Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls Trail Restoration - January 17, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 17, 2015
On December 17, heavy rains caused a major slide covering Fish Canyon Trail prompting the Forest Service to close the trail until it could be repaired. The San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders got the assignment to restore the trail and scheduled the workday for January 17. When I got notice, I was eager to lend a hand.

We gather at the Vulcan Materials gate in Azusa at 8:30 and connect with Jeff Cameron from Vulcan. He opens the gate for us and escorts our caravan of three vehicles through the quarry to the beginning of the trail at the bridge. This saved us a half-mile walk with our equipment. There are eight of us, including Fred, Bryan, Bob, Alan, Roland, Jason, Adam, and me (and Jeff and his son accompanied us to the slide location). San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders staging on Vulcan property at the beginning of Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest We distribute tools, which includes shovels, pick-mattocks, McLeods, gloves, and hard hats.

Trail damage en route to a work project on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
8:58 - Begin hike. The creek is flowing nicely. It’s brisk in shade and I put on my long sleeves. Just around the bend we encounter the first issue where the creek had overflowed and caused considerable damage to the trail. It’s passible but will take some work. There is some also minor damage along the trail. The canyon is green and fresh since the last time I was here on October.

Trailbuilders arrive at the slide blocking Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
9:08 - Arrive at the slide. This is a portion of trial where it transverses an extremely steep section of mountainside. The trail is completely covered with rock and earth and is impassible. We decide that there is only enough space for a few guys to work here since the trail is so narrow. We divide into several groups to work on different portions of the trail. I am assigned to hike with Jason all the way to the falls to make sure the whole trail is in passable condition, which I am more than happy to do. We retrace our steps a short distance back and find a place to climb down to the creek. We then scrabbled up the creek to bypass the slide area, View from creek toward slide blocking Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest then climb back up to the trail.

Deciduous trees stand bare, as seen from Fish Canyon Trail en route to Fish Canyon Falls
9:30 - Jason and I leave the slide and head up trail. Shortly we arrive in the sun and the long sleeves come off. This is Jason’s first time out with the Trailbuilders and we enjoy getting to know each other as we soak in the beauty of the canyon. Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest The deciduous trees, like white alder and big-leaf maple, are mostly bare of leaves. The only things in bloom are a few occurrences of wild cucumber, oxalis, vinca, everlasting, milkmaids, and Douglas nightshade. Virtually all the poison oak is dormant expect for a few small leaves on several plants. We stop numerous times along the way to remove branches and debris from the trail.

10:28 - Cross the creek and begin our climb along the east canyon wall. Shortly Alan catches up and the three of us head to the falls.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 17, 2015
10:44 - Fish Canyon Falls. It’s flowing and beautiful. This is Jason’s first time here and Alan hasn’t been here in 20 years. We have the falls all to ourselves…a rare treat. On a previous workday, the Trailbuilders were able to mitigate the graffiti that had defaced the rocks around the pool, which had disheartened me in October. The black willow, which dominates the pool area, is covered with yellow leaves and adds wonderful color to the setting. Alan heads back while we do some clean-up work on around the falls area. I love this setting. So many memories here.

11:20 - Leave falls. We enjoy the beauty of the canyon in full sun. We cross the creek at 11:34. A side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls reveals it flowing nicely. Darlin’ Donna Falls, Fish Canyon, Angeles National Forest, January 17, 2015 We arrive at Old Cheezer Mine site (the location of the Matilija poppy/Dudleya densiflora interpretive sign) and see that Alan has done an amazing job of cutting and clearing the fallen tree that has blocked the trail and caused a detour. After a bite to eat, we finish clearing the trunk and limbs and restoring the trail tread. Trail restored by the Trailbuilders at the Old Cheezer Mine site on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest, January 17, 2015 Looks great!

Trail restored by the Trailbuilders, Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
12:57 - Arrive at the slide site. I’m elated to see that the crew completely cleared and restored the trail. As we continue walking, there are several other places where crews did good work. When we arrive at bend with the washout, the crew is working on it and has made good progress. We jump in and join the task and in a little while the trail looks great.

BEFORE - Trail damage on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
AFTER - Trail restored by the Trailbuilders, Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest

Conclusion of a San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders workday, Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
1:53 - Arrive back at the bridge and cars for our 2:00 end time. We put away the tools and enjoy chatting.

A group of one man, two women, and two young children arrives coming up the access trail. We ask if they knew the trail was closed. They say they did; they had jumped the fence unto Vulcan property. We remind them that the reason for the closure is that the trail was damaged and impassable. They just shrug us off, cross the bridge, and continue up the trail (and not knowing we had restored the trail). We are sad and angered to see these adults modeling lawless and dangerous behavior to the children. Hikers who illegally trespassed on Vulcan property to access the closed Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest

The security guard from Vulcan arrives to relock the gates and to escort us back through the quarry.

Dudleya densiflora on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - What a productive and enjoyable day! I love Fish Canyon. I had resigned myself to just working on the slide all day without really venturing far up canyon. So to be able to hike all the way to my beloved falls and be useful along the way was a treat. It is disconcerting to me that the Forest Service is quick to close trails yet seems so lethargic in getting them open. But I am thankful for the army of volunteers in various organizations throughout the Angeles who give countless hours in maintaining trails and facilities, patrolling, picking up trash, manning visitor centers and campgrounds, searching and rescuing, and much more. A hearty thank you to volunteers! icon

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(including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)

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NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Plants Hike - March 13, 2015
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  1. Good job, Dan! Thanks for helping to reopen one of our little gems on the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains!

  2. Replies
    1. Yup! And we are approaching the best time hike it...spring!