August 28 CUTRR Event

After many delays and other issues, we will finally be hosting our first Clean Up The Ridge Route (CUTRR) event on Saturday, August 28, 2021. We will be meeting in Castaic in the parking lot of Mike’s Original Diner (31537 Castaic Rd, Castaic, CA 91384) at 8 am and leaving by 8:30 am to the work site. It may be hot, so bring plenty of water and food. Please make sure to carpool as we want to reduce the number of vehicles on the roadway. This CUTRR will concentrate on the large rockslide south of Swede’s Cut and, if there is enough time, Swede’s Cut itself. We will need tools such as picks, shovels, rakes, pruning saw, pole pruner, mattocks, clippers, wheelbarrows, brooms, and a vehicle to haul away materials to our designated disposal site at Reservoir Summit.

Contact us for additional details or if you’d like to RSVP for the event. We look forward to seeing you out there! Let’s get the road cleared!

May-June 2021 Newsletter

From the President
Michael F Ballard

With the arrival of Spring, we can declare the Ridge Route at least made it through another winter season with minimal damage. Between the threat of fires last year, such as the Lake Fire in August 2020, and the heavy “atmospheric river” storm in January 2020, the area has been through a lot. We know it can’t last without at least a basic amount of maintenance. Each winter brings rocks, mud, and the potential landslide. Each summer still brings the possibility of fires which can not only damage the roadway and burn what little wooden artifacts are left, but makes winters all the more troublesome.

On a somewhat regular basis, we travel the roadway and survey it for damage and potential problems, such as failing culverts and landslides. Some of the damage to the roadway isn’t from any of these, but from failure of the concrete itself. There are at least six instances of reinforcing bar sticking out of the roadway. All of them were marked over the weekend of April 24th during a recent survey. Some of them were large enough to potentially puncture a tire. These need to be repaired before larger amounts of traffic traverse the roadway. Some larger potholes also need to be tended to before they cause damage to the surrounding roadway. We intend to repair or have these repaired in the near future. With your support, we can make a difference and at least mitigate the damage from all these problems.

Spring on the Ridge Route
by Debbie Mallon

California Sunflower (Helianthus californicus)

Spring rains bring lushness back to the Ridge Route vegetation as well as blooms from flowering native plants. One cheerful example is the California Sunflower (Helianthus californicus) seen on the sunny slopes of the route. A common myth is that sunflowers always follow the sun. In reality, only the young flowers orient towards the sun throughout the day. However, upon maturity the flowers stop tracking the sun and blooms orient eastward. The phenomena of flowers following the sun is called heliotropism.

Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentale)

Another vigorous plant found along the route is the Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentale), which is a true native thistle and a member of the sunflower family. The plant has a two year lifespan producing blooms in the second year. You can expect to see them in bloom from March to July. Cobweb Thistle is an important source of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies.

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

Last, Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), nature’s verdant ground cover, prefers cool and moist conditions. On the Ridge Route it is most often found on shady slopes or under tree canopies. Miner’s Lettuce is edible and so named because miners ate the plant as salad greens. Leaf, flowers and stems can be eaten raw or cooked and are a source of vitamins C and A as well as iron. The tiny flowers bloom from February through May.

Roadway Status

The Ridge Route is still closed between the Tumble Inn and Templin Highway. While we are working to get it open, always use caution if the gates are open. You can be locked in as the default position is for the gates to be closed. On the last trip over the roadway on the 24th, we saw that people had written on the gates notes regarding either being locked in or that the roadway wasn’t a “through road”. The road is marked at both ends as not going through. We are working with the USFS to increase signage but there is only so much that can be done.

The roadway, when open, is traversable by a standard clearance automobile, as we have found. Even with this in mind, don’t expect your car to clear that “small” rock in the middle of the roadway. The roadway is quite remote and the nearest service station is many miles away. Bring plenty of water and food for any trip over the Ridge Route as you never know what may happen up there.

Membership

Are you a member yet? If you aren’t, you should be. Our CUTRR events, for example, are a members-only event and we plan to get those going in the near future. Your membership dues help us get the road open and keep it maintained. Dues are also tax-deductible as we are a 501(c)3 organization. Join us and help keep the Ridge Route alive!

Events

It looks like events are finally coming back. Starting May 3, 2021, Volunteers will be allowed to start working again in the Angeles National Forest. We are working on a date for our “first” new CUTRR event this year. Depending on how the season goes, as well as other factors, there may be one in June. It is more likely there will be one in September, to allow for more people to be vaccinated and for the summer heat to subside. If you are interested in joining us or wish to contribute to an event, let us know. You must be a member of the Ridge Route Preservation Organization to go to a CUTRR event. If you aren’t a regular member, we do have daily memberships available.

We are also considering hosting another Zoom meeting in the near future. Once we establish a date and topic, it will be posted on our website. Let us know if you’d be interested and what topics would be good to cover. Please subscribe to this website, if you haven’t already, as you will be e-mailed updates.

Fundraising

As it is finally getting closer for us to hold events and cleanups on the Ridge Route, we will need your support. We plan to obtain some asphalt patching material to stabilize some of the 1920’s asphalt between the Liebre Maintenance Station and Sandberg where the pavement is rapidly degrading. We also may be repairing the Tumble Inn gate, which will potentially involve labor costs and materials. Your donations may be tax-deductible, so keep that in mind.

April 2021 Newsletter

Special Feature
Tracks of the Ridge Route

During the original paving of the Ridge Route from 1917-1920, various travelers left their marks on the road. While not intentional, they created a sort of “pseudo-fossil” and a window into the past. Tracks were left in the concrete from cars, people, and even animals. In one instance, you can see where the car tracks were poorly covered, creating a slightly bumpy surface and making the tire tracks even more apparent. These impressions are a part of the history of the Ridge Route and deserve to be preserved alongside the foundations of the cafes and gas stations along the way. They remain as one of the interesting aspects of the roadway. Next time you travel the Ridge Route, be on the lookout. Maybe you’ll spot a 100 year-old deer track?

Animal Tracks

Quite a few small mammals crossed here
Coyotes or wolves by the paw prints. Could have also been a contractors dog.

Human Tracks

Shoe prints left in the concrete.
Almost like a detective story. The prints and the tire tracks leaving the scene.
Here, someone did a three-point turn over the wet concrete and tried to cover it up.
Tracks, complete with treads, are still visible at the three-point turn location.

Road Updates

The roadway is still closed. The storms of January 2021 did some damage as did the trucks that traveled the roadway, mostly in the form of rock slides near Swede’s Cut and damage to the southern gate. These will take a bit of time to clear, so please use caution if you travel the roadway. Keep in mind the default position for the gates is to be closed. If one is open, don’t expect the other to be nor expect the gate to still be open when you return.

We have also received reports of rebar sticking out of the concrete near the Liebre Maintenance Station site. The rebar can and will puncture a tire. Issues like this are part of why we want a basic maintenance agreement with the USFS before it is reopened.

Rebar spike sticking out of the concrete near Culvert #24. Photo courtesy – Debbie Mallon

We are working with the USFS to have the gates open at least outside of the rainy season. This compromise would allow travel over the roadway while reducing the potential for damage. The long term goal of the RRPO has always been preservation of the roadway. It does come with a cost. That cost may include having the roadway closed when it is most vulnerable. Help us by doing your part to keep the road safe. The area between Sandberg and the Tumble Inn gate is deteriorating more than the rest of the roadway. Don’t travel over when it is raining, snowing, or muddy. It might be pretty, but you are likely damaging the roadway by going there at that time. During those times, it might be best to walk or take a bicycle.

Membership

We recently made some changes to our website to allow online membership applications. If you were a member in the past and would like to renew (memberships are annual), or you’d like to become a new member, it is a whole lot quicker and easier now. If you’d like to join or renew, please use our online membership form. We still have our mail-in method as well. Keep in mind your donation may be tax-deductible as we are a 501(c)3 organization.

Events / Projects

In-person events, such as a CUTRR or tours, are still on hold due to the pandemic. As things are improving, albeit slowly, we anticipate being able to hold some sort of event much later this year. An exact time is still uncertain. It doesn’t mean we can’t hold other events, such as online meetings. Our first online meeting had up to 15 people attend. It was a lot of fun and will be done again. We plan to hold more meetings like this in the future to help inform the public about what is going on with the roadway and the RRPO. Come join us!

We may also be helping to repair the gate at the Tumble Inn. If you are or know a welder / metal worker, let us know. We aren’t seeking estimates yet but would like to know who is out there.

Fundraising

Our online fundraising has been going rather well in March. We do wish to thank all those that have donated. We will need those funds in the near future for a few possible projects on the roadway, such as pothole repair and modifying the gate at the Tumble Inn. Your donations help ensure the roadway will continue on into the future.

Errata

We are moving the newsletter to a bimonthly timeline starting May 2021. You can find our previous newsletters and updates here. There will still be interim updates on the website as needed. Make sure you’re subscribed to keep up-to-date on the road.

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.

Snow Storm Update 1/27/2021

It has been a long day but we have at least some news to report. The gates on the Ridge Route are now closed and locked per the USFS. The County of Los Angeles will be placing “Road Closed Ahead” signs today at Templin Highway and Pine Canyon Road. We will be surveying the damage caused by the trucks next month when weather permits, possibly with the USFS as well. We will be contacting CHP to find out if they have any information about the truckers involved so we can begin that process.

Google Maps and Waze are also being updated. Google Maps was updated this morning. Both closures on those sites will require updates, as getting them to mark it as “permanent” or at least “long-term” seems to be a problem. Regardless of what a GPS showed or what conditions may have been, it is still unbelievable that anyone driving a truck as large as that would have even considered going on such a roadway. It doesn’t have a centerline stripe from Templin Highway to State 138, which is a clue the roadway is not a major one. It also goes much higher in elevation than I-5, which again, is a clue it would be worse to travel. That elevation difference is one of the reasons it was bypassed rather than upgraded in 1933. Liebre Summit is higher than Tejon Pass by 110 feet and a lot more treacherous.

We all want to be able to enjoy the scenery along the roadway. Don’t destroy it for the future because you want to bypass a freeway closure or go play in the snow. There are plenty of alternatives that aren’t historic highways to do these things on.

We do need your support to keep things like this from happening again. Part of that support is to let us know if you see or hear anything regarding the roadway, such as trucks being stuck on it during a snowstorm. We don’t always get the information we need and happening upon it, such as we did this time, wasn’t pleasant. If you want to help in other ways, why not become a member, make a donation, or both. Your donation and membership is tax-deductible as we are a 501(c)3 organization.