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In case you want to bring up Google Earth or some other tool, the GPS coordinates for the middle of the trail effort today are approximately North 34 degrees, 19.292 by West 117 degrees, 51.066 at 6293 feet.

Ben of the Trailbuilders gives a safety run-down

Today was day number 4 of the Islip Ridge Trail restoration project, and while the day's effort was not as hot as the first day, it was hot enough!

According to Bron of the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders the trail was originally completed in 1998, and the Los Angels Times reported that the Grand Opening was held on September 26, 1998.

In the aftermath of the Curve Fire of September 2002 (also see more photographs) the trail has not been used for eight years and prior to the closure the trail had only been in use for four years. With the Bark Beetle infestation and the Curve Fire, there were literally over a hundred trees and large branches down across the trail before this restoration effort started.

The day's effort began early for everyone with Boy Scouts joining the Trailbuilders at the Gateway Information Center around 7:00 a.m. where-after we most of us headed North to the Rincon Fire Station. Jeanette of the Trailbuilders stayed at the Gateway to pick up any late-arrivals before heading North to meet up with the rest of the team.

While waiting at the Gateway parking lot, the Boy Scouts provided breakfast in the form of charred and mangled animal flesh covered in rotting cow milk served on a toasted bun. Yummy!

The Trailbuilders enjoyed the morning breakfast which, in addition to the fore-mentioned delectable delight, there was granola bars, apples, and coffee which got the volunteer crews off to a good start!

Volunteers use rock bars to leverage bucked sections off of trail

Upon reaching Rincon, we dropped Trailbuilders Christopher and Bryan off at the Environmental Education Center across the street from the fire station so that they could complete their CPR and Delayed Medical Response First Aid training which is mandatory training for all volunteers who operate chainsaws on Federal public lands, including here in the San Gabriel Mountains.

One aspect of safety training, by the way, that certified volunteers acquire is Situational Awareness which is a fascinating field of human behavioral psychology. Combined together with Fatigue Awareness (Power Point file) such training assists in promoting field safety among volunteers and it's very valuable training indeed.

As most readers will have already heard by now one of our fire fighters was sneak-attacked last Wednesday, and while the Fire Prevention Officer sounds like he will pull through, it was another wake-up call for all employees and unpaid volunteers who work and play within the forest to be constantly vigilant, and the annual training afforded by the USFS ensures that updated safety policies and procedures are well disseminated.

After collecting the many McLeod tools, shovels, rock bars, and other equipment we would need for the day, we packed in to our vehicles and headed further north in to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area and the Islip Trail.

Upon getting to the trailhead I did a rough count and decided that there were 22 of us all together -- which was a good number of team members for what we needed to do today. I contacted our Angeles Dispatch Overlords on the radio to let them know where we would be working today and how many of us there would be. Rather than inform them we were in "Crystal Lake" I told them we were on Islip Ridge Trail since that's more definitive a location than the broader Crystal Lake basin.

Yorba Santa growing all over the exposed trail

Angeles told us they got the message and suggested that we have a good day today. I looked at the Sun 92.956 million miles away and considered the growing heat and wondered if any of us would live to see sunset leave alone have a good day but thanked Angeles anyway. (Actually I'm lying. I knew that most of us would live.)

Ben from the Trailbuilders offered the day's detailed safety run-down which covered the various tools that we used and also covered the Project Activity Level (PDF file) for the day. In addition the flora and fauna that constitute a hazard was covered including Poodle Dog Brush as well as the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake which likes to bite people if they feel threatened, get played with, or are surprised.

After the daily safety run-down, the Boy Scouts handed out lunch bags to the Trailbuilders and other volunteers who would be participating in the effort today, and then the volunteers were split in to three teams. Each team was given specific areas of the trail to work on and specific tasks that should be performed on the section they were assigned to.

In addition to teams, lone Trailbuilder volunteers would be working along the trail in among the younger teams.

Because no chainsaw work would be performed today, the fire extinguishers were left behind however we ensured that we had medical kits in each group and each group had at least one radio. We brought up two Crosscut saws which were assigned to two of the teams and ensured that each of those teams had trained and certified volunteers in them to supervise the saws' use.

By the time we got started hiking up the trail, the day was already getting warm, and once we broke out from the shade in to the burn area and in to direct Sunlight, the heat started to be felt. Almost immediately it appeared to me that there could be some difficulty with keeping all of the volunteers well hydrated since at the onset of the day's heat the volunteers in my team were evaluating their water stores.

Many tree limbs are strong-armed off of the trail

This is a good thing! I was very proud to see the younger volunteers talking about and contemplating the amount of water they were using and how much they had left, it is something that well-trained Boy Scouts, hikers, bikers, climbers, fire fighters, and professional volunteers do constantly since it means they're staying aware of a potential safety issue during the day.

Not thinking about or talking about water running low, and not talking about how fatigued one is is something that should be discouraged since potential problems can be averted, and I was happy to note that the team's members were alert and discussing such things openly.

When I run seriously low of water, I'll mention the fact and see who has what and who might be willing to share, and when I have spare water, such as I had today, I hand it out -- which I also did today. It's teamwork and the smart thing to do and I was happy to see the younger volunteers doing it among themselves as well.

Fortunately Eddie (the Boy Scout in charge) had planned for a fairly large amount of water to be back packed up and down the trail during the day's effort so once the team acquired the 'Lunch Area' just about 1.60 miles from the trailhead, the volunteer with the pack filled up and topped-off the team's water containers which was a difficult job in itself since carrying all that water in the cargo pack looked like a hard, hot, exhausting effort in the day's heat.

The team that I was in had the task of carrying two rock bars up the trail as well as carrying McLeods to remove the bark and other obstructions under and around the bucked tree segments that we would remove today. In the first three days of effort done on the trail, downed trees had been bucked and then pretty much left on the trail so that the large number of trees could be sectioned up to be cleared off today.

Amusingly, while walking up the trail our team started shedding tools, the heaviest and least likely to be needed tools were abandoned along the trail hillside for later retrieval. The first tool to go was the heaviest metal rock bar that we had, the one that does not have a D-ring welded to it which makes carrying the tool rather difficult.

Most of the work did not require the crosscut saw, we were able to get tree branches and un-bucked trees off of the trail by lifting and shoving, then the McLeods were used to clean up the area. We used the saw only on one downed tree which the saw cut through sweetly, two of the young volunteers using the double-handed saw which quickly cut through the tree, making the removal off of the trail fairly easy.

Crosscut saw gets used

Along the way I cajoled the volunteers, telling them that I turned 50 years old this month and they, being over 30 years younger, should be leaving me behind rather than me pausing to wait for them to catch up. Ha! It was not fair, of course, since I'm used to the heat and the altitude and, in addition to being incredibly hansom, among other enviable virtues, I'm in pretty good physical shape thanks to volunteering and bicycling as much as I can

Still, I wanted to push them as much as I could since boys may not know what they're capable of achieving until they're pushed, and another difficult day like today might not come their way for years to come. And who knows, maybe it was so much fun some of them will land jobs as fire fighters, and today's hot, difficult effort would be a taste of what wilderness fire fighters endure when they're in the field.

After most of us met at the 'Lunch Area' under a spread of shade about 1.60 miles up, and after we were well rested and well hydrated once again, the teams started heading down again.

Along the way back down the trail the team I was with was asked by the Scout in charge to uproot the endless California Yerba Santa (Word File) plants (see also Eriodictyon for more information on this plant) along the way. Unfortunately only one volunteer from the team I was with stayed with me to uproot plants and I don't know whether the other team members who went on ahead down the trail removed any of them as they returned to the trailhead.

One of the adult Trailbuilder volunteers worked just below the 'Lunch Area' and removed hundreds (if not thousands!) of the plants from a section of the trail, and various sections of the trail one could see had been cleared of the annoying little plants. Another Trailbuilder working just above the one mile mark had also eradicated a large section of the trail of the plant and, looking at the day's effort, as a whole it was a nicely productive day.

What we're left with is a trail whose first 2.25 miles look pretty good. There are no obstructions remaining on the trail along the first 2.25 miles -- and if you consider the fact that eight years have passed since the last maintenance and an infestation and fire came through killing countless trees, that's a good accomplishment for just four accumulate days of volunteer effort on the trail.

It has been four difficult, exhausting days, of course, yet the Trailbuilders alone could not have brought the trail to this level of completion without the efforts of the young volunteers who came up today or the many volunteers who came out previously, they have all really made a difference which will be seen by hikers, horse people, and probably bicycle riders for decades to come.

A Trailbuilder volunteer

On the way down I was able to collect some of the tools that had been abandoned along the way, picking up one of the wonderful double-handled crosscut saws that are a real pleasure to work with. I also collected some empty water bottles that had been dropped and found a radio that had been dropped, adding to the inventory of tools already hung from my pack, no doubt increasing the rugged mountain man image I was shooting for.

Also along the way I let some of the Trailbuilders who were still working hard know that most of us were heading back down and looking forward to the water in the ice chests down below. Trailbuilder Johnathan was way up the trail high above us and I suddenly remembered that I should probably call him on the radio and make sure he also knew we were starting back down.

Upon making it to the trailhead and the vehicles, I set down the saw and dropped everything else in the shade, then asked for help moving the various ice chests in to the shade. After chugging a couple of bottles of ice water, I laid down flat on the asphalt and had a nap while the water melon was carved up and chunks handed out.

Eventually everyone made it down off of the trail and it was time to head down to Rincon, put away the tools after inspecting them (Bron retained an ax with a lose head that he'll be repairing) and then most of the volunteers headed off back down to the stinking, sweltering cities below. (Ben and I stopped by the Crystal Lake fire station to close a door we had found open then we continued on down the mountain.)

After informing our Dispatch Overlords that the Trailbuilders were finished working for the day, Angeles suggested that we have a good evening. I looked at the Westering sun and considered the likelihood that I would have a good evening and since the prospects didn't seem too far fetched I thanked Dispatch and put the radio away for the day.

Trailbuilder Ben and I headed across the street to the Education Center where the medical training was about ten minutes from completion. There were about 24 students in there getting what looked to me (standing outside and gazing in through the window) a really solid medical training session.

While we waited for Christopher and Bryan to be released, Ben reviewed the 8-page Trailbuilder Radio Handbook that had just been written only last week while I cleaned myself up a bit under some running water and became the regional impromptu tour guide.

A long section of the trail completely cleared

The first group of people who asked me questions about the area were in a van that had hoped to find the Off Road Vehicle Area (PDF file) open so that they could purchase an Adventure Pass so they could park and enjoy the coolness of the river for the rest of the evening.

I told them that since the ORV area was closed and no pass-selling place was within some eight or nine miles, and since it was on past 5:00 p.m. already they might consider parking without a pass for the rest of the evening but purchase a pass tomorrow at the Gateway Station to balance things out. If they get ticketed for the evening by a compliance officer, all they need to do is send in the ticket with the five dollars and they'll be good.

The second opportunity to be a tour guide while we waited for the medical training to wrap up was another SUV with people in it looking to find some respite from the day's heat. Joey, he said his name was, had been hoping to find a lake up here and, failing that, find a river where he and his family could cool off in.

He was given a Trailbuilder business card as well as some history on the Crystal Lake closure due to Highway 39 having been damaged in the Curve Fire but I also told him that he could continue on up the highway another two miles and he would see where other people had parked and getting to the river would only be a short hike down a not-to-steep embankment down to the cool water.

With the last of the tour guide assistance offered, I dunked my black bandanna under the water outlet there at the Education Center and fashionably wrapped it around my head until the medical training was done, then we all piled back in to Ben's vehicle and we were officially done for the day!

Eddie did a very good job on getting things organized and getting volunteers to participate in the effort that he was in charge of today. Safety oversight was an A Plus since radios and water was part of his planning and he stayed active and engaged up and down the trail effort, instructing and encouraging his young colleagues to continue the effort despite the heat and difficulty.

Another look at a completely cleared section

There were some volunteers without packs or hats or enough water which was an oversight that admittedly should have been noticed and rectified before leaving Rincon. The Trailbuilders have spare packs and hard hats in theirr supplies so from now on when working in brutal heat we will double check.

Ultimately it appeared to me that everyone had fun, including the younger volunteer who returned to the trailhead early due to the heat and altitude, both of which can make professionals beg off. I hope that the volunteers we had out with the Trailbuilders today return in the Winter months so that they can experience and appreciate the other end of the spectrum.

The next volunteer day is September 4 and it seems likely that it will be day number 5 of this trail restoration effort though nothing is certain. Next Saturday on the 28th is an extensive training day for the professional volunteers in the Angeles National Forest who will be getting their annual safety training.

If you would like to join the Trailbuilders on these efforts, or if you would like to examine what it takes to become a fully trained and certified volunteer with the U. S. Forest Service, you can contact me here at the email address offered below and I will forward to you information on you can get started.

As you can see, it's difficult but fun and rewarding and a great many hikers greatly appreciate the work that you have done and will do in the future. It's an awesome way to exercise and give effort to the wider wilderness community, most of whom will never know who you are and may wonder how the trail they're walking on was built.

Hope to see you on the trails!

Oh: If you have photographs of today's efforts, please let me know so that they can be added to this web site! THANKS!

* Breakfast is served at the Gateway Information Center
* Ben offers the daily safety run-down
* Notice that some McLeods are on the ground with tangs sticking up. Yikes!
* Rock bars are used to leverage bucked trees off of the trail
* Rock bars are used to leverage bucked trees off of the trail
* At the next tree down across the trail
* The Yorba Santa along the trail is growing a whole lot in sunight areas
* Actual mile point 1 is shown with this piece of tree limb nailed to a trunk
* Many tree limbs blocked the trail. Volunteers strong-arm them pff the trail
* Crosscut saw is used with firm footing and safety oversight
* A section of shade along the way is a good place to cool off
* One of our awesome Trailbuilder volunteers at the Lunch Area
* Eddie is the Scout in charge of the day's effort -- at the Lunch Area
* Along the trail the team I'm with pause to rest on the wooden bench
* Another awesome volunteer -- take a lok at the clean section of trail!
* Much brush is growing in to the trail. Loppers cut some of it back
* A volunteer removing Yorba Santa from the trail and removing the berm
* A section of completly cleared trail -- looks really nice and open
* Much of the trail is on open and exposed saddle which looks like this
* On the way down a volunteer pauses in the shade to cool off before continuing
* Almost to the bottom, one can see Crystal Lake from just off of the trail

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.

E-Mail Crystal Lake Camp Ground