© a Quinn Martin production
Lots of you have been asking what you can do to help. This year's resolution is to affect change on The Angeles and take back OUR forest. I will have an online petition circulating soon. Thanks everybody.

I originally wanted to blog about my adventures in the San Gabriel Mountains. I have some good stories, like the time I took a donkey to Ralph's Supermarket. But then the Station Fire started. I realized that there is much that needs to be brought to the attention of the mountain going public. Most folks are kept in the dark about how the Angeles National Forest operates. I will raise issues that are important to me, which are hopefully important to all citizens, but if you have any suggestions for discussion here, I am willing.

Here's the big agenda: Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. I've made a few smart remarks and cryptic comments about her. But now, with the backing of some knowledgeable and trusted friends, it is time for a concerted effort to have her removed from her post. Stay tuned for details. And if you have any information you would like to contribute, anonymously or not, email me at gregsweet4@yahoo.com

I will get to some of the stories, sooner or later. Also, I want to make it clear that I no longer work at Adams' Pack Station, that these words are my own, and that the pack station is not the source of my information - they don't want trouble.

Vehicle Fire - Big Santa Anita Canyon - Christmas Day

UPDATE: I received this comment on my YouTube Channel...

"Hi Greg,
This is Kris Lowe, the Captain from Sierra Madre who fought the Chantry Vehicle Fire. Thanks for sharing the video of the fire. I'm sorry we couldn't use your suggestion for water, we don't have a hard suction on that engine, so we can't draw water that way. It would have been great. Monrovia FD came up with a water tender to refill our engine and Arcadia's. Then Forest Service came to do the clean up to make sure any hot spots were out. Its great when you have 4 agencies working together. Can I post your video on my Facebook?
Thanks again for the video! Kris"

Video #1: I went to drop off some home made peanut brittle for my friends at Adams' Pack Station today, Christmas Day, and as I passed the gate to Santa Anita Dam, I saw a little smoke on the road a couple of turns up. My first thought was that someone had started a bonfire in one of the turn-outs. My second thought was to go put it out. When I saw this vehicle on fire, the driver was already out, but the grass on the side of the road was on fire. I wanted to go smother it, but I didn't want to get blown up by the gas tank. Just as I decided to go for it and stop the fire from getting into the forest, Sierra Madre Fire Department showed up with a pumper.

Video #2: I drove up the road a piece to get out of the way of the firefighters then walked back. The Sierra Madre pumper quickly ran out of water, but then Arcadia FD showed up with more. At one point you can see the woman in charge (SMFD) look for a nearby stream and ask others to find a water source. I went down to explain to them that the concrete tank that they were parked in front of was in fact part of an active water system, but they may have to cut the lock off of the hatch to get at the water, and that there is also a blue fire hydrant down the road that needs to be activated by the button in the lock box next to it. Arcadia FD must have known about the hydrant, since it is their property, and they seemed to have plenty of water.

Video #3: Arcadia FD spraying a fire-retardant foam over the side of the road where the fire had spread.

Video #4: Finally, Forest Service shows up - AFTER Sierra Madre and Arcadia Fire Departments had put the fire out.

Packing Pictures

Pictures of me and donkeys packing. I will add more here as I find them on my computer. Hover over 'Notes' at bottom right for more info (which is also under construction) and click on 'Link' for full size images on Flickr...

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Don't worry, I'll get to the Jody post that I promised, but I couldn't type it today because I remembered that I told a friend I would visit Big Santa Anita Canyon. So here's a quickie...

When one carries a camera in the mountains, one not only gets photos of the mountains, but photos from the mountains. These are shots from the road to Chantry Flat. There was a tremendous amount of dust from the Station Fire burn area. Notice how much is being kicked up at the quarries in Irwindale, now imagine 160,00+ acres of the same thing blowing down on us. Thanks Jody. And you thought you had problems with the AQMD before!

Click to enlarge...

"...They're just making excuses."

In the Los Angeles Times today Paul Pringle publishes a well-researched article about that internal Forest Service review that cited rugged terrain as a reason not to order water drops on the second day of the Station Fire. Mr Pringle has been diligently on the case since the beginning of the fire and he is the only one in mainstream media that is trying to shed light on the mismanagement of The Angeles. But I will give myself a pat on the back here (actually a shameless self-promotion to keep you coming back) and tell you that I have been providing information. I sent the reporter my post on the so-called rugged terrain [here] along with some names and e-mail addresses. On November 24th I got a return email from him that simply said: "This is great. Thanks very much."

From the article: "It just irks me to see . . . that they're blaming the terrain for why no action was taken," said Don Feser, a former fire chief for the forest who retired in 2007. "They're just making excuses." Don Feser is the man that left The Angeles because of Jody Noiron's attitude [story here]. Some, namely Jody, may say that Feser's contributions to Pringle's article is just sour grapes. It's true that Don can't stand Jody, but he knows what he is talking about. He was a great asset to the forest and losing him was just one more example of how Jody Noiron is screwing-up this forest.

The article also says (please read the article) that the Forest Service is still denying that the cost-cutting memo had anything to do with the decision to wave-off helicopters. Naturally, they are lying, unless they are saying that they ignore the direction of the Regional Forester. But Jody could easily have blamed the whole thing on Randy Moore and his memo if she has nothing to hide. Something else is going on. The way this whole thing is being handled is fishy. It is a case of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks." Why is Jody Noiron so obstinate? Could it be that she has a feminist chip on her shoulder? The Forest Service does have a chauvinistic past, but that's not the case anymore. It's true that her employees call her a "bitch" because she is a woman, but if she were a man they would call her an "asshole", so it really has nothing to do with her gender. I offered an explanation of pride in a previous post, but that's not the whole story. In my next post I will tell you what is really going on.

Inaccessible? Really?

Tell that to these guys...

"A Forest Service Hand-crew Hikes Dozer Line On The "Station Fire" During Rehabilitation Operations On September 11th 2009. The temperature was in the triple digits and the hike was miles and miles long on steep terrain. This was on the Tujunga side of the fire."

Oh! What A World, What A World!

Sometimes I really amuse myself. Not to make light of any potential disasters, but I was just listening to the uncertainty of the radio weather forecaster about the saturation of the burned hillsides and I had to laugh. I thought about how during and just after the Station Fire Jody Noiron could be seen around town and on television talking about "soil hydrophobicity", whereby the ground can be coated with waxy resins from the Chaparral plants giving the soil a water-repellent property. Of course Jody knows about hydrophobicity. I've seen The Wizard of Oz and I know what happens when one throws water on a witch.

Yeah, Right!

Employees of the Angeles National Forest claim that they do not read this blog, but just after I posted the piece below, and mentioned that the Angeles website still has the fire level at 'EXTREME', somebody changed it to 'HIGH'.

More Snow 12/08/2009

Good thing this storm was so cold. Not only is the snow a beautiful December sight, but the impact on the barren soil is less. However, we could see trouble if the next storm, which looks like it is picking up tropical moisture, is a warm one. It could deposit its own rain and melt the snow at the same time. By the way, the Angeles website still has the fire danger at 'EXTREME'.

Mt Wilson looking toward Mt Waterman & Twin Peaks

(click to enlarge)

Mt Baldy Ski Lift

Grapevine Cam


Like Water off a Finch's Back

The backyard Lesser Goldfinches are eating thistle seed in the pouring rain.

Interspecific Competition

Oh, how I wish I speak like Sam Elliott or Stacy Keach...

John Muir On The San Gabriels

Naturalist/Preservationist (NOT Conservationist) John Muir talks about the San Gabriel Mountains, and tells the story of hit first experience in the range. He is describing a trip up Eaton Canyon to a peak above Altadena that now bears his name.

After saying so much for human culture in my last, perhaps I may now be allowed a word for wildness -- the wildness of this southland, pure and untamable as the sea.

In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage. Not even in the Sierra have I ever made the acquaintance of mountains more rigidly inaccessible. The slopes are exceptionally steep and insecure to the foot of the explorer, however great his strength or skill may be, but thorny chaparral constitutes their chief defense. With the exception of little park and garden spots not visible in comprehensive views, the entire surface is covered with it, from the highest peaks to the plain. It swoops into every hollow and swells over every ridge, gracefully complying with the varied topography, in shaggy, ungovernable exuberance, fairly dwarfing the utmost efforts of human culture out of sight and mind.

But in the very heart of this thorny wilderness, down in the dells, you may find gardens filled with the fairest flowers, that any child would love, and unapproachable linns lined with lilies and ferns, where the ousel builds its mossy hut and sings in chorus with the white falling water. Bears, also, and panthers, wolves, wildcats; wood rats, squirrels, foxes, snakes, and innumerable birds, all find grateful homes here, adding wildness to wildness in glorious profusion and variety.

Where the coast ranges and the Sierra Nevada come together we find a very complicated system of short ranges, the geology and topography of which is yet hidden, and many years of laborious study must be given for anything like a complete interpretation of them. The San Gabriel is one or more of these ranges, forty or fifty miles long, and half as broad, extending from the Cajon Pass on the east, to the Santa Monica and Santa Susanna ranges on the west. San Antonio, the dominating peak, rises towards the eastern extremity of the range to a height of about six thousand feet [actually 10,064ft], forming a sure landmark throughout the valley and all the way down to the coast, without, however, possessing much striking individuality. The whole range, seen from the plain, with the hot sun beating upon its southern slopes, wears a terribly forbidding aspect. There is nothing of the grandeur of snow, or glaciers, or deep forests, to excite curiosity or adventure; no trace of gardens or waterfalls. From base to summit all seems gray, barren, silent -- dead, bleached bones of mountains, overgrown with scrubby bushes, like gray moss. But all mountains are full of hidden beauty, and the next day after my arrival at Pasadena I supplied myself with bread and eagerly set out to give myself to their keeping.

On the first day of my excursion I went only as far as the mouth of Eaton Canyon, because the heat was oppressive, and a pair of new shoes were chafing my feet to such an extent that walking began to be painful. While looking for a camping ground among the boulder beds of the canyon, I came upon a strange, dark man of doubtful parentage. He kindly invited me to camp with him, and led me to his little hut. All my conjectures as to his nationality failed, and no wonder, since his father was Irish and mother Spanish, a mixture not often met even in California. He happened to be out of candles, so we sat in the dark while he gave me a sketch of his life, which was exceedingly picturesque. Then he showed me his plans for the future. He was going to settle among these canyon boulders, and make money, and marry a Spanish woman. People mine for irrigating water along the foothills as for gold. He is now driving a prospecting tunnel into a spur of the mountains back of his cabin. "My prospect is good," he said, "and if I strike a strong flow, I shall soon be worth five or ten thousand dollars. That flat out there, " he continued, referring to a small, irregular patch of gravelly detritus that had been sorted out and deposited by Eaton Creek during some flood season, "is large enough for a nice orange grove, and, after watering my own trees, I can sell water down the valley; and then the hillside back of the cabin will do for vines, and I can keep bees, for the white sage and black sage up the mountains is full of honey. You see, I've got a good thing." All this prospective affluence in the sunken, boulder-choked flood-bed of Eaton Creek! Most home-seekers would as soon think of settling on the summit of San Antonio.

Half an hour's easy rambling up the canyon brought me to the foot of "The Fall," famous throughout the valley settlements as the finest yet discovered in the range. It is a charming little thing, with a voice sweet as a songbird's, leaping some thirty-five or forty feet into a round, mirror pool. The cliff back of it and on both sides is completely covered with thick, furry mosses, and the white fall shines against the green like a silver instrument in a velvet case. Here come the Gabriel lads and lassies from the commonplace orange groves, to make love and gather ferns and dabble away their hot holidays in the cool pool. They are fortunate in finding so fresh a retreat so near their homes. It is the Yosemite of San Gabriel. The walls, though not of the true Yosemite type either in form or sculpture, rise to a height of nearly two thousand feet. Ferns are abundant on all the rocks within reach of the spray, and picturesque maples and sycamores spread a grateful shade over a rich profusion of wild flowers that grow among the boulders, from the edge of the pool a mile or more down the dell-like bottom of the valley, the whole forming a charming little poem of wildness -- the vestibule of these shaggy mountain temples.

The foot of the fall is about a thousand feet above the level of the sea, and here climbing begins. I made my way out of the valley on the west side, followed the ridge that forms the western rim of the Eaton Basin to the summit of one of the principal peaks, thence crossed the middle of the basin, forcing a way over its many subordinate ridges, and out over the eastern rim, and from first to last during three days spent in this excursion, I had to contend with the richest, most self-possessed and uncompromising chaparral I have every enjoyed since first my mountaineering began.

For a hundred feet or so the ascent was practicable only by means of bosses of the club moss that clings to the rock. Above this the ridge is weathered away to a slender knife-edge for a distance of two or three hundred yards, and thence to the summit it is a bristly mane of chaparral. Here and there small openings occur, commanding grand views of the valley and beyond to the ocean. These are favorite outlooks and resting places for bears, wolves, and wildcats. In the densest places I came upon woodrat villages whose huts were from four to eight feet high, built in the same style of architecture as those of the muskrats.

The day was nearly done. I reached the summit and I had time to make only a hasty survey of the topography of the wild basin now outspread maplike beneath, and to drink in the rare loveliness of the sunlight before hastening down in search of water. Pushing through another mile of chaparral, I emerged into one of the most beautiful parklike groves of live oak I ever saw. The ground beneath was planted only with aspidiums and brier roses. At the foot of the grove I came to the dry channel of one of the tributary streams, but, following it down a short distance, I descried a few specimens of the scarlet mimulus; and I was assured that water was near. I found about a bucketful in a granite bowl, but it was full of leaves and beetles, making a sort of brown coffee that could be rendered available only by filtering it through sand and charcoal. This I resolved to do in case the night came on before I found better. Following the channel a mile farther down to its confluence with another, larger tributary, I found a lot of boulder pools, clear as crystal, and brimming full, linked together by little glistening currents just strong enough to sing. Flowers in full bloom adorned the banks, lilies ten feet high, and luxuriant ferns arching over one another in lavish abundance, while a noble old live oak spread its rugged boughs over all, forming one of the most perfect and most secluded of Nature's gardens. Here I camped, making my bed on smooth cobblestones.

Next morning, pushing up the channel of a tributary that takes its rise on Mount San Antonio, I passed many lovely gardens watered by oozing currentlets, every one of which had lilies in them in the full pomp of bloom, and a rich growth of ferns, chiefly woodwardias and aspidiums and maidenhairs; but toward the base of the mountain the channel was dry, and the chaparral closed over from bank to bank, so that I was compelled to creep more than a mile on hands and knees.

In one spot I found an opening in the thorny sky where I could stand erect, and on the further side of the opening discovered a small pool. "Now, HERE," I said, "I must be careful in creeping, for the birds of the neighborhood come here to drink, and the rattlesnakes come here to catch them." I then began to cast my eye along the channel, perhaps instinctively feeling a snaky atmosphere, and finally discovered one rattler between my feet. But there was a bashful look in his eye, and a withdrawing, deprecating kink in his neck that showed plainly as words could tell that he would not strike, and only wished to be let alone. I therefore passed on, lifting my foot a little higher than usual, and left him to enjoy his life in this his own home.

My next camp was near the heart of the basin, at the head of a grand system of cascades from ten to two hundred feet high, one following the other in close succession and making a total descent of nearly seventeen hundred feet. The rocks above me leaned over in a threatening way and were full of seams, making the camp a very unsafe one during an earthquake.

Next day the chaparral, in ascending the eastern rim of the basin, was, if possible, denser and more stubbornly bayoneted than ever. I followed bear trails, where in some places I found tufts of their hair that had been pulled out in squeezing a way through; but there was much of a very interesting character that far overpaid all my pains. Most of the plants are identical with those of the Sierra, but there are quite a number of Mexican species. One coniferous tree was all I found. This is a spruce of a species new to me, Douglasii macrocarpa [now Pseudotsuga macrocarpa].

My last camp was down at the narrow, notched bottom of a dry channel, the only open way for the life in the neighborhood. I therefore lay between two fires, built to fence out snakes and wolves.

From the summit of the eastern rim I had a glorious view of the valley out to the ocean, which would require a whole book for its description. My bread gave out a day before reaching the settlements, but I felt all the fresher and clearer for the fast.

Another Snow Job?

I got an indirect report recently from a retired employee of the Angeles National Forest who used to hold a highly-ranked office. This person said that there is a new trailer parked up at Mount Waterman, the kind of trailer that one might use as a temporary construction office, and this person seemed to be concerned about it.

Now, I don't know for sure what the trailer is doing there, but we do know that the ski facility on Waterman had suffered competitively because they do not have snow making capabilities, and that the Newcomb family (Lynn Newcomb Jr.) has been trying to resurrect the resort. According to the Mt Waterman Wikipedia page "there is a 5 million gallon, tadpole-filled reservoir for a future snowmaking system." I presume that the trailer is associated with these snow making operations.

Considering what I have already told you about the new reservoir on Mt Baldy, I wonder if any of the proper procedures were followed in allowing this development on Mt Waterman. Maybe they did everything right, but we have no reason to believe that they did. Rest assured, the Forest Service's internal investigation authority has been contacted.

Incidentally, I have been hearing that managers on the Los Angeles River Ranger District, where Mt Waterman is located, may have had something to do with the Mt Baldy reservoir, even though it is on the San Gabriel River Ranger District. I don't know yet what that is about, but Jody Noiron is the supervisor over all three districts, and any shenanigans on the forest go back to her.

My Voice Is Being Heard

I got a voicemail message yesterday from the office of LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. I returned the call today and I was thanked for all the valuable information and resources. The representative updated me on all of the discussions, and with whom, are being had about the Station Fire.

I expressed my opinion that the fire was just an example of the poor and under management of The Angeles, and that a major reform is necessary on our local forest. I reminded them just how important The Angeles is to the physical and emotional well-being of so many Angelinos, and that Mr. Antonovich, an outdoorsman himself, ought to be sympathetic to the plight of our mountains.

Of course, I got very diplomatic responses to my concerns, but I think it is a positive sign that they called me back and are listening to citizens. The County is also pushing very hard for help from Congress and Senator Feinstein (who reportedly hates Jody Noiron, by the way) in reforming the management of The Angeles.