
* A good look at the plants and the river of the canyon
* A look at the section of the trail created on the far side of the river
* A look at the section of the trail created on the far side of the river
* On the hike back, a point where people's feet still get wet
* On the hike back, a point where people's feet still get wet
* Safety meeting at Heaton Flats, different camera used this time
* Moving boulders from the trail on the way
* Moving boulders from the trail on the way
* Moving boulders from the trail on the way
* Hillside bring brought down so the trail can be re-established
* Hillside bring brought down so the trail can be re-established
* Boulders being moved off of the trail, fill being brought in
* More fill brought in
* Many buckets of sand and dirt were brought in to level the trail here
* A good look at the effort, you can see how much of the hillside was brought down
* Sand was taken from the river bed and then the river was cleaned up
* Good look at the effort and how well the fill went
* Hiker asks if I would take his photograph!
* Another good look at the effort, see how much dirt brought down
* The sand here is about 2 feet deep
* Meanwhile a major boulder still needs to br shoved out of the way
* We call in for some heavy backup :)
* This boulder is stubborn but eventually goes over
* Just needs a little more effort
* Done! The boulder has been removed, time to rest just a bit
* Trailbuilder Bob examines the lay of the trail next to the river
* The riverbed gets dressed up, San Antonio College students!
* The trail section wher ethe huge boulder was removed gets cleaned up
* Signs get posted on the approach to the cliff face boulder field
* Access to the boulder pile gets blocked off in a number of places
* Hikers cross the river
* Hikers cross the river
* More blocking is done and the trail turns right to cross the river
* The second new temporary river crossing, mostly rock and dead trees
* A section of the new trail on the far side of the river
* A section of the new trail on the far side of the river
* A section of the new trail on the far side of the river
* A section of the new trail on the far side of the river
* A better look at the first new temporary river crossing
* A better look at the first new temporary river crossing
* The two new crossings means that most people will get a little wet
* Another look at the dry crossing that was added at one of the approaches
* Another look at the dry crossing that was added at one of the approaches
* Another look at the dry crossing that was added at one of the approaches
* At the cliff face the volunteers pause to get everyone together again
* People fishing along the river, actually catching fish!
* Volunteers hiking back to the trailhead at the end of the day
* Volunteers hiking back to the trailhead at the end of the day
* Another look at the boulder I tried to help with :)

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map
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