November – December 2021 Newsletter

Ridge Route Update

With winter coming, we will be shutting down our CUTRR projects until March or April 2022, depending on how winter goes. Planning gets to be a bit more difficult when dodging rain and snow storms. Those same storms also bring additional hazards to the historic roadway. To ensure both yourself and the roadway stay as safe as possible, please do not travel the roadway during or just after a heavy rain or snow storm. Mud, rocks, and other debris may be present on the roadway blocking the roadway. The concrete paving is also most vulnerable during this period and can be easier to break with a wet base. We can all do our part to help keep the roadway safe.

Overall, the roadway is in decent shape with some major exceptions. Those exceptions are a part of our CUTRR goals and what we intend to get the USFS to repair as needed. The gates at both ends remain closed and as always, if you see them open DO NOT expect them to remain open for the duration of your visit. USFS, utility companies, and other groups with access may close the gates behind them.

We are working with the USFS to “upgrade” our relationship with them as well as get approvals to use heavier equipment, such as skid-steers and scrapers. Using them will allow us to clear the roadway a lot easier and with greater speed while still ensuring the historic roadway remains intact. Our last two events have mostly used hand tools, which we still will use for smaller projects and to clear brush as needed. I do wish to thank ALL that have contributed to the success of these events, in any way they have contributed. Some have done so financially, others brought tools, many others have been helping swing picks and clear debris. We couldn’t, nor could we continue, to do this without all your efforts. Thank you Ridge Route volunteers!

October 23, 2021 CUTRR Event Report

CUTRR crew hard at work

We had another successful CUTRR event on the 23rd. We set the date later in October with the hopes the weather would be cooler and the fire danger would have subsided. We got that and more. It rained a bit the night before, but not enough to cancel or cause a problem. It rained / drizzled yet more when we all met in Gorman. However, when we got to the work site, the weather was near perfect.

The work was hampered a fair amount due to the lack of heavier equipment. Should we do this again without skid-steer/bobcat-type equipment, we intend to use powered tools, such as jackhammers and the like to break up and remove the debris from the roadway. We hadn’t really used such equipment in the past and I hadn’t considered it before as a result.

Despite using just hand tools, we made really good progress, thanks to our volunteers. The drain was cleared, channels were dug to help direct the water better, and a decent amount of material was removed to help prevent this from getting worse. Repairs to the drainage culvert will be necessary in the near future, however, as it is starting to rust and develop holes.

Finished for the day.

If you’d like to help plan the next CUTRR event, let us know! We can use the help.

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Reporting Problems on the Ridge Route

With all the recent fire activity as well as other events such as January 26 when big rigs tried to travel the Ridge Route, we thought it was a good idea to have a place to report things. If you see something wrong on the Ridge Route, be it a developing washout, large vehicles traversing the roadway, or things out-of-the-ordinary, we have have set up a web page to help you report things on the road. We will pass the information along to the appropriate agencies as needed.

To Report Problems or other issues on the Ridge Route, please use the website below. The web page is also located under our “Current Roadway Conditions” page in the menu.

Featured Photo

Ridge Route in Castaic with Castaic Dam in the right background. Courtesy – Michael F Ballard

This month’s featured photo shows a section of the Ridge Route which seems insignificant, but contains a great deal of history. It was taken on Castaic Lake Drive just north of the Castaic Lagoon entrance. This location marks the end of the 1915-1917 Saugus to Castaic paving, the 1922 widening of the 1917 paving (the small strip of concrete at the edge of the roadway), the beginning of the “true” Ridge Route 20′ wide paving, the first curve on the Ridge Route, and the former junction with Elizabeth Lake Canyon Road (now Lake Hughes Road). Come check out this unique piece of Ridge Route history next time you visit Castaic or Castaic Lake.

September – October 2021 Newsletter

August CUTRR Event

On Saturday, August 28, we held our first 2021 CUTRR event. Each event has a section of roadway to focus on and this one was to remove a large rockslide that occurred in January 2021 below Swede’s Cut. The event was advertised on our website and on our social media accounts. It was a huge success! We had a much larger group than I had expected and we completed our task. The rockslide has been removed and the roadway is clear!

The slide, as it was in February 2021 and what we had to clear.

The big boulder visible took a lot of work to deal with. At first, we worked to break up the boulder, which slowly chipped away at its bulk. We had hoped to break it down yet further but reached a point it was too difficult given our tools and the heat. We decided the best course of action was to move it across the roadway and off the pavement. Between a truck and a jeep with tow straps, we were able to finally drag it off the roadway with minimal damage to the historic pavement below. Eventually, we hope to completely remove the large boulder either by further breaking it up or removing it in its entirety to another location.

Crew at work clearing the slide. Moving the big boulder took some time.
Fossil leaves from the upper Miocene Ridge Route Formation. Found in the slide material.
Almost done clearing the debris. The big boulder is now moved across the road and out of the way.
Roadway cleared and swept.

I want to thank ALL the volunteers that were able to attend. It was really a great and enthusiastic group. We could not have done this without all of you!

A video of the event was also posted on YouTube by one of the participants, Sydney Croasmun.

An additional video with aerial footage was posted by Huck Outdoors.

October CUTRR

We are planning another CUTRR event in October when temperatures will hopefully be cooler, however at this time we do not have a date set. We will be developing a better list for tools similar to a “potluck” for signups. Look for updates coming in the near future. If you would like additional information, have tools or equipment you’d like to offer for use, please let us know!

Roadway Update

The roadway is overall in decent condition but many problematic sections still exist. The northern end from the Liebre Maintenance Camp site to Sandberg has a few larger dirt-covered sections and areas where the culverts are partially clogged. Some sections of 1924-1927 asphalt are also failing. We intend to get work parties up there to rehabilitate the failing asphalt and remove the material on the roadway in the near future.

The roadway does remain closed between the Tumble Inn and just north of Templin Highway. While the gates have been left open, usually by the utility companies working along the road, anyone traveling up there should expect the gates to be locked. If one is unlocked, don’t expect the other to be as well. Please exercise caution along the roadway. We all want to keep the roadway around for the future and everyone can help do their part in ensuring that.

Forest Closure

All National Forests are closed from August 31, 2021 to September 17, 2021 per a recent USFS press release. This includes access to the Ridge Route from Templin Highway to State 138. For detailed information, please see the link below.

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Featured Photo

Curbing just north of Martins

Concrete curbing used to be much more common along the Ridge Route. It was used in places where wooden railing was more difficult to install. As the roadway was realigned, the curbing was removed. Today, very little remains of what once was miles of it. Only four short sections remain today. Those are located at the Callahan Line Change, just north of Martins, Serpentine Drive, and Grapevine.

July-August 2021 Newsletter

The Grapevine or The Ridge Route?
by Michael F Ballard

The Grapevine. Courtesy – Caltrans

I-5 is commonly referred to as “The Grapevine” by locals and traffic reporters. Most assume the name derives from the twisty nature of the original roadway – the Ridge Route. That road was indeed very twisty, much like a grapevine. However, that is still not the reason. The name Grapevine actually comes from Grapevine Canyon, where old US 99 and I-5 come down from the mountains and into the San Joaquin Valley. The canyon is called such as wild grapes grow along the canyon walls. It was formerly known as Canada De Las Uvas which is Spanish for Canyon of the Grapes. The name Tejon Pass is also a “new” addition to the area. The current Tejon Pass was known as Grapevine Pass or Badger Pass until the 1850’s. Old Tejon Pass, much farther to the east, was a very treacherous route. That pass was eventually abandoned in favor of the current Tejon Pass. The name was just shifted to the new route.

After the 1933 bypass of the original road to as late as the 1970’s, the roadway over the mountains was still referred to as “The Ridge Route”. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the name “The Grapevine” was extended to the entire roadway. Why this was done is still unclear. Even Caltrans called it the “Ridge Route” when I-5 was completed. So, if you want to call it proper – call it Tejon Pass, when being specific to the actual pass, and the Ridge Route when referring to I-5 from Castaic to Grapevine. While you’re passing through Grapevine Canyon, be sure to spot the wild grapevines that still grow in the canyon. Names may change, but the name Ridge Route should live on. It applies to I-5 better than “The Grapevine” ever will.


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 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.

Membership is required to attend due to USFS volunteer requirements and you must RSVP prior to the event. If you just need a one-day membership, you can get one for $10 using our online form or via the mail by check.

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!

Roadway Update

We have been getting many reports lately that the roadway is open at both ends. This may well be the case, but please understand, this is not the standard position as yet. It is likely the utility companies have been leaving the gates open instead of closing them after they pass through. This does indeed create a problem where people can get stuck between the gates. Both gates have writing on them attesting to this.

We are working to get them open on a more permanent basis but it will take a while. There are issues with the roadway which do need to be dealt with before even the RRPO wants the roadway open. There are numerous places where the reinforcing bar in the concrete is exposed, potholes in the asphalt that are getting worse, and many other problems that can cause more damage when traversing the roadway. Please remember, we are here to help preserve and protect the roadway. Travel over it is also a goal but not at the cost of the roadway itself. Now that we are getting CUTRR events going again, we may well see improvements to the roadway quality. Why not join us and help protect the roadway we all enjoy?

Featured Photo

Looking north from the Ridge Route near the National Forest Inn. Courtesy – Michael F Ballard

The Ridge Route is well known for its views. Wide expanses of open land, mountains, and canyons as far as the eye can see. One of my favorite viewpoints is just south of the National Forest Inn looking northerly. From there, you can see all the way to Liebre Summit with Kelly’s Halfway Inn and Reservoir Summit plainly visible. To the west, the distant peak of Frazier Mountain (8000′) is visible.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.