This past week end (16/Sep/2006) was another work day for the San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders who are restoring hiking and nature trails in the San Gabriel Mountain’s Crystal Lake Recreation Area. In addition to the Trailbuilders Robby (age 16) from Boy Scout Troop number 210 from Burbank, California coordinated an effort to clean out and make ready all of the camping sites along “Loop B” of the Recreation Area.
North 34 degrees, 19.566 by West 117 degrees, 50.078 at 5802 feet.
These efforts are part of the on-going effort to re-open the camp grounds in the aftermath of a series of fires and floods which closed the grounds in 2002. The re-opening of the grounds is somewhat controversial since the main highway – Highway 39 from Azusa, California – has been closed long enough for the litter and graffiti that plagues these mountain canyons to degrade and virtually disappear (with considerable help from volunteers over the years.)
Re-opening the grounds is controversial since doing so threatens to not only bring back campers, hikers, and picnickers, the area will once again be subjected to the garbage and disrespect that’s been a problem is every park in the national recreation system.
Still, effort is being made to mitigate the pollution and erosion and other problems that are expected to resume once the grounds re-open, and efforts such as making trails and camping sites safe and more easily cleaned is part of that effort.
The Trailbuilders completed a series of steps which were added to the fairly steep section of Lost Ridge Trail, reducing by some unknowable degree the likelihood of hikers requiring medical assistance, decreasing the probable frequency of medical responses required by the USFS, fire fighters, and Sheriff’s Offices – which typically respond to medical emergencies. Reduced safety hazards allows employees and volunteers in the Forest System to concentrate more on other problems such as fire mitigation and police and safety work.
While that effort was going, Robby’s group of Boy Scout volunteers raked and cleared brush and other combustibles from the picnic tables and fire rings at the camping sites along “Loop B” of the grounds, doing an excellent job. The Scouts installed new plastic strips which will carry the site numbers of each camp ground, and they also cleaned off and painted picnic tables, did some repairs, it looked to me, on one of the fairly new restroom buildings, and shoveled dirt and brush off of parking spots and drives.
I had arrived at the Recreation Area with a borrowed bicycle – my single-speed bike’s rear hub assembly had not yet been repaired after disintegrating on a previous high-speed bike trip down the mountain – Friday evening and talked briefly with some of the Scouts. They offered food and hot drink (which I declined since I don’t eat meat!) and told me a bit about their plans for the following morning.
Saturday morning I bicycled up to the base of Lost Ridge Trail to wait for the Trailbuilders crew. While I waited, I had an early lunch of corn chips, hot salsa, and water taken from Soldier Creek (complete with moss!) After a short morning of minimally helping with the last two steps and water bars on the trail, I carried some tools down to the staging area and got on my bicycle to head back down to the camp grounds.
Along the way I encountered a pair of “hunters” who shouldn’t be in the grounds. One of the individuals I had talked to the previous week end when he had his seven-year-old son with him. These (censored) pair had compound bows and arrows and had established quite a mess of litter by the time I stopped to talk with them and make sure they weren’t setting fires or stumbling around drunk – the only two problems I actually care about.
In retrospect I should have asked the USFS to come up and ask the person to leave the first time and not doing so apparently encouraged a second violation of the hunting laws up there. This time around I confirmed with the USFS that the individual was indeed back – the Trailbuilders drove by the guy; he was dressed in camouflage and had painted his face while riding his bicycle down from the Deer Flats area, and since we had numerous people in the area I felt it the USFS should finally talk with him.
After making sure he had no fires going and no intention of setting fires, I bicycled down and checked in with Robby, got numerous photographs of their effort, and then fixed a lunch of beans and crackers, then waited at Golden Cup Trail for the Trailbuilders to finish their task.
We then hiked along the length of Golden Cup, one of the trails that is designated for children which still needs a considerable amount of repair work – months of work, in fact, since it’s in such poor condition. Golden Cup will require a lot of volunteer hours so if anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested, please contact the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders at http://www.sgmtrailbuilders.org/ Helen Oakley: 626-792-4573 or Ben White: 626-303-1078 at ben@SGMTrailbuilders.org
Sunday nigh, by the way, after all of the Scouts had left and just before dark I heard a BANG! and walked toward the noise to see what it was. A bear was climbing out of one of the trash bins holding a plastic sack in its mouth. It saw me and dropped the bag to the ground then jumped out, grabbed the bag again, and started walking slowly away.
Since my camera was in my tent (a long way away since I camped outside of the actual camp grounds) I stated jogging quickly toward my distant tent to see if I could get my camera and return before it got too dark. While I was jogging I heard another noise on my left and watched a bear cub scramble up a tree about 20 feet away.
The trip down back in to the Azusa area was uneventful though I did stop to refill my canteen at a large volume of water that flows through another not-yet-opened camp grounds far below.
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