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Angeles National Forest trails update, post-Station fire

April 1, 2011 |  2:05 pm

A few of the most popular trails in the Angeles National Forest front country that were damaged by the 2009 Station fire may reopen by Memorial Day, according to acting forest supervisor Marty Dumpis at a recent event on the forest's recovery. That's nearly two years after the fire burned more than 160,000 acres and damaged 250 miles of trails. I wouldn't pencil in that Memorial Day hike just yet, though.

Angeles screen Dumpis and Angeles trails program manager Andrew Fish spoke to a full house at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center during the Sierra Club-sponsored event (at right). They detailed the challenges of trying to balance ecological integrity in the most-visited national forest in the U.S., noting that forest recovery is a 3-5-year process. Some of the trails that MIGHT reopen by Memorial Day include:

* Mt. Lowe Camp and fire road

* Gabrielino Trail from Red Box to Newcomb Pass

* Silver Moccasin Trail from Charlton Flat to Highway 2

In the Mt. Lowe area, the Sunset Ridge Trail MAY open this year, and Fish is hoping the Mueller Tunnel will open in the fall. Also targeted to open later this year, said Fish, is the lower Arroyo/Gabrielino Trail, from the trailhead near JPL to the first check dam at the Paul Little picnic area. I can attest that this trail in particular is a real mess, but people are still hiking it illegally.

What has to happen before trails can be rebuilt? Imagine the mother of all backyard weeding projects. Ongoing work includes removing invasive plants, which are thriving in streambeds and along the 130 miles of "line" bulldozed during the firefight; restoring habitat destroyed by the fire and subsequent rains; and replanting trees. About 110 miles of trail have been assessed and repaired so far.

So what's the holdup? In two words: manpower and money.

The forest service is partnering with the National Forest Foundation and Tree People for restoration help, and is looking for volunteers to do trail work and invasive plant removal. A good opportunity for that is coming up at an event at Red Box (which has been open for day use only) on California Trails Day on April 16. Volunteers will do four to five hours of trail work on the Red Box trails. Contact the forest's Los Angeles River Ranger District ([818] 899-1900) for more information on this event and other volunteering opportunities.

Angeles-Station closureThe forest service would also like the Sierra Club to "adopt" the Strawberry Peak trail from Colby Canyon to Red Box — a popular route that was particularly trashed by the fire.

Those at Eaton Canyon aired their frustrations during the brief Q&A at the end of the presentation, particularly about the difficulty finding information on what's accessible in the forest. I was told by acting supervisor Dumpis that a higher-resolution map showing the fire closure area is in the works. Currently, all that's available online is a very low-resolution map (at left is the most recent) that takes a bit of navigating to find on the forest's site.

It's hard see from the map, but the trails the forest service is hoping to open by Memorial Day are included roughly on the far eastern and western ends of the closure area.

— Julie Sheer

Photo credit: Julie Sheer