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A day at the lake

On the menu:
* Downed trees across the trail removed
* Rock retaining wall built
* Heavy brush cut back and removed
* Litter cleaned up
* Spray paint removed from signs
* Crystal Lake stairs cleaned off
* Drainage culvert cleared out
* Answered people's questions
* Deer sighted along Lake Road
* Fish being caught and released
* Massive ant attacks

Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders returned to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area to clear downed trees off of Cedar Canyon Trail however a great deal more work got done than just clearing downfalls!

The Forest Service describes Cedar Canyon Trail as ''The Cedar Canyon Trail is 0.5 miles long. It begins at Clra Access Road and ends at Soldier Creek Trail. The trail is open for the following uses: Hiking.'' (The word Clra is short for ''Crystal Lake Recreation Area'' though it took me a few seconds to ponder it before I figured it out.) What the official web site doesn't mention is the awesome amount of water that flows along Cedar Canyon, nor does it mention anything about the incredible bio-diversity of flora and fauna that can be found in that particular canyon.

Spray painted sign

The day began like most other volunteer days with people meeting at the Gateway Information Center at the base of the mountain. Promptly at 8:00 a.m. we headed North along Highway 39 and up to the Rincon Fire Station across from the Education Center where we collected our tools and equipment before heading further North and in to Crystal Lake.

The trailhead is almost within sight of the turnoff for Crystal Lake off of Highway 39, one can find a fairly large unpaved parking area, park one's vehicles there and then walk up the road maybe 200 feet or so and at a point where the creek crosses under the road, the trailhead begins, heading in to deep trees along the creek.

From there one may hike along the creek for about half of a mile and come out again on the Crystal Lake road perhaps about 500 feet or so short of the Visitor Center. Because Cedar Canyon Trail splits off and joins Soldier Creek Trail, one can turn left at the Y and take Soldier Creek until it comes out at the open air amphitheater which also meets up with Pinyon Ridge Trail.

After the daily safety meeting where the tools and equipment to be used today were discussed and the hazards of the local flora and fauna were covered, we set our feet on the trail and got to work.

Cleaned up sign

Trailbuilder Lou stared taking apart a berm on the side of the trail that was channeling water down the trail causing erosion while at the same time saving out the large rocks so that he could build a long retaining wall on the hill side of the trail. The rocks were fitted together snugly and interlocking so that the wall should hold back the hillside for many years to come, if not decades.

While that was going on the Trailbuilders worked on using a chainsaw on the downed trees across the trail while cutting back the trees and brush growing on to the trail, working the tread to remove tree limbs, plants, pine cones and rocks to the point where the first leg of the trail was eventually cleaned up and made passable.

The oak trees that are down across the trail were cut up and cleaned up enough that passage is possible however much of the trees leaning over the trail still need to be pulled down with a griphoist so that it can be safely bucked. The Trailbuilders safety codes require that saws not be lifted above the shoulders so projects like this one require safety ropes and at times additional heavy equipment to bring the work down to where it can be safely performed.

While that was going on I headed to the Golden Cup Nature Trail to remove spray paint from the nature signs along the looping trail. Once that mess was cleaned off I headed to the lake and removed the spray paint from the sign down by the bottom of the stairs.

Along the way I noticed that the stairs themselves were inundated with rock, dirt, gravel, pine needles, and pine cones and that the stone drainage culvert was entirely clogged with dense gravel, sand, pine needles, branches, and pine cones. A real mess that was causing water and dirt to back up and flow over the edge of the culvert, flooding the stair landings and the steps themselves.

Clogged drainage culvert

People were catching fish and releasing them in the early morning hours which was surprising since I had thought that all of the fish had been removed by now. Around Noon or so the fish were no longer interested in eating what the humans were feeding them and so stopped biting. Also there were many people enjoying the lake, throwing sticks in for dogs to swim in and fetch, and a few people getting their feet wet.

Once the spray paint was removed I joined up with the Trailbuilders and saw that a great deal of trail had been cleared and that the major blockage of interlocked downed trees had been cleaned up to the point where people could pass it. That downfall was left locked solidly in place for the time being yet next week a Grip Hoist will be used along with a chainsaw to bring the blockage down to the ground safely for final removal.

While the Trailbuilders worked on the trail they picked up and collected the occasional litter. Even though the trail was blocked in places, people still continued to climb over, under, or around blockages and still managed to drop their beer bottles along the way.

Drainage culvert cleared

At one point where I was using loppers to remove as much of a downfall as the tool could handle, I managed to get covered in killer ants, huge black ants that swarmed all over and started biting. I got my shirt off quickly and started swatting myself and jumping around and while normally I would be screaming about that time I was simply too tired and merely slapped myself and jumped a lot until most of the ants had been vanquished.

After I was free from ants I returned to the downfall and resumed removing what I could only to once again get covered in ants which made me go through the whole process again: off with the shirt, jumping around, swatting myself, all that happy exercise. Since that wasn't working out so well after I got the ants off the second time I moved on and cut back brush further up the trail, this time while avoiding more ants.

When 13:00 came, we put aside the chainsaw since the day's Job Hazard Analysts showed the Angeles National Forest right on the edge of requiring all engine-powered tools to stop being used by 13:00. Though the JHA technically allowed us to continue past that time cut-off, we always error on the side of caution and stopped anyway. Safety first!!!

Rock wall

We continued to work until around 14:00 and then packed up and headed to Crystal Lake to clear the blocked drainage culvert and clear off the stairs. Both jobs were far more work that expected since the stairs themselves cover a lot of ground and all of them needed to be shoveled and raked off, and the blocked culvert was literally full of debris that required a great deal of effort to clear.

The stairs could be cleared by shoveling the material and throwing it in to the shallow ravine along the side of the stairs. The drainage culvert required that all of the material be raked toward the end of the culvert and then get picked up with a shovel and then thrown a short distance since the culvert follows the stairs and we couldn't simply shovel it all on to the stairs.

Around past 16:00 the stairs and the culvert were cleaned out and the bucked-up sections of tree trunk that is still left on the first stair landing were moved out of the way so that people can use the bench there.

Then we were done! We packed up and headed back to the Visitor Center, seeing a number of deer along the way, then we split up, some of us heading home, the rest of us heading back to Rincon to examine our tools and put them away until next time.

Stairs cleared

And what fun it was, too! The hardest part of the day for me was cleaning out the blocked culvert. In order to rake the dirt, sand, gravel, and pine materials out of the culvert one often had to stand astride the culvert and rake which quickly made me sore enough to down a handful of aspirin and drink lots of water.

Looking at the stairs themselves, the harder job was getting them all cleaned off. Some of the stones in the stairs have become lose and it seems likely that the Trailbuilders will return with some glue to set them in place solidly once again.

A great deal of work got accomplished today, the Trailbuilders managed to make Cedar Canyon Trail useable once again and made good progress on cutting back brush and uprooting plant growth along the trail -- the major objective for the day. But in addition to that the added effort of clearing the stairs and drainage culvert at the lake itself was a bonus and many people walking the stairs during the effort were very appreciative of the work -- which is one of the reasons why we do it!

Oak trees down on Cedar Canyon

* Cedar Creek blockage before work begins
* After the blockage has been greatly reduced
* Chainsaws some times refuse to work for a while and need loving care
* The group pauses to rest after clearing off the stairs at Crystal Lake
* A good look at the oak trees blocking Cedar Canyon Trail
* Spray painted Golden Cup Nature Trail sign before cleaning
* Sign after cleaning -- everthing came off just fine
* Spray painted Crystal Lake information sign before cleaning
* Sign after cleaning -- Took about 1 hour to get it all cleaned off
* People throwing sticks in to the lake for the dog to fetch
* Arf! Swimming to retrieve the thrown stick
* Fetching sticks can be a lot of hard work
* Yikes! Drainage culvert at Crystal Lae is completely filled in!
* The stairs are also covered in rock, dirt, pine needles and cones
* Over on Cedar Canyon Trail the first major obstruction gets cleaned up
* Water along Cedar Canyon Trail continues to flow in high volume
* Other smaller trail blockages get addresses on Cedar Canyon Trail
* Lots of blockages can be cleaned up with loppers but need a saw to come in
* Volunteers cutting back the brush and working on the trail tread
* Some of the dense brush gets removed for several hundred feet
* We pause for a quick lunch around 2:00 p.m. in the shade by the water
* Lou creates an awesome rock retaining wall to hold back the hillside
* The sign at the entrance to Crystal Lake
* After an hour of hard work, the drainage culvert at Crystal Lake almost clear
* More difficult work gets the stairs cleaned off
* The drainage culvert is finally cleared out -- whew! That was difficult!
* The difficult effort to clear the stairs was also successful

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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