February 2021 Update

On Saturday, February 6, We had the opportunity to travel over the Ridge Route and survey the roadway for damage from the storms, trucks, and car chase that have happened all since January 21. The storms that hit were pretty strong, closing I-5 multiple times for extended periods. As the Ridge Route itself is higher in elevation, it looks like a lot of the precipitation that hit the area fell as snow instead of rain. This may well have saved the road this time but future storms may no be so “kind”. We still have a lot of work ahead of us but at least now we have a better idea of what to focus on for now. If you’d like to help us with these tasks, join us, donate, or both. Your donation may be tax-deductible and you’ll help save this historic roadway.

As an aside, our next update may be in a different format as we are planning to move to a newsletter style soon.

Gates

Southern gate
Northern (Fisher Springs or Tumble Inn) gate

Both gates were open when we went up there. We closed them behind us each time and locked them. While we want the roadway open, the current USFS position is for the roadway to be closed and the events of January 26 definitely show why. This time, the gates were left open by contractors working on the SCE power lines a few miles north of the National Forest Inn site. We will be speaking again with the USFS to see what can be done about this problem.

Rockslides

Rockslide partially blocking the roadway below Swede’s Cut
Large boulder and additional material ready to fall

Our biggest concern following the storms was rockslides or worse, landslides. Thankfully, the roadway seemed to hold up well. Only one major rockslide was found, which was located on Serpentine Drive just north of the gas pipeline bridge. One of the rocks that fell was the rather large, close to the size of a refrigerator and probably as heavy. We saw that more rocks will fall at this location in the near future. Other problematic locations, such as Swede’s Cut and the northern end of the roadway, seemed to have minimal problems.

Truck Damage

Tire marks and trampled shoulder
First big sign of skid marks and scrapes
Looking southerly toward the sunken area where they got stuck
Closeup of the broken pavement and tire debris area
Large pile of melted tire debris and oil on the roadway

Three big rigs traversed the roadway on January 26, as we have noted in earlier reports. We found the location they became stuck, which was about 0.3 miles north of Kelly’s Halfway Inn. We noted multiple locations where they lost traction and spun their tires, leaving large amount of melted tire debris. They got stuck at a large sunken area, creating a large amount of scrapes and pavement damage. They also drove over the edges of the roadway in numerous places, possibly compromising the pavement and culverts in those areas. We are currently working with CHP to obtain information regarding those vehicles.

Signage

County signage at State 138

Following the January 26th incident, we contacted the County of Los Angeles to help with dissuading people from going over the roadway during the storms. We suggested adding additional signage at both ends of the roadway if possible. They complied and said they’d put up the signs that day. On Saturday, we saw those signs still in place at Templin Highway, Pine Canyon Road, and State 138. We want to thank the County of Los Angeles for their efforts and will be working on getting better, more permanent signage in place in the near future.

Car Chase

Tracks from where the car left the roadway
Trail where the car crashed off the road

I did mention a car chase involving the Ridge Route. On January 21, a high speed chase ended rather abruptly at the northern end of the Ridge Route, about 1.3 miles south of State 138, well north of Pine Canyon Road. The chase didn’t involve the rest of the roadway, thankfully. The car involved drove off the Ridge Route and the suspects were apprehended shortly after. It doesn’t look like the roadway was damaged but the marks are still there in the dirt.

January 2021 Update

With the recent closures of most of the mountain passes due to heavy snow, we were stunned to find out that people had been traversing the old Ridge Route to bypass those closures. Not only did people in regular vehicles do this, but at least three large tractor-trailers also had done so. These three trucks became stuck just north of Kelly’s Halfway Inn. We will have to assess what damage was done to the roadway as soon as possible but this is very bad news for the roadway. There are at least four sections of the roadway which are extremely delicate as they are partially undermined or otherwise eroded. Other issues can be damage to the remaining curbing along the roadway, broken paving, increased slide potential, and loss of historic artifacts. Large vehicles traveling this roadway during or after a winter storm can severely damage the paving. Travel over the roadway itself during these conditions can also be dangerous due to ice and mud.

The USFS, it would seem, was negligent in their duty to keep the gates closed during this time. The roadway, gates open or not, is still technically closed and no vehicles should have been there. Other people on Facebook, particularly on two group pages, have been incorrectly reporting the roadway to be open and encouraging travel. At this time, I am refraining from calling people out by name but we are well aware of their actions. We have worked hard to keep the road safe. Seeing it damaged and trampled upon by large trucks during a major storm is an affront to all our work. Seeing people touting the roadway as open when it is not works against our efforts.

Once again, do not travel the Ridge Route during or after a major storm. You will damage the roadway regardless of what vehicle you choose, including motorcycles. It might be pretty, but the price to pay is far too high.

Footage of the stranded trucks courtesy of ABC 7 Los Angeles

https://abc7.com/video/embed/?pid=10033309

Forest Closure Order

The Ridge Route, from State 138 to Templin Highway is now under a Forest Closure Order due to the Lake Fire, which is set to expire on December 31, 2020. As such, travel along the roadway and any activities along it are prohibited. Please take heed of this as the fines can be pretty steep.

For further information and specific details, please use the link below.

Lake Fire Forest Closure Order 05-01-20-06

Lake Fire Update

Currently, the Lake Fire is at 31,089 acres and 70% containment. Unless something dramatically changes, it looks like the Ridge Route will be safe from this fire. There is, however, another issue which we will have to clarify with the USFS. The area is now under a Forest Closure Order, which is set to expire at the end of December 2020. As such, the roadway and any activities along it may be prohibited. For further information, please use the link below.

Lake Fire Forest Closure Order 05-01-20-06

Lake Fire

From the USFS Inciweb site – Updated 8/20/2020

As I am sure some of you are aware, there is a large fire burning in the mountains near Lake Hughes. This fire has been slowly burning west toward the Ridge Route. Whether or not it reaches the road remains to be seen, but hopefully it does not for many reasons.

Should the hills around the road burn, it would dramatically increase the chances for mudflows and debris covering or damaging the roadway. At a time when maintenance is at a low, this would not be good. There are also items of historic value that are flammable in the vicinity of Sandberg, which would also be preferable not to burn or otherwise be destroyed. The historic Knapp Ranch is also at risk and the fire is slowly getting close to it.

We have been monitoring the situation and will survey the area once the fire is over. Presently, the Ridge Route is closed from State 138 to Pine Canyon Road due to the fire as are other roadways in the area.

For updated information on the fire, visit the USFS Inciweb site.

Late July 2020 Update

Not much to report. I recently sent a letter to the Angeles National Forest, which we have confirmation they received, to get more information about ongoing issues.

Two of the issues were regarding the gates. Now, as has been stated here many times, we want them open. While we have keys, we don’t really want to “need” them. However, with the gates being left open by others or being damaged, it tends to hurt our cause more than help. If the gates are open when they aren’t planned to be, why help to open them?

There is also the issue with a section of roadway being undermined by a So Cal Gas pipeline. We have brought this to the attention of the Forest Service and are hoping they will be able to get the company at issue to resolve the problem, all without damaging the paving at that location. A potential funding mechanism for continued maintenance of the roadway is also going to be discussed. We hope that this may resolve many of the problems that seem to keep the Forest Service from opening the roadway officially.

Once we hear something more solid, I will give an update here. Until then, we shall continue to monitor the road when possible and keep pushing the Forest Service to open the roadway to motor vehicles. The Ridge Route is a treasure that must be kept in good repair and able to be enjoyed by all.

July 2020 Update

So far, Summer 2020 isn’t shaping up to be what, well, many of us hoped it would be. Things are still moving at least, just a bit slower. We are still working with the USFS to get repairs done and get the utility companies to repair any damage to the roadway they have caused.

Just north of Kelley’s Halfway Inn

In late June, a group of board members took a trip over the Ridge Route from Castaic to Gorman to assess the roadway. To be honest, there was a lot of good news along the roadway to be had. Since the last of the major winter storms have passed, it looks like the roadway has not suffered any major damage. Most of the roadway, with little exception, was easily traversable by a standard automobile. Some sections needed a bit more maneuvering but were still quite manageable.

Section being undermined by a natural gas line on the slope below.

The date for our next CUTRR event is still unknown. We are presently waiting for the USFS to give us the green light for volunteer events. As it stands, August is likely out for sure. We hope to have something done before the rains begin, but we shall see.

Other ongoing projects include getting the roadway opened, replacing the signage at the markers, and setting up a YouTube channel are progressing, just slowly. The markers won’t be replaced until the roadway is opened. Funding for opening and maintaining the roadway is still unknown at present. The current crisis, health and budgetary, may well impact this more than we’d like. I feel it only delays it. We will push for legislation to force the roadway to be opened if need be.

The gates are still closed and locked. If you find a gate open, do not expect the other to be open. Travel is still restricted to non-motorized travel beyond the gates.

February 2020 Update

It has been an interesting time on the Ridge Route. So far, the monthly trips on the road have been quite productive. Over the weekend of January 18-19, I took a couple of trips up to the Ridge Route. On Saturday, I went by myself and took my motorcycle over the road as far as Reservoir Summit. It felt good to be back up on the Ridge. I used to spend many days up there just getting away from things. The road is quite peaceful and relaxing. Being able to stop anywhere to take photos was also nice. Few roadways of this caliber allow for this sort of privilege. Visibility was also good that day, which made for some nice photography.

View from just south of the National Forest Inn, looking toward Reservoir Summit and Liebre Mountain.
On the south grade of Reservoir Hill.

Sunday, I took another trip over the road from Castaic to Gorman with a friend. We took his car which, despite some clearance issues, made it over the road with little problem. I hope that, in light of these trips demonstrating the ability for various vehicles to traverse the roadway, that the USFS will open the roadway sooner than later.

Swede’s Cut, still holding up well after some of the work that RRPO did last December.

I was pleased to see that the road was holding up well, within the gates. I did find a few more culverts that were in need of clearing near the site of the largest 2005 landslide. Those will be dealt with later this year. Outside of the gates, particularly on the northern end between the Liebre Maintenance Station and Sandberg is a real mess to say the least. Some of the sections can be easily dealt with using a broom and a shovel. The parts that are more heavily damaged will be a lot tougher to deal with. Those sections, comprised of the 1920’s asphalt, are disintegrating and are in need of new asphalt to hold things together. We will be talking to the Forest Service on ways to do this.

Section near the bottom of the south grade of Reservoir Hill that is being undermined. This is likely by pipeline work, which will need to be remedied as soon as possible.

December 2019 Update – Part 2

On December 21, 2019, a small group of us took a drive over the Ridge Route. Unlike most trips since January 2005, this one wasn’t predicated upon the gate hopefully being open for us. This time, we had keys. As a part of our Volunteer Service Agreement, we were given a key so that we can access the roadway for our CUTRR projects. This trip, while also sightseeing and enjoyable, was also to survey the roadway and determine if there are any sections needing work first. We did find a few sections in need of repairs or clearing but overall the roadway was in pretty good condition.

Opening the north gate.
Between Kelly’s Halfway Inn and Reservoir Summit
Covered in dirt and mud. These are the sections I would like to clear, on the north grade for Reservoir Summit.
Bad section south of Reservoir Summit. This may be the first section we clear.
Area at Reservoir Summit where we can dump excess debris we clear.
Not bad for 100 year-old concrete.

We cleared a few rocks here and there along the roadway, mostly for clearance issues with our vehicle. The only place that required a bit more work for us to pass was at Swede’s Cut. It wasn’t unexpected as most trips along the Ridge Route involve clearing rocks there.

Swede’s Cut before we cleared the rocks and debris.
After clearing at Swede’s Cut.
Closing the south gate.

Overall, the trip was a success. We found the roadway to be traversable and in decent shape, under the circumstances it is in. Work is necessary at multiple locations and will be monitored regularly. Our first CUTRR event will be in late Spring of 2020 and we look forward to having you all join us.

December 2019 Update

Greetings all,

Finally, really good news. Last month was just “good news”. Now we’re on to really good news. Our Volunteer Service Agreement with the Angeles National Forest was finalized on December 11 and is now in effect. We will be getting a key to the gates within the next week.

Assuming weather and roadway conditions cooperate, I plan to make my first visit on the road, past the gates, on December 21st. The plan is to come from Sandberg and head to Castaic. It will be a lot of fun and an adventure. Yes, plenty of photos will be taken and posted. I haven’t fully traversed the road since about 2009 or 2010 at the latest.

With this agreement finally in place, we can begin to move forward with our portion of the physical preservation of the roadway. We are looking toward late Spring 2020, likely in early May, for our first volunteer event. Over the next few months, we will be making regular visits to the Ridge Route to assess what section we will work on first. I figure, as the road has been mostly inaccessible for so long, that a location within the closure would be best. As it gets closer, we will finalize a date for the first event on the road. All the information regarding these will be posted here as well as on RidgeRoute.com and SoCalRegion.com. Subscribe to this site, available on the right, to keep up to date with events and information on the Ridge Route.

Beyond getting the agreement and key, the roadway is still closed to motor vehicles between the gates. We are still working with the Angeles National Forest to open the road and get it properly maintained. Our maintenance events are meant to be supplementary, not primary. Our work will at least help keep the roadway in place as much as possible for the time being.