Van Tassel Ridge gained local notoriety for its role in providing access to Fish Canyon since June 6,1998 while quarry operations restricted access through the mouth of the canyon in Azusa. The access trail climbed Van Tassel Ridge, gaining some, 1,400 feet, then dropped 1,100 feet into Fish Canyon to join the pleasant trail to the waterfall. The whole access trail has been described as a horrible way to access the canyon. But for nearly a decade Vulcan Materials, the company that owns the quarry blocking access, had been courting the public with a plan to shift the mining operation from Fish Ridge on the east to Van Tassel Ridge on the west. And one of the promises was to build a new access trail going directly through the quarry.
June 21, 2014 when the new access trail opened to the public. The old access trail over Van Tassel Ridge would be closed…except for the section from the ridge into the canyon…it remains as an orphan. But the trail segment holds promise in providing a nice climb to Van Tassel Ridge to a location above the quarry, and entirely within the Angeles National Forest.
It’s been four years (March 27, 2010) since I’ve been on that trail segment, so I’m eager to re-hike the trail to assess its condition. And the thick marine layer today makes hiking in July bearable.
The guard opens the parking lot gate at 7 a.m. and I drive in. At the kiosk, I chat more with Gilbert and Alex and we exchange taking photos.
Gilbert and Alex proceed up the trail to Van Tassel Ridge and I follow at a slower pace.
The trail is in pretty good condition aside from the unchecked brush crowding the path. I’m enjoying expanding views of the canyon and can see portions of Fish Canyon Trail far below. Virtually nothing is in bloom...a lone sunflower , some mustard, a cliff aster. Everything is so parched and dry.
I’m appreciating the gloomy weather, although, I’m sweating like a pig. My t-shirt is drenched. Marine layer shrouds the ridge tops. Across the canyon I see a clear line where firefighters stopped the Madre Fire from advance up canyon on Sept. 23, 2013 (see Tribune article, which happens to cite me).
8:06 - Arrive at the flat spot. A Metropolitan Water District survey maker marks the location. Menacing gnats fly around my face. I spend a few minutes here. Back on the trail I continue the climb. The ascent is relentless. A zoomed-in shot of the trailhead parking lot far below reveals at least 10 cars parked there.
My guess is that the Forest Service cut it during the Madre Fire.
I look south down the ridge and across the quarry site to Diamond Head and reflect on the history of this old access trail and my various hikes here. I guess my hike on that gloomy day of March 31, 2012 will be my last time on that old trail. But my sense from today’s hike is that the section of the old access trail I just climbed from Fish Canyon is certainly worth maintaining and continuing to promote as viable route to Van Tassel Ridge. And it will give the public a bird’s eye view of the mining operation from a perch totally within the national forest.
I’m keeping an eye on my watch since I should be back at the trailhead by about 9:45 to give me enough time to get to a 10:30 meeting. I had planned to hike further up the ridge but have run short of time.
Even though I have been an outspoken critic of the poor quality of old access trail climbing over Van Tassel Ridge, I’ve always liked this section of trail. I salute those who spent hundreds of grueling hours in carving out this trail through mercilessly thick chaparral on a precipitously steep mountainside. According to Tom Chester, the trail was built by either the California Conservation Corp (per John Robinson, 1998) or the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (per John McKinney, 1998). This trail needs to live on.
Another zoomed-in view reveals 13 cars in the trailhead parking lot. Thankfully the gloomy weather mitigates some ill effects of hiking in Fish Canyon in its worst time of year. I hope these hikers will return in the spring when the canyon is wonderfully beautiful. On the lower section of the trail, Gilbert and Alex catch up with me and we chat more as we descend.
San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders. They are informally working to remove a large jagged rock along the trail which poses some risk to hikers. We visit for a few minutes. We continue down the trail, cross the bridge, and stroll down the new access trail through Vulcan’s quarry property.
And I valued meeting Gilbert and Alex today and having the opportunity to share in honoring their brother Mario. We talked about how his death serves as a poignant reminder to respect nature and the seasons and take the necessary care in recreating in the great outdoors.
See Fish Van Tassel Ridge Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)
You can read the original article by John McKinney in the Los Angeles Times from June 21, 1998 describing the new Fish Canyon access trail along with some history leading up to it:
Angling for Better Trail to Fish Canyon Falls
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