Rocks get removed

Some volunteer days just seem to roll along quickly with a lot of progress being done smoothly and today we couldn't have asked for a better day to do some repair on the first half mile or so of the Lower Monroe Truck trail! The morning was cold but once we got going things warmed up and we got a lot of work done.

We had a professional Trailbuilder named George join us for the day who cleared a long section of brush from the trail's first major choke point, and a bicycle rider coming up the trail (on a very expensive bike) told us that the trail looks so much better than yesterday. Ha! Maybe some of the hikers and bikers that use the trail ditch work on Friday.

The trail itself is heavily used with bicycle riders and hikers and I'm always glad to see children walking in the mountains since that's time spent away from the television, game boxes, and this here Internet. Exercise! Reasonably clean air! All good stuff.

We met down at the Ranch Market on the corner of 9'th and Azusa Blvd., getting a good look at the neat wooden box that Tom made (see photographs) to store some Trailbuilders tools in. The box is very professional with segmented compartments, all pieces of wood expertly fitted and perfectly aligned. Some of us have some talent! That tool box should last a hundred years so long as we don't haul it up a mountain and drop it on the rocks 500 feet below.

Drainage block gets removed

Most of us headed up to the Rincon Fire Station to gather the tools and equipment we would be using today. There is a fairly lengthy list of things that should be done on Monroe TT so we prioritized a bit, grabbing chainsaws and assorted materials, McLouds, picks, shovels, some loppers, and then we drove back down the mountain to the trailhead (North 34 10.011 by West 117 50.031 at 1374 feet.)

Brush was cut back from the start of the trail where the trail was getting rather narrow, and a couple of rocks that were in the middle of the trail and were easily removed got yanked out and the path smoothed over. Since much of the lower trail is all rocky stream bottom, yanking out those two rocks probably didn't help much but at least it warmed us up some before the more difficult work started.

The hung-up tree across the trail took some time to buck up and remove. Since the segments make perfect chairs to rest on the bucked sections were dragged off the trail and then stood on end to provide chairs (in fact we used them to sit on while we had lunch.)

With that done we headed back down the trail and took another look at a snarl of tree limbs and debris we had passed that was blocking the stream causing stagnant water to stack up and pool on the trail. The Lower Monroe Truck Trail crosses the stream in a lot of places but always the water is flowing -- except in two places.

Trail widened and flattened

Someone had come through previously some years back and had bucked up a tree, probably because it was blocking the trail. The tree limbs had been stacked along the side of the trail right across the stream, forming a bit of a dam that was blocking water flow off of the trail.

The San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders will often proactively take care of problems that are either starting to become issues or will be an issue when heavy rains come, so we cut up the blockage, hauled the dripping remains up and down the trail and dumped everything out of the way. Jeanette reworked the debris, rocks, and mud to re-open the water flow and that got the drainage working once again.

Tom and George went on ahead and while George started clearing out the first major choke point, Tom started removing the first major mud slide not too far up the trail. The dirt removed from the slide was relocated about 20 feet down the trail to fill in a dip in the trail. That looked like a lot of hard work so while Tom worked on that I tackled another clogged water drainage just a few feet up the trail from where Tom was working.

The second stagnant water pool on the trail was caused by heavy growth of what we think is a non-native, invasive species of plant. It kind of resembles bamboo only without the strong central column. Though the growth was heavy and causing debris to stack up, the plants themselves were easily removed since their roots were in soil that was basically very wet mud.

Tom removes mud slice

We all strung ourselves out along the first half mile of trail, cutting back brush, trimming plants that slap bicycle riders in the face, and generally widening the trail in places to make more room for hikers and bikers, trying to improve safety and visibility so that people can see fast moving bicycle riders from a distance.

A man and woman came up with two young kids, carrying water from the stream to water a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga, I think maybe) which they then placed decorations on (photograph offered below.) The tree was maybe 18 inches high and off the trail in a good place, someone they had apparently planted recently. I hope for the tree's sake and for the children's sake that the tree takes root and grows.

While Tom, Phil, and Ben worked on removing the big mud slide I headed further up the trail to the big rock slide, passing George who was continuing to remove brush from the first big choke point.

I sat on a big boulder in the center of the rock slide and rested while picking up rocks and throwing them over the side off of the trail. That worked pretty well just sitting there since every now and then more rocks from further up the pile would slide down to within reach. Eventually things stopped coming to me so I had to stand back up and drag bigger boulders over the edge.

Rock slide gets removed

After the large mud slide further below had been completely removed, the team working on that came up to where I was and we made short work of the rock slide. Since I had forgotten my back pack and water down below, they were nice enough to carry it up for me!

That was it for the day though we had accomplished a great deal. I don't think that any of the clogged drainage culverts got cleared this time out, nor did any of the invasive plants such as the fig trees and castor bean plants get removed.

We got a good start on doing the first real maintenance the trail has seen in several years, perhaps since the 2002 Williams Fire. The trail is well loved by local people, and a police car parked at the trailhead followed by what looked to be some kind of parks service vehicle was a welcome sign.

The cop stationed below meant that the oh-how-I-hate-them motorcycle morons that usually race up and down Glendora Mountain Road causing accidents, injuries, and noise were missing for most of the day. Once the cop was gone (around 2:00 p.m. or so) then the asshole motor cycle assholes came back, bringing their noise, stink, and typical criminal irresponsibility with them. Makes me angry.

Rock slide removed

The next time volunteers take to the Lower Monroe TT we will continue to remove the growth that cause the trail to narrow, finishing George's work and then we will tackle the next narrow choke point up near where the huge dogbone retaining wall is.

If there is time the next volunteer day hopefully we can start hacking up and removing the growth and dirt from the drainage culverts, maybe numbering them in order of priority to clear out those that threaten to undermine the trail first more than the others.

Two big projects would remain after that. One of the drainage culverts was badly undermined to the point where the culvert isn't working at all. Every time it rains more dirt is excavated from under the drainage pipe with the intake end of things eating further and further in to the trail.

That's a real bad problem.

If that's not taken care of eventually the trail will be completely cut through and the drainage pipe itself could work lose and slide down the hillside. We could use a grip hoist to haul the long heavy pipe back up the hill (one inch at a time!) but the underlying problem needs to be fixed. We have to haul in a lot of rock, boulders, and dirt to fill in under the drain and we need to make sure that water flows through the pipe, not under it.

Brush cut back and removed

The other major problem is a big dip in the trail that drops about 4 or 5 feet, the result of water apparently springing off of a cliff face right across the trail. We might put a pipe in there with baskets filled with rock to fill in the whole thing, something that should only take an hour or so. LOL!

Actually that job is something we will have to think a lot about since while we're working on it the trail itself has to be useable to hikers and bikers. We can block the trail for short periods of time while we do potentially dangerous things (like dragging boulders around with a grip hoist) but we have to keep the trail open.

Also we might consider trying to slow the water down before it reaches the lip of the cliff face from which it comes. We could drill boulders up above and use rebar to anchor them so that water flowing down crashes in to the boulders, driving the water upwards to reduce the force before it flows off the cliff face rather than arcing out over the cliff face and on to the trail.

Whatever we do, it should be as fun as today was. These volunteer things are great exercise and a wonderful way to get out of the stinking city. It always seems silly to me to see exercise facilities like "L. A. Fitness" that have packed parking lots, people paying to run treadmills when there are perfectly good trails to hike or to work on like this.

I mean what can compare to the sights, the fresh air, the sheer fun of what we do on weekends?!

* Really neat wood box that Tom made
* This is the inside of the tool case that Tom made
* At Rincon we look at the ice-covered bridge that we built
* We examined the packed fill. None of it washed away! Damn, we're good!
* At the trailhead we strap on the tools and equipment
* The first set of rocks removed from the trail
* The tree down across the trail
* Hey! There's Bernie! Bernie is removing brush and limb away from the tree
* Many of the limbs have been removed to make bucking up the tree safer
* The first cut drops the tree to the ground
* I start working on this section of the trail
* Further down the trail after the tree has been bucked we clear a blockage
* Before the blockage is removed we examine the problem
* Stagnant water pooling on the trail constitutes a problem
* Rather than haul the long tree limbs away, we cut it all up first
* We're about half way done with that so I pause to take a photograph
* Two children plant a tree! I hope that this takes root and grows
* I finish the section I started on some time ago
* Lunch time! Plenty of seating, no waiting
* The white dot center right is George. Difficult to see
* Tom has been relocating a lot of the mud slide already
* A stagnant pool of water is a problem that needs to be cleaned up
* Look at what George has been able to do. A whole lot of brush removed
* The upper rock slide gets removed from the trail
* Taking a look up the trail a bit
* The rock slide has been completely removed from the trail
* We head back down the mountain, pretty much finished for the day
* I trail behind to cut a few more plants, other volunteers center left
* More of George's brush work. This whole section was almost completed
* Jeanette has gotten the water to flow where the mud slide was removed
* And a final look at where the mud slide was. Trail looks great!

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