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

December 2020 Update

2020 is nearly over. It has had its moments, but some good has been brought to the Ridge Route. Due to the Lake Fire in August, the roadway was mostly cleared of debris and brush from Sandberg to Templin Highway. A closure order, also resulting from that fire, was also lifted on December 8, 2020. To clarify, this order being lifted doesn’t change the status of the roadway. It is still closed. As the order is lifted, travel is now allowed over the roadway with the caveat of the gates still being closed at either end.

USFS Forest Order 05-01-20-09

In recent travels, the gates at either end have been open, but this doesn’t mean the roadway is open. It seems likely the USFS or a contractor working up there has left them open. We are still working with the USFS to resolve this problem, which isn’t easy. It also isn’t likely we will be able to hold a CUTRR event until the latter half of 2021 but we do hope to be able to. We are ready to do it pending clearance from the USFS and the State for such events, as are many other groups.

In early December, we held a small fundraiser through the website. We had set a goal of $300 to help cover operating costs. We ended up raising nearly $500 instead. We want to thank all those who donated, regardless of amount, and helped us get through 2020. We look forward to making good progress toward our goals in 2021. It will be a better year.

Saugus Cafe Needs Your Help

The Saugus Cafe, which has been in business for 132 years, is in danger of closing. With the ongoing crisis, business has slowed and restrictions are in place making it tougher than ever. This restaurant is a part of the history of Santa Clarita and US 99. It is located at 25861 Railroad Avenue (formerly San Fernando Road) in Santa Clarita, California. As a kid, I always enjoyed going there and getting a seat near the window so I could watch the trains go by. I was last able to stop there in January 2020. It isn’t truly a Ridge Route trip without it, as it is the LAST place that is still around that dates to that era AND is along the route.

If you’d like to help save this historic restaurant and learn more, KHTS radio has a detailed article here. The Saugus Cafe has also started a “GoFundMe” account. If you are in the area, please stop by the restaurant and show your support! We need places like this to keep going, as without we lose a part of our heritage and a connection to the past.

This article was originally posted on the
Historic Highway 99 Association of California’s website.

October 2020 Update

2020 is rapidly passing us by, it seems. We had hoped to be at our 3rd CUTRR by this point, preparing for another. Those are still on hold. Hoping now for early 2021, depending on many factors. The biggest is the closure on the Ridge Route until December 31, 2020. Please keep this in mind before traveling up there at this time. The roadway is closed at this time regardless of the gates being open or not.

Signage at the south end of the Ridge Route near Templin Highway.

As a part of the Lake Fire preparations, the Ridge Route was used as a contingency fire line. This resulted in brush and rocks being cleared from the entire roadway from Sandberg to Templin Highway. Much additional work is needed to be done, such as clearing drains and a whole lot of other debris from the roadway. One culvert, just south of Kelly’s Halfway Inn, is badly damaged and the roadway is washing out at that point. This is the reason we need to get up there and do our work. Hopefully the Forest Service allows us to at least get some work done prior to the rainy season. Being a La Nina year could at least be advantageous for us in that regard.

Badly damaged Culvert #53 near Kelly’s Halfway Inn

In other news, one initiative I’d like to get started is getting Historic US 99 signage along Ridge Route Road and Castaic Road in Castaic. Having that signage there would attract more interest in the roadway and promote the town. This is still very early in the planning stages, and doesn’t supersede our efforts to get the road open.

Holding up my Historic US 99 sign at the south end of the Ridge Route (technically the road to the right, Neely St) in Castaic.

Remember, if you’re interested in following our work, just click on the “Subscribe” link to the right side of the screen to get updates from this site. You can follow us on Twitter (@ridgeroute99) and Instagram (@ridgerouteorg) as well.

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.