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Tototngna Nature Trail / Visitor Center Cleanup

Because working yourself to death is fun.
Tototngna Nature Trail / Visitor Center Cleanup

On 15/Jul/06, the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders and a group of Boy Scouts worked on the Tototngna Nature Trail in the Angeles National Forest at the Crystal Lake recreation area. (North 34 degrees, 19.457 by West 117 degrees, 50.115.)

This trail is part of a series of hiking trails which have not been open to the public since the 2002 Williams and Curve fires which were followed by heavy rains and extensive flooding. Tototngna is in particularly poor condition since in addition to the fire and flooding damage, the trail was used by a tractor and parts of the trail were fairly hard to distinguish.

As I usually like to do, my single speed bicycle was put into a pickup truck and the crews drove up to the Rincon Fire Station to pick up our tools. (North 34 degrees, 14.328 by West 117 degrees, 51.753.) From Rincon Station we drove to the barricade gate around mile marker 29.6 (which often imposes a bit of an intelligence test to people who have to figure out what key works with what lock, and has to figure out the mechanics of angular rotation) and from there on up another 9 miles or so to Crystal Lake.

Ben offered a brief safety meeting while I walked a short distance at the head of the nature trail to see if its condition had improved any since the last time we had surveyed the trail. After checking out the trailhead I said "good bye" to the Trailbuilders, grabbed a McCloud tool from their pile of tools, and got on my bicycle to head for the U. S. Forest Service's Visitor Center about 400 yards or so away.

The Visitor Center is a single room building that has been closed since the evacuation due to the series of fires. The Center had been burglarized while the area was vacated and a rear window had been damaged while all of the locked cabinets inside had been forced open, splintering the cabinets.

Since I wasn't authorized to enter the building to look at what it would take to repair and clean it up, I worked outside entirely. Combustible materials had to be collected and carted away from the building, tree branches pressing up against the building and laying on the building's roof had to be cut up and removed, and the walk ways had to be cleared. The rear window was fixed into place with a temporary set of wood screws and the screen facing the basement opening was set back into place with roofing nails. Finally the decorative rocks were removed and stacked and brush was removed from one of the "planters" and the brush was cleaned from around the rock walls.

In all the effort took seven hours in (according to the thermometer mounted on the Visitor Center wall outside in direct sunlight) 110 degree heat. The brush in the surrounding "planters" still needs to be chopped up and mixed into the dirt to finish the clean up project but by the time the rest of the word had been done, it was getting dark and I was pretty well exhausted and blistering up.

Mr. A. came up for the weekend and gave me cold soda to drink during the effort (I drank nine cans of soda and three canteens of water.) After the work was done he heated up a can of vegetarian chili beans for me, some bread, and a nice salad. Some hours before the Trailbuilders group had packed up their tools and stopped by to see how things were going at the Visitor Center before they headed back down to Rincon.

After dinner I packed up my bicycle since I decided I wasn't going to spend the night. I'd wanted to get back down and bandage up my hands since they were bleeding a bit and blistering up some.

Bicycling down the mountain in the dark isn't that difficult or dangerous when the road is closed, and any vehicles that might conceivably come are easily seen and heard at night long before they're actually within my area of influence. The only real hazard is riding one's bicycle into deer or over rocks that have tumbled down into the road. (I travel slowly and have at times ridden right up to deer standing in the road that just stand there looking stupidly at the bizarre biped on wheels.)

Before I got to the gate at the start of the road heading into Crystal Lake, I lost all of the bearings in my rear axel which caused my caster to break apart and my pedals to start rolling backwards. (I suppose I got my ten dollars worth from this old bicycle so I really should replace it, but my bicycle is my best friend even when it makes me a pedestrian 10 miles from Rincon Station.)

The hike down from Crystal Lake to Rincon Station was fairly annoying since I had to push my bicycle with its dragging rear wheel for ten miles.

While I was walking down, at around mile marker 27 there were a bunch of people down in the canyon of San Gabriel River having a Mexican party complete with Tiki torches they had planted in the dirt and then piled rocks around to keep them from falling over.

Usually when people set fires or create fire hazards, if there's not too many of them I'll go down and ask them to put the fire out, then I'll go get a Sheriff or USFS Freddie. (Some times I'll put the fire out myself if there's an argument and refusal to extinguish it.) When there's a lot of people -- like there was this time -- I'll hope for the best and go get a Sheriff to handle it.

When I got down to the Rincon Fire Station, I couldn't find anybody to report the fire hazard to despite yelling at the closed fence. The telephone down at the Elmer Pen just below the Station had long ago been bashed into senselessness so I couldn't call a Sheriff.

In August, there's going to be a basic law enforcement training seminar that will impart a little experience and theory in how to better handle people doing dangerous and stupid things in the canyons, and I hope to attend the seminar. Confronting people setting fires can be dangerous -- more so when one's not wearing a uniform.

In the morning I called for a taxicab which never arrived so Lois offered me a "public assist" and took me down the mountain the rest of the way after I abandoned my bicycle at the fire station (I would have walked but my feet were bleeding.) Lois had been working with another group of Boy Scouts, one of whom was working on his Eagle merits by working in a group doing hot, sweaty, difficult work at the Environmental Education Enter.

Lois dropped me off at the ranger station at the bottom of the mountain and she talked with another long-time volunteer there who had a security problem with a group of ten vehicles who headed up into the mountains as a group vowing to ignore the rules (after cussing out the volunteer first.) From there I hiked the last three miles home.

Awesome 19.Jul.2006 11:13


That's pretty hard core.

California Conservation Corps 19.Jul.2006 11:54

Fredric L. Rice

I've watched members of the California Conservation Corops clearing trails. Man, talking about hard core.

Great 19.Jul.2006 12:57


I got all hot, tired, sweaty, and weary just reading about it: I'm glad I didn't actually have to do the work, too.