California Black Bear

The endless agonizing nights spent lying awake at night unable to sleep are finally over, the mess on Windy Gap Saddle that has occupied by brain since first I saw it three weeks ago has finally been cleaned up and now I may sleep.

LOL! Or at least it seems that way. Three weeks ago a Facebook hike was scheduled to take a warm Summer hike up to Windy Gap Saddle, and along the way we found that the hiking trail was in good order, only one obstruction that needed to be walked around down slope, and of course three Sutter Wall segments that had their anchors fail were again briefly looked at on the way up.

Upon reaching the Saddle, however, I was a bit dismayed to find something of a mess. Much work had been done up there however it was left incomplete, perhaps because whoever did the work ran out of gasoline or ran up against the 1:00 p.m. cut-off time for chainsaw use. What was left undone was:

  • Dead trees had fallen and while some had bucked up, the bucked sections were left resting where they had fallen.

  • Some of the bucked sections were allowed to fall on the end of the usage trail that goes from Highway 2 straight up a ravine to the Saddle, making hikers coming up and going down have to step around them.

  • A pile of canned food was sitting out in the Sunlight rusted and laying next to a plastic container with writing on it, filled with writing materials, small hand tools and other unidentified things. The food had probably been hidden out of sight but perhaps someone found it and dragged it out in to the light.

  • The trail to Islip Ridge was blocked by a large dead tree even though the temporary usage trail that bypassed it had also been blocked and then was bucked open, leaving the trail to Islip Ridge still blocked.

    But no problem! The work done so far was a very good start, the trail to Little Jimmy Trailcamp (VIDEO) got re-opened, and that particular trail is a very popular one, well-loved by thousands of hikers every year.

    Today the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders came to finish the effort on the Saddle with a focus on cleaning off the saddle and bucking up the obstruction to Islip Ridge Trail so that we could block off the temporary usage trail and re-establish the original trail.

    Removed the obstruction

    A number of Boy Scouts joined the Trailbuilders and by the time boots hit the dirt there were three separate teams working in three different areas. One group of volunteers worked along Lake Trail cutting back brush, repairing erosion, and making sure other incremental improvements were made. A second group worked along Big Cienega Trail starting at Mount Saint Hawkins road and working their way up the mountain. The third team drove to Little Jimmy Trailcamp and hiked down to Windy Gap Saddle.

    It would have been nice to be able to see the progress made along the other two trails but I wanted to get on the Saddle team to lend a hand straightening up what was left undone up there.

    We parked our vehicle at Little Jimmy and shouldered the chainsaws, fire extinguisher, medical kits, Kevlar safety chaps, fire shovel, fuel and oil and everything that normally goes with saw teams, then set off toward Windy Gap which, unfortunately, does not have a sign indicating where the trail goes.

    The trail that goes from Little Jimmy to Windy Gap Saddle could use some work. There was a single dead tree trunk intruding in to the trail which we took care of quickly however the trail itself is in good shape but should be widened along the entire length -- which is about one eighth of a mile or less.

    At the saddle we found that the food and stuff had been removed already so we got to work with two saws, the small saw being used to remove the limbs from already-bucked trunks still resting on the saddle so that they could be rolled easily and get shoved off of the saddle. While that effort took place the large saw was used to tackle the large obstruction across Islip Ridge. Because the first sawyer on that task is a Class C sawyer, he offered some instruction to the Class A sawyer who made the second bucking.

    The entire saddle was cleaned up fairly quickly with some of the dead tree trunks left in place and others shoved over the side. Because we still had available time (which is very unusual) we cut a rest bench in a dense tree trunk which looks very nice and should be appreciated, and started carving another couch with a back rest before running out of gasoline.

    Rest bench and saddle mostly cleaned off

    After running out of gasoline we goofed around a bit acting silly and taking photographs of our clever selves since, being unpaid volunteers we get paid the same when we're working as when we're goofing off.

    While the other volunteers on the Saddle effort headed back to Little Jimmy I picked up the small chainsaw and headed down Windy Gap Trail so I could measure the Sutter Walls that had their anchors fail in rock slides over the past year, taking photographs so that replacement materials may be purchased.

    Looking over the modes of failure they could all be seen to have been anchor failures. The walls that retain the rock and dirt all have metal pipes behind them, driven in to the ground to a variety of depth, and then metal re-bar is looped around it and tied to the wall. Which is wrong!

    The metal re-bar looped around the pipes driven in to the ground either slips up the pipe and the wall fails, or the pipe driven in to the ground itself pulls up and the wall fails. It's not that the walls themselves failed, it was that the anchors failed. The paid contractors who installed the walls probably should have chosen a better way to anchor the walls.

    What the Trailbuilders will do is excavate these sections, recovering the damaged and destroyed wall fragments, and those sections where the walls will be replaced we will provide proper anchorage, either a wide metal plate with a metal coupling from which a metal bar will lead directly to the wall, or a wide screw with a coupling for a metal bar that ties to the wall. Regardless the new anchors will be buried deeply in the up-slope and the walls will be anchored properly.

    If those new wall segments fail in the future it will be because the walls themselves accumulate back pressure in excess of their holding capabilities, but it will not be because of improper anchoring.

    After taking measurements and photographs along the way I made it back down to the Visitor Center and found I was the first one to get to the meeting point. That gave me time to rest my poor tired feet but also to talk with people who had come up for the day, passing out business cards to seeing if I could interest anyone in lending a hand. LOL. Always looking for someone to sling a shovel, that's me.

    Eventually the day was over, the tools stored away at the Rincon Fire Station and the day's exercise was done.

  • * Little Jimmy TRrail Camp, the sign that greets you
    * Class C sawyer makes the first cut on the obstruction blocking Islip Ridge
    * After the obstruction is removed the trail gets restored
    * Okay, Jonathan, we know you're awesome now get back to work
    * Cutting the rest bench on Windy Gap Saddle
    * Trailbuilder Fred takes a nap while being told to get back to work
    * Jonathan once again shows everyone who's got the longest saw
    * At the end of the day the rest bench comes in handy
    * Fred shoves around a bucked section previously left on the saddle
    * The first intrusion on the trail going from Little Jimmy to Windy Gap is removed
    * While Fred rests, Jonathan gets to shove the bucked section off the trail
    * The finished rest bench on Windy Gap Saddle and the cleaned-up trail!
    * A closer look at the new rest bench, angled to be mostly flat
    * A second rest bench is started
    * The trail to Islip Ridge gets cleaned up and restored, use trail gets blocked
    * The trail to Little Jimmy is getting a rest bench also
    * Many hikers were on the trails today!
    * The rest bench and the trail that goes to Baden-Powell
    * Large group at the Saddle. That trail goes to Baden-Powell
    * Class C sawer gives field instruction to a Class A sawyer
    * Looking at the general shape of the major blockage and use trail around it
    * The first cut is started. Notice the tree limbs below the trunk used for sliding
    * Jonathan examines the saw to see why it refuses to run. No gas! LOL!
    * Tree limbs deeply imbedded in the trail must be excavated and removed
    * In the shade you see hikers coming up a use trail from Highway 2
    * The Class A sawyer works the next cut he will be making during training
    * After the obstruction is removed, the trail is completely cleaned and repaired
    * Notice that the usage trail around the obstruction is obscured now
    * Almost finished with the trail
    * Another look at the general region for the Islip Ridge trail
    * The start of the rest bench from a good distance. Saddle cleaned up!
    * A closer look at the re-established trail to Islip Ridge
    * Second cut on the rest bench
    * The finished rest bench and the newly-restored trail in the background
    * My little saw has a blue ghost on it. Second rest bench gets started
    * Going down Windy Gap there is a new intrusion. The effort never ends!
    * First Sutter Wall with saw for perspective
    * Fiorst Sutter Wall. Does not look good, does it? :)
    * Second Sutter Wall
    * Seconed Sutter Wall. Notice the anchor metal bar that pulled out?
    * Second Sutter Wall, a leaning segment. Here you see another anchor failure
    * Second Sutter Wall, debris are still piled nearby by helpful hikers!
    * Third Sutter Wall a 12 foot section whose anchors were not properly done
    * Third Sutter Wall debris stacked by hikers

    Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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