Photographs are provided at the bottom of this web page. A video of some of this will be provided tomorrow.


We start getting work done

It's June 30'th and it's HOT up here! In the Crystal Lake Recreation Area of the San Gabriel Mountains within the San Gabriel River Ranger District of the Angeles National Forest, it is hot hot hot!

But even so, it's even hotter down in the cities below. So it's a good reason to come up and join the trail restoration effort taking place today! Sweat, exercise, hard labor, heatstroke, it's better than sitting at home on the couch with the air conditioner going, relaxing with a cold, tall drink of iced tea while watching The Simpsons on television.

The REI company from Rancho Cucamonga, California organized this effort today, and it coincided with the regularly scheduled trail work efforts of the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders. Since a free lunch was promised (and I rarely turn down a free meal!) I packed up my old canvas backpack, grabbed a Windows 95 laptop, then headed toward King Ranch Market in Azusa, California to get with the SGMTBs collecting there.

REI had signed up a large number of volunteers to meet up at the Rincon Station about 12 miles up into the mountains. Down below it looked like we got something like eight SGMTB volunteers and, adding myself into the group, we got a baseball team.

The ride up into Rincon always feels so very strange to me since I'm usually on a bicycle, walking my single-speed bike up the hills, riding my bike down hills. It usually takes me about two and a half hours to slowly work my way up to Rincon however by car I was swept up the canyons quickly and easily without any effort at all. Strange! Feels un-natural!

On the way up I commented to Tom about how the yucca blooms were all gone and how they lasted maybe three or four weeks total. The lack of water was really marked and I fear for the health and safety of my fuzzy forest friends who have to live up here since I fear mass starvation is in store for most of them.

The bottom of the San Gabriel reservoir was just puddles all the way up to the base of the dam -- which is greatly disappointing since there's so little water there. (Though it's a good time to dredge out some more sand, I doubt that any dredging will actually be done.)

Morris reservoir still has a lot of water in it however it's down by about 12 feet or so, it looked to me. And the last I heard, Bear Creek was extremely low volume with Cogswell Dam not allowing much water (or none at all) through their locks. Ah, well.

More work done

At Rincon we passed a number of volunteers who were waiting for someone to make some decisions and get things rolling. We collected a bunch of tools and then most of us headed on up to the work site, hoping everyone else would eventually follow us.

When we got to the work site, Tom did a walk around to see what the general condition of Golden Cup Nature Trail was. The trail has been the focus of extensive restoration this past month so it looked pretty good! Some sections of the trail were completely gutted out by flooding so those sections were fixed today.

When the rest of the volunteers came up, there was a fairly detailed safety meeting and then Ben White was presented with the American Hiking Society's award for the Western United States for his dedication toward organizing and participating in trail restoration efforts just like the one we were on today.

This is a prestigious award; lots of volunteer groups and organizations -- and individuals -- around the United States are deserving of being recognized for their work. The best of the best rise to the top of a long list of worthy individuals and Ben won the award for the Western award.

Ben accepted the award on behalf of all the many thousands of volunteers who have contributed to the on-going effort to restore the Crystal Lake Recreation Area and the surrounding hiking and nature trails.

Work done

This is actually something that should be looked at a bit closer. What Ben does best is organize and schedule work events and then he allows the volunteers the opportunity to pretty much do what they want to do -- as much or as little. If a group wants to split off to do something else that also needs to be done -- something that can be done quickly, quite often, and needs doing -- then that's perfectly okay.

The San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders are so successful due greatly to Ben's _lack_ of "leadership." When things need to be done, volunteers with the SGMTBs just simply do it. They talk about what needs to be done and while it's getting done they will discuss how to do it. There is no top-down "leadership" and it all works very well.

And to be sure, I'm personally not what one would call "normal" or even remotely willing to be told what to do, so the style of the SGMTBs perfectly matches my mindset -- and other volunteers' mindsets, and because of it, the SGMTBs is very successful.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Much of the trail that still needed to be restored was gullies that flood water had dug into the trail. Mike and I worked on the ditch we've been digging up-slope from the actual trail, digging out a ditch that should divert a great deal of water when it rains next (assuming it ever does.) Much of the fill dirt that was placed into the gullies along the trail came from the ditch.

A great deal of gravel and sand was carted out of the bottom of a ravine immediately North of the trail section we worked on. The effort consists of filling buckets, hauling buckets, dumping buckets on to the trail, then going back to do it over again -- as often as one can manage.

Other volunteers worked on spreading the fill materials, re-working the rock boundaries of the trail, and pulling down dirt berms along the trail.

Work done

The California Conservation Corps volunteers took a good effort to build a retention wall along the start of the most damaged section of the trail. That retention wall will hold dirt in place and rain water will be diverted off of the trail.

Lunch was provided by the REI company and since it was about an hour or so late in coming, three volunteers and I took a trip to the lake so that I could get some photographs so I could update this web site. Along the way I checked out one of the streams that I always like to take a drink from. I was surprised that it was still running!

The small pond along Lake Road that has always -- always! -- previously had water collected in it, feeding a stream that runs under the road, was completely dry.

That area of the hillside had been echo sounded many years back, by the way, to get a feel for how solid or lose the hillside is. Because water seeps continually through the hillside, trees and rocks are continually falling, calving off to land into Lake Road below. But today I found the seep completely dry -- and this FRIGHTENS me considerably.

The lake water is down very low (as you can see in the photographs below.) A bear had damaged one of the bear-proof trash bins, wrenching the lid out of alignment so that it no longer closes. Trash was dragged out and spread around quite a bit.

While checking out the lake, I found a small hand tool that folds out into pliers and other things. So I got a reward for today's work!

When we got back to the work site we went back to work. When lunch came the volunteers who had resumed work came down and joined the lunch. I didn't hear what the difficulty was with REI's lunch transport but I think it's possible that lunch got stuck behind a locked Forest Service gate or something.

Lunch was bread, sliced rotting dead animal carcass of some kind, sliced rotting and coagulated cow milk, some very nice fruit, cookies, potato and corn chips, and -- ever more important! -- ice! There was also something I think was called "rolled sandwiches" which was basically the same rotting animal artifacts wrapped in what might have been flour tortillas. I made two sandwiches out of rough mustard and potato chips -- Yummy!

To be sure I greatly appreciated the excellent lunch that was provided. I just don't eat other animals or things that come from enslaved animals. True, I wear a dead cow on my heat when it's hot or when it's raining, but it's also true that I find wearing someone's skin rather disgusting.

Work resumed only with much fewer volunteers. Many had left early, probably because of the oppressive heat. Even at 6000 feet altitude it was very hot and added to the lower air pressure, working up here isn't exactly easy. The trick is to drink lots of water, rest often, and drink lots more water.

Today I was getting dizzy and things were graying out so I knocked off early. I'd been drinking a lot of water and hadn't pissed out any of it -- and still wound up dehydrated and on the edge of exhaustion -- and I didn't work nearly as hard as most everyone else. Like I said, it was hot today.

Work done

I like the hour or so at the end of the day when most of the other volunteers have returned back down the mountain and the SGMTBs gather at the bottom to go through the tools to see if there's anything that needs repair, the rest of the tools getting stored into their storage container until the next time.

Trash and garbage gets hauled out of the river and canyons and while nearly all of it winds up in the trash bins after being sorted for recycleables, some of it gets stored for a time at Rincon -- larger metals, finished wood, television sets and such. The amount of crap that visitors bring into the River District id daunting, to say the least, and some of the larger things end up here at Rincon.

The SGMTBs occasionally sort through the piles of wood and metal looking for broken tools, useful containers, and other useful things that can be added to the endless work effort up here. The trash piles are cleaned up and hauled off after valuable metals and such are sorted out, but others are permitted to go through the piles since there is often useful tools and stuff.

So Golden Cup Nature Trail got a whole lot of restoration done to it today. The trail is actually passable and useable now thanks to the series of efforts that have taken place here over the past six or seven months. The trail really looks good though there's still a minor amount of work to be done -- maybe a day or two.

And a good time was had by most!


* Some of the tools we will br bringing up to Crystal Lake Recreation Area
* Collecing more tools before we head up
* The trailhead before work begins. We examine the state of the trail
* The parking lot at the trailhead has been cleaned up by construction crews
* Some of the surrounding area of the nature trail is shown here
* This section of the trail was restored with lots of Boy Scouts
* This section of the trail was also previously restored
* A look at some of the area that surrounds the nature trail
* Materials that were collected previously are stored here for now
* More sections of the previously restored trail -- looks great!
* There are mostly oak trees in this section of the campgrounds
* Pine trees are also mixed in with the oak. Bark beetle attacks pine
* I do a walk around to see the general condition of the campgrounds
* New toilets have been installed. Notice the landscaping work
* A longer distance look at the grounds before the other volunteers show up
* Volunteers start coming up to the work site
* There is the usual safety meeting before we start with the tools
* There were only two kids volunteering today
* Safety is a major part of the volunteer ethic up here
* The American Hiking Society has voted Ben White its annual award!
* Ben accepts the award on behalf of all volunteers who help up here
* An enscription on the award marks the honor
* We are still getting ready to start the actual trail work
* Downy and Los Angeles California Conservation Corps volunteers!
* We finally start getting to work
* Mike resumes work on digging the water-diversion trench
* The trench will help keep this section of the trail from flooding
* Rocks, gravel, and sand are collected from the general area
* New work takes place above and below the previously restored section
* Volunteers working in the hot, hot Sun
* A whole lot of trail restoration got done -- the trail gets usable!
* Working in the shade for a time some times helped cool people off
* The Intercity Youth Group working on trail restoration
* More of the Youth Group. It was pretty hot up there today
* Down below there are planning sessions taking place. Hi, John!
* Fill the bucket, haul the bucket, dump the bucket, repeat FOREVER!
* Ben brought his little red wagon to play with while the rest of us worked
* Rule #1: Drink lots of water, and then drink even more water
* A good look into the trees around the Nature Trail
* Oak trees do very well in the Crystal Lake basin
* I get exhausted and take another walk to get more photographs of area
* Looking North past Pinyon Ridge. A nice hiking trail is Pinyon Ridge
* The paid construction crews have done a good job on the parking spots
* The San Andreas fault can be seen splitting the far mountain range
* More of the general campgrounds
* There are signs that point out some of the hiking trails in the area
* Golden Land Construction and Engineering continue to rebuild the area
* Another general look at the area
* That dip in the mountain range is the main San Andreas fault line
* Looking around the campgrounds some more
* A bit of Pinyon Ridge hiking trail follows the far ridgeline
* I get back to work -- and then we break for lunch!
* The REI company from Rancho Cucamonga is bringing us some lunch!
* However lunch is a long time coming so some volunteers go back to work
* Resuming work while waiting for luch to arive
* Surprizingly, some of the streams in the area continue to have water!
* One of the plants growing along the still-running stream
* Three volunteers and I walk to the lake -- notice the restored grounds
* Along Lake Road. A spring normally always running has dried up
* Lake Road is in very good shape
* The parking area around the lake was repaired by Chumo Construction
* The other volunteers who came pick up some litter bears spread around
* The lake parking area looks really good. Very well restored
* The steps down to the lake were burried in mud but were cleaned off
* These benches had been completed burried by mud previously
* The level of the lake is very low. Good time to clean it out, USFS!!!
* I take a look around the lake. The water used to be packed and sold
* Panning South across the lake
* There is an access road down to the lake bottom for repair vehicles
* We see fish jumping in the lake -- there's lots of fish in there today
* That's enough looking at the lake. We head back for lunch, hopefully
* Getting back to the work site, lunch is still not here so we get back to work
* Lunch is here! Sandwhiches with rotting dead animal carass, fruit, chips!
* I noticed that some volunteers have left to go back down the mountain already
* It's really great! of REI to provide us with lunch. Yummy!!!
* I have mustard and potatochip sandwhiches with potatochips and chips
* REI also brought us some very nice fruit and some cookies
* Some of the volunteers in the shade during lunch
* And we get back to work. Fill bucket, haul bucket... FOREVER!
* Working in the Sun half the time, in the shade the other half works
* Working on the upper section of the trail, I think maybe
* The CCC build a rock retention wall to divert flood waters
* The rest of the trail actually looks very good. Already restored
* Much of the trail looks like it's a concrete sidewalk
* Before we leave for the day I want to get photos of the work that's done
* Outside of the Crystal Lake Campgrounds, above Coldbrook: Bear Creek Trail
* At the USFS gate, I ask Tom to strike a manly pose. He does so
* The San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders go through the tools
* The undamaged tools go back into the storage bin
* Us volunteers some times get tools from the discard piles at Rincon
* We have skilled volunteers who can repair and restore discarded tools
* Junk hauled out of the river and such some times contains useful tools
* People bring a lot of crap up into the mountains, don't they?

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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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