Saturday, March 8, 2014

Colby Trail Tree Planting and Hike – March 8, 2014

View west from Children’s Forest near Colby Trail in Glendora
I love nearby Colby Trail. Most people hadn’t heard of Colby Trail in the foothills above Glendora. That all changed on January 16, 2014 when an illegal campfire irrupted into a wildfire which destroyed more than 1,700 hundred acres of mountainside above Glendora and Azusa. Officials dubbed it the Colby Fire and “Colby” was in the lead story in the news for days.

Colby Trail is on property owned by the Glendora Community Conservancy, which has held, managed, and stewarded the open space for more than two decades. I was heartbroken when I learned that much of the environs around Colby Trail were incinerated by the fire.

When I saw the announcement by the Glendora Conservancy about the tree planting event—Children's Forest ~ Phase II—I was eager to lend a hand and get a firsthand look at the fire damage along Colby Trail.

Colby Trail trailhead in Glendora
9:00 AM - I arrive at the Colby Trail trailhead at the top of Lorain Avenue in Glendora. Others are arriving for the event. I meet Doug and his wife and daughter. I’ve enjoyed interacting with Doug online. We begin walking up the trail. Soon the fire damage abounds. Doug and family catch a ride on an electric cart. Signs handcrafted by children point the way. A walk of about 0.3 mile delivers me to the entrance of the Children’s Forest.

While volunteers look on, Dr. Ann Croissant, president of the conservancy, demonstrates the steps in planting the trees and shrubs. It’s great to see lots of kids here. I walk around and take picture of the activities. I find Bob Bennett, who is on the conservancy board and is an ISA certified arborist. He is shoveling mulch into a wheel barrel and mulching newly planted plants. I join up with Bob and soon we have a system going where he uses a small tractor to load the wheel barrel and I deliver the load to the plants. It takes nearly a full wheel barrel to mulch a single plant. Bob explains that the mush is critical in helping retain moisture to give the young plant a chance to survive. This is hard work but very satisfying. The sun is warm.

View southwest from Children’s Forest near Colby Trail in Glendora
After a couple hours the volunteers began to dissipate as all the plants that were intended to be planted today are now in the ground. I wander out to the south edge and have a bite to eat sitting on the stone bench memorializing Joseph Patrick Malowski (1989-2008). Soon a conservancy volunteer begins to work on mulching nearby trees so I lend a hand. Bob shows up with the tractor which greatly helps in delivering mulch to the trees. As we are finishing up, Dr. Ann Croissant and her husband Dr. Jerry Croissant drive over to survey the work that has been done. We enjoy good conversation. Ann gives me permission to hike up the closed Colby Trail to view the damage. They are hoping to reopen the trail by May.

View north at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
1:00 - Begin my walk back. I take pictures of the newly planted trees. Back at the trail I turn left (west) and retrace my steps back to the junction. At the junction I turn right, pass the brodiaea reserve entrance, and continue up Colby Trail. The beautiful riparian woodlands I enjoyed on December 31 have been reduced to dead sticks and ash. It’s heartbreaking. A tender wild cumber vine crawls along the blackened ground.

View west at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
As the trail climbs east out of the canyon, views south open up. The fresh green grass of the brodiaea reserve far below stands in stark contrast to the dead plants on surrounding hillsides. Green leaves of castor bean sprout along the trail...a most hardy weed. Grasses and other newly sprouting ground plants add a touch of fresh green life amidst a sea scorched earth. It’s so depressing to see the charred mountainsides to the west. I stop and talk with a man and his son who say they didn’t realize the trail is closed (hmmm…the sign is pretty clear).

View south from Glendora Mountain Road at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
1:28 - Glendora Mountain Road. Wow, this view south is so different. It’s remarkable how a fire changes everything. I have to be done today by 2:30 so a figure I have enough time to climb the first leg of Upper Colby Trail 0.07 mile to the next occurrence of GMR. Up I climb the steep path with careful steps.

1:41 - GMR Second hair pin. There is a clear demarcation between the burned and unburned as I stand on the eastern edge of the burn area. It’s encouraging to look east and see the rich chaparral covering the mountainsides, particularly knowing that it was all incinerated by the 2002 Williams Fire. Life comes back. I sit on a nice rock and have a snack.

I leave at 1:53 and head down the ravine being drawn by a pretty white flower that I don’t recognize. Atop blackened sticks, five-pedal blossoms flutter in breeze. I’m intrigued. As I get close to take a picture I discover that the flowers are artificial! Someone stuck several dozen silk flowers on top of the deed sticks. I soon rejoined the trail and began my descent. Careful, deliberate footsteps delivery me safely down the step section.

Back on Colby Trail I retrace my steps through the blackened scenery. I meet a young man who also says he is not aware that the trail is closed. I try to recall some of the pictures I took on December 31 so I can do some before-and-after shots.

Colby Trail 12-31-13
12-31-13 - Colby Trail before the fire
Colby Trail
3-8-14 - Colby Trail after the fire
I find some orange slime mold. Ann had told me about it. Slime molds are common after a fire and are part of the natural processes. Nearing the beginning of the trail, my spirit lifts as I enter the land of the living.

2:30 – End Hike.

Sign at Colby Trail trailhead in Glendora
Epilog - It’s been a good a day. Planting trees gives a sense of being able to give back to nature and do something to balance the destruction of the fire. Hiking Colby Trail was both sad and encouraging. Last week’s rain has brought some new growth. Nature comes back but it will take years for its beauty to be fully restored. And I’m always thankful for the dedicated people of Glendora Conservancy and their amazing work in stewarding hundreds of acres of open space. icon

See Colby Trail hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages

See Colby Fire at Dan's Hiking Blog

Visit Glendora Community Conservancy

NEXT > Colby Trail Hike - May 3, 2015
PREVIOUS > Garcia Trail to Colby Trail Hike - December 31, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Fire can sure do a lot of damage! I recently hiked the San Gabriel Peak Area, only to find it still charred from the Station Fire 5 yrs ago! Thanks for helping out our trails!