Photographs and a video are provided at the bottom of this web page.

Going through equipment

Greetings, everyone on the Internets! It was another wonderful day volunteering in the Angeles National Forest, and with a large crew of Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts, a lot of good work was done on the hiking trail.

When I was told that webelos would be joining us today, I had no idea what that was and thought that we were going to be using some kind of pack animal to help haul tools up the trail. In fact I wasn't far wrong: We had about 50 or 60 young volunteers, a good number of adults, some older and younger sisters, members of the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, and (if I'm not mistaken!) at least one member of the Angeles Volunteer Association today.

The Upper trail head is located at the Valley of the Moon just above Coldbrook Campgrounds, just where the U. S. Forest Service gate (actually belongs to Caltrans) closes highway 39 which leads all the way up into the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. Though the trail was restored by a contractor some years ago, routine maintenance needs to be done from time to time and today the first mile or so got cleaned up quite a bit.

First section

Upper Bear Creek Trail is a very popular hiking trail. It heads up to Smith Saddle, heads down into the designated wilderness, loops around generally South West, and meets up with West Fork Road something like 6 miles or so down below. Families can use the trail and camp along it because the trail is safe and relatively easy despite there being very little shade for the first four miles or so. It's a good over night hiking and camping experience to use that trail, in fact.

Tom and I collected tools down at the Rincon Fire Station and then headed up to Valley of the Moon where everyone else was staging up for the day. Ben gave a safety orientation talk and a demonstration with the tools that would be used while I ran around with my camera and laptop computer.

Boy Scouts got to pick their tools of choice first with McLouds, shovels, and picks being the most usual tools we had brought with us. Webelos got to select tools from what remained and then adults got to sort though what was left (well, actually the professional Trailbuilders yoiked tools first while nobody was looking.)

Next section

It was a busy day, not only for the volunteers but also for hikers. In the first three hours or so I believe there were ten hikers that came through, all of them thanking the Scouts from time to time for the great work they were doing. Since I'm always looking for volunteers, I joke with hikers about grabbing a tool and joining us and surprisingly on rare occasion a hiker will if only to see what it's like. (None joined us today.)

The Scouts were great! They did a HUGE amount of work, supervised by an adult or two, and the professional Trailbuilders got to do the work we wanted to do without having to worry too much about safety, boys throwing rocks at each other, or other naughty boy stuff -- the young volunteers today were focused, highly energetic, and worked hard on the trail.

It looked to me as if everyone had fun. I know I did! I always enjoy seeing kids get out of the damned stinking cities and get up into the mountains like this, and doing exercise, helping out like this in our National Forests is a very good thing to do, I think.

We didn't go far -- just short of one mile up the trail. There was certainly enough work to keep everyone busy with clearing off the rock and dirt slides, removing the berms along the trail which channel rain water and erodes the trail, and moving rocks around and such.

Spreading out

The next time a work crew comes up, we'll be able to hike to the next s ection and work on it without having to spend any time (or very little time, any way) on the first mile.

Interestingly a table was carried up and hot chocolate was provided for those who wanted it. The day wasn't nearly as cold as it had been the week previously when volunteers worked at the Environmental Education Center down below. Further up the mountain, around past 4000 feet there was snow but where we worked it was warm -- more so when in direct Sunlight.

Also interestingly, a number of the hikers that walked past us were packed up with gear for spending the night. Night time temperatures probably attained lows of around 25F degrees but if their sleeping equipment stays dry tonight, the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team should not need to be called upon to locate their frozen remains, pack them up, and helicopter them out. It looked like tonight will be dry.

We stopped working fairly early -- early for the professional Trailbuilders crews who usually work until the point where we don't have to put our tools away in the dark. But the amount of work that got done today was phenomenal, one of the better, most productive volunteer days that I've seen.

Maybe the cool temperature helped. In the Summer I spend time between picking and shoveling to drink water and rest and likely half the time I spend volunteering in Summer months is used trying to keep from passing out and avoiding heat stroke. Today was cool enough that the volunteers -- energetic kids and all the adults -- got to work steadily so a lot of work got accomplished.

Flatening Trail

Down below again we broke for a quick lunch, took some group photographs (sitting on the closed gate; don't tell Caltrans!) and then getting some Scout patches and things handed out to the volunteers who had achieved them.

You know, another thing: The adults for the most part once again pretty much stepped aside and let the kids organize and do things their own way. That, I think, also accounts for the good amount of work that got accomplished. I've seen Troop 1210's parents do this before and it seems to me to be a good idea, one that works. Kids know what to do, know what needs to be done (when told) and can usually figure out on their own how to do it.

After the group photographs the Trailbuilders packed up and left the Scouts and the most of the adults up there. We headed back down to Rincon Station, packed away the tools, picked through the metal junk pile for treasure, and then headed back down the mountain.

On the way down we drove slowly past another common phenomena we encounter routinely: Another motorcycle down call-out with medical response and fire crews picking up the pieces. (I couldn't see whether the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team was working that crash.)

Every week end around 100 or more motorcycle idiots, if I may say so, come screaming up and down the canyon highway at high speeds, leaned over, without any regard for anyone else's health or safety. Nearly every week end at least one will crash and about ten or twenty percent of those will die (the reason is because they have a 33 percent chance of launching off into the ravine below, a 33 percent chance of ramming into the cliff face, or a 33 percent chance of sliding along the highway or running into another car, bicyclist, or hiker until they stop.)

Higher up the highway there were numerous motorcycle riders stopped along the side of the road. Down around the crash there were another large number of motorcycle riders sitting on the side of the road, waiting to hear whether their fellow rider would live, and I wonder whether any of them will learn the lesson or whether I'll (probably) see them racing up and down again next week end.

Flatening Trail

It should be interesting to see what the young volunteers take with them from these projects. They're doing real, serious, difficult work in the wilderness and they're making a positive impact for hikers and campers who use these trails. I hope that the kids realize how much visitors to the forest appreciate their efforts. I certainly appreciate what they do!

I hope some of the Scouts who worked here today read this because the work they did improved the safety of the trail and in doing so it means that there's an ever lower chance of someone injuring themselves on the trail. By removing rock and dirt slides, hikers don't have to swing out over the drop-offs to get around them, and that makes their hiking day safer.

Injuries require medical call-outs (and some times air-lifts) and volunteers working on these trails improving safety means that the professional medical crews and rescue teams out there can concentrate on vehicle accidents like the one we passed today.

A broken leg on the trail can happen at the same time that a car over the side can happen, and cars over the side usually have pretty disastrous medical issues that are high priority. Reduce the safety hazards on hiking trails and that lowers the window of risk that medical crews will be on the trail when they're needed somewhere else with more serious problems.

I hope that these young volunteers realize that.

So good job, everyone. Fun, exercise, community involvement and service, improving safety, making hiking enjoyable, and everyone benefits from this kind of volunteer work.


* The day begins at Rincon Fire Station. I take a look at rock smugglers
* Ha! Just for fun. Somebody loading up rocks from the river bed
* Any way, we get to Valley of the Moon where the volunteers are waiting
* Some of the volunteers are examining the area where tree planting was done
* Numerous pine saplings had previously been planted out there by volunteers
* We are at the area where the Forest Service gate is located
* More volunteers waiting along the road for the work to begin
* We had around 50 to 60 volunteers so we had a lot of cars today
* Tom's pickup has the tools we will be using on the hiking trail
* [X] Bernie on the right as volunteers gather their equipment
* Volunteers get their own backpacks, water, and things ready to hike up
* A sign-up sheet is passed around to make sure everyone signed the form
* There are a number of older and younger sisters with the Scouts today
* Scouts stepping through their backpacks before the safety meeting
* Scouts stepping through their backpacks before the safety meeting
* Troop 1210 trail work. Hike with care -- sign
* We start to gather around Ben's general area for the safety meeting
* We start to gather around Ben's general area for the safety meeting
* We start to gather around Ben's general area for the safety meeting
* Several of these photographs I took are washed out in the Sun glare
* This photograph is pretty badly washed out
* One of the volunteers remembered to bring his sunglasses! That helps
* And we're still waiting to get things going
* [X] Ben shades his eyes while volunteers wait to get going
* One lone volunteer sits on the far side of the highway
* The safety meeting gets started and I wal up the road for a photograph
* Alan has joined us on the trail today. He usually volunteers alone
* This highway is closed at this point. Another 8 miles to Crystal Lake
* There is a weather relay station located at this area as well
* Ben goes through the safety meeting as volunteers gather closer
* Most of the volunteers are in the area for the safety meeting
* I try to get some photographs of all of today's volunteers
* Everyone should have gloves. We have enough for everyone
* More closeup photographs of volunteers
* Ben describes what the McLoud is usually used for
* During the safety meeting everyone pays close attention, I noticed
* More safety meeting photographs
* Ben covers the fairly sharp picks that we will also be using today
* Ben notes that the kind of work we do doesn't need over-the-head swinging
* Tom and Alan aren't paying attention to the safety meeting! Um, guys...
* Great photograph: Tom and Alan, excellent volunteers
* Ben is doing something as the safety meeting continues
* Ben is doing something else as the safety meeting continues
* And the lone volunteer across the highway is still there
* Ben asks if there are any questions about safety related issues
* Then someone reminds Ben that we should consider the animals in the area
* Badly washed out photograph
* A young volunteer with a very sharp tool ready to hike up the trail
* Other volunteers have their tools as well and are ready to hike up
* Some of the volunteers have water containers on their backs
* Badly washed out. Shouldering packs while holding trail tools
* And I try to get photographs of people I haven't gotten so far
* After Boy Scouts, Webelos select the tools they will be using
* And tom and Alan stand waiting to get going as well
* We start hiking up the trail
* A look at the remaining Webelos, Scouts, and adults down below for now
* The trail is in pretty good shape for the first quarter mile or so
* Badly washed out. The pine trees that burned across the way are growing
* Taking a look back, some late arivals work up the trail
* And looking forward, the volunteers start to spread out a bit
* You can see the kind of country that we're working in and part of the trail
* Excellent photograph: The first working section and volunteers
* Pockets of work crews form up and break apart as slides get cleared off
* Another good look at the general condition of the trail
* A look at the main work section from higher altitude as I scout above
* And another look at the work crews from still higher as I scout some
* Looking back at the Valley of the Moon parking area from up above
* Ad one more look at the main work area from still higher up
* I return to the working areas as volunteers hike up further
* The completed section down below looks great!
* Badly washed out: A young volunteer and an adult work the trail
* This photograph of the volunteer and the yucca bush didn't turn out well
* Great photograph: The second main work area
* Two volunteers, one with a radio
* A look back once again down across the areas that have been worked
* The volunteer with the sunglasses got photographed more than others. Ha!
* And another good photograph of the general working area
* Areas that have been worked show up with moist soil showing dark brown
* Going further up the trail
* And further up there trail some more. The trail's in good shape
* Tightening the gloves -- I got stabbed by yucca so gloves are useful
* An adult volunteer
* Two girls working with shovel and McLoud, Tom in the background
* At one of the switchbacks
* Looking backwards a bit
* From above thenext swirtch back I take a look at the work below
* Eventually we get to the point where the work area ends
* Good photograph: I like this photograph. Digging up a metal rod
* Pick and shovel was used to remove a metal rod that tripped hikers
* And the work continues from above where the metal rod was removed
* The side of the mountain is a good place to sit and rest with adults work
* It's still very dry up here despite the rains of this past week
* I take a look across the ravines along the long hiking trail
* This section of the trail looks great after being worked
* You can see how the hiking trail winds around and around the area
* That road in the distance is actually a very long fire access roasd
* This section needs some work however we won't get to all slides today
* A lone volunteer carries a tool down a section that has been cleared
* A lone volunteer carries a tool down a section that has been cleared
* It's starting to be about time for hot chocolate
* And in fact many of the volunteers up higher pause for chocolate
* I look for anyone I might not have gotten photographs of yet
* A table was used with a stove to make hot chocolate
* Another look down at the large parking area below
* As I walk past, this volunteer threatens to shove me over the side!
* Jackets and sweaters some off and get packed up since it's warm
* Taking a break with hot chocolate
* Further below, crews continue to work while most take a break
* Can't see him but a lone volunteer rests in the sun far below
* Meanwhile, shifting the dirt and rocks continues up above
* Badly washed out: At a switchback
* You can see the highway and how the trail overlooks it at the start
* Hum, not much work being done in this photograph, any way
* In this photograph you can just barely make out the volunteer resting
* Alan looks for rocks for the switchback then works the trail some more
* San Gabriel Granite -- highly friable, a disaster to build roads on
* Broken photograph: I sneak up on two volunteers
* Tool, hat, water, gloves, jacket -- everything needed for the day
* By this time many of us are packed up and about to start heading down
* I get a couple more volunteers on camera I haven't gotten yet
* Packs are shouldered and some of us head down the mountain
* Excellent photograph: I really like this photo. Drink, shovel, hat
* Volunteers gazing at the parking area below
* I think maybe two volunteers far in the distance might be a bit unsafe
* Bernie on the left, Ben center, Scout right -- at the hot chocolate table
* I turn around, get another photograph, still think someone's unsafe
* So I head down the trail a bit
* [X] One of our volunteers
* And I think that maybe these volunteers should not have climbed up there
* A look at the highway below and the regrowing pine trees that burned
* The two volunteers who I thought were a bit unsafe are asked to come down
* This section of a switch back gets some major attention
* I climb below to burry a heavy sheet of iron that fell with dirt and rocks
* Good photograph: Three volunteers and a retaining wall
* Badly washed out: You can see the type of metal I burried on the left
* The trail gets filled in with dirt on the switchback above
* Yes, some how this volunteer got more photographs than anybody else!
* Excellent photograph: Ah, sunglasses. I like this photo
* Excellent photograph: Kids with tools means work might be acomplished
* An adult volunteer wals quickly past
* And other volunteers take a look at the work that was done in this area
* As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* Badly washed out: As volunteers head down, I take some more photographs
* At the switchback the remaining crew volunteers finally pack it up
* Tom takes up the last position to scan for left tools or lost equipment
* I look back at the switchback
* As we walk down, I take some more photographs
* A Scout turns in borrowed work gloves
* And it's lunch time!
* And it's lunch time!
* And it's lunch time!
* [X] Two volunteers. Bernie is on the right
* Gathering for a group photograph
* Excellent photograph: Group picture
* Excellent photograph: Group picture
* Excellent photograph: Group picture
* Excellent photograph: Group picture
* Excellent photograph: Group picture
* As the group starts to break up, I try to fill up my camera
* The youngest volunteers will be getting a patch today
* More of the same
* More of the same
* Accidental photograph. I think I dropped my camera at this point
* More of the same
* The youngest volunteers line up to receive a patch and a stripe of some kind
* The youngest volunteers line up to receive a patch and a stripe of some kind
* The youngest volunteers line up to receive a patch and a stripe of some kind
* I climb into the back of a pickup and head down to Rincon. Naughty!
* Here's what it looks like from under my old leather hat when I sleep
* On the way down at around mile marker 19, another motorcycle down
* Note that many of these IDIOTS!!! race up and down the highway
* The rider was stopped from a 100 foot drop by the boulder he rolled against
* Some of the volunteers waiting for the okay to proceed past the crash

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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