Friday, February 22, 2019

SR-2, Angeles Crest Highway, is Littered With Colorful Folklore

SR-2 (Angeles Crest Highway), a scenic roadway in the San Gabriel Mountains, has been hammered this winter with on-and-off closures because of heavy snow and rain, triggering numerous mud and rock slides in recent weeks. But pinpointing road closures on the curvy mountain pass is challenging because of the highway’s quirky history.

We receive in-house reports such as: “(Angeles National Forest) NB and SB Route 2 (Angeles Crest Hwy); from Red Box Rd to Upper Big Tujunga Rd and from Kratka/Snowcrest ski area to Rte 39. Both directions of Rte 2 are closed. …  Duration is unknown.”

Um, where is that?

Fortunately, we can rely on that displays little barrier icons. But nagging curiosity prompted us to dig a little deeper.

Odd names tied to colorful forklore and characters dot the 55-mile corridor from La Cañada Flintridge to the Mountain Top junction at SR-138 in San Bernardino County.  

Running parallel to San Gabriel Canyon Road (SR-39) until the two highways intersect at Islip Saddle in the Angeles National Forest, SR-2 — as it’s now known — started as a fire access road.

Later, it was conceived as the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway — with the goal of becoming the most “picturesque mountain rode” in California. Construction on the highway began in 1929, with a five-year pause during World War II, and completed in 1956. It was designated a California State Scenic Highway on March 12, 1971, and a National Forest Scenic Byway on Oct. 5, 1990.

Over the years, many turns, dips and valleys along the highway were designated with head-scratching names:

Red Box (elevation 4,623’): Named for the large red box that contained Forest Service fire tools as early as 1908.

Upper Big Tujunga (elevation 4,614’): Tujunga is taken from Native American language Tongva and means “place of the old woman.” The Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe was indigenous to the Los Angeles Basin, including the San Gabriel Mountains. 

Dawson Saddle (highest elevation on highway, 7,986'): Named for R.W. Dawson, who was an early miner from San Gabriel Canyon. He later operated Sycamore Camp in 1876, now called Coldbrook Camp. (Saddle: A point along a ridge between two peaks where the topography resembles the seat used by a horse rider.) 

Islip Saddle (elevation 6,661’): Named for George Islip, who ran Orchard’s Camp from 1850s to 1879. Historic trade route intersection of Highways 2 and 39.

Jarvi Memorial Vista (elevation 6,783’): Named after Simeri Jarvi, supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, who died of a heart attack while hiking on the trail to Mt. Waterman in 1958.

Switzer’s Picnic Area (elevation 3,569): Named after Perry Switzer, a Pasadena carpenter who built a resort here in 1885. Damaged by fire in 1905, the resort was rebuilt in 1911 — only to be ruined by flood in 1938. The remnants were demolished in the 1980s.

Vincent Gap (elevation 6,580’): Named after Charles “Tom” Vincent, a local character known as a recluse, prospector and hunter. Founder of several mines in the forest, Vincent was known in the area for slaying a grizzly bear. 
Little Jimmy's (elevation 7,257’): Named for James Swinnerton, a cartoonist who camped and painted landscapes during the early 1900s. In 1909, he painted a life-size color caricature of one of his cartoons, “Little Jimmy,” on a tree stump near the present-day campground.

Chilao Campground (elevation 5,298’): This land was historically used by Native Americans as a summer home. The origin of the name Chilao is unknown for certain, but there are many stories. One legend notes it came from bandits who earned the nickname “Chillia.” Another tale attributes the name to Chilao Silvas, a rancher known for lassoing bears.  

Newcomb’s Ranch (elevation 5,335): Forest Service Ranger Louie Newcomb was an early homesteader who lived in a cabin frequented by William Sturtevant, another historic character. While working as a ranger for a few years, Newcomb built trails and cabins. Griping the Angeles Crest Highway ruined the area, Newcomb sold his property in 1929 to his cousin, Lynn Newcomb Sr. Newcomb’s Ranch Inn was established in 1939, but destroyed by fire in 1976. It was later rebuilt as a restaurant by Lynn Newcomb Jr.

Devil’s Canyon (elevation 5,303’): Mystique swirls around this location. One story describes how four young hunters ventured into the canyon but became confused and lost. Two made it to Pine Flats two days later without food and weapons. The other two ended up at a hunter’s camp in Bear Canyon several days later without food, guns and clothing.

Many more unusual names line the roadway, not to mention nearby landmarks like Mt. Disappoinment, so named because a United States Geological Survey team believed it was the highest point in the forest in 1894 only to learn later that San Gabriel Peak — a half mile east — was 167 feet higher.

Sources for this article are below. For more interesting tidbits, check out these links:

Angeles Crest Highway Roadway Guide

Angeles Crest Scenic Byway

Angela Crest Highway (Mountain Hardware)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Caltrans Combats Flooding, Mudslides, Boulders and Snow

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, Caltrans District 7 was inundated with a series of rainstorms — combined with gusty winds, high surf and frigid temperatures — that provided California’s version of a winter blast. According to the National Weather Service, the top rainfall total in the district, which includes Los Angeles and Ventura counties,was 11.69 inches at Opids Camp, an old-time trail stop about 3,600 feet above Pasadena in the Angeles National Forest. It is famous among weather junkies, known for getting more rain and snow than anywhere else in Los Angeles County. (See map noting proximity to SR-39 mountain slide below.)

This series of photos shows a few of many emergencies that @CaltransDist7 crews battled over the past week, with much more cleanup required in the days and weeks ahead.  

Jan. 31: All lanes CLOSED on Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) between Las Posas Road and Broad Beach Road due to mud flow.

Feb. 2 Video: @CaltransDist7 maintenance workers were faced with water and mud runoff gushing onto Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1).

Feb. 3: @CaltransDist7 is hard at work clearing one of the mudslides along PCH on Feb. 2. SR-1 remains closed from Las Posas Road in Ventura County to Trancas Canyon Road in Malibu.

Feb. 3: State Route 23 (Decker Road) is closed for Caltrans to clean mud and rock slides.

Feb. 3: State Route 33 at Camino Cielo crossing, north of Ojai, on Saturday, Feb. 2. The road is closed while Caltrans clears mud and rock slides.

Feb. 4: Westbound I-210 at Grand Ave. in Glendora the HOV and two left lanes are closed until Hazmat team cleans fuel spill from van that hit median barrier.

Feb. 4: State Route 150 is closed from Reeves Road in Ojai to south of Dennison Park due to a slide with large boulders. Road might open Tuesday. Until then, access to Upper Ojai must be made through Santa Paula.

Feb. 5: Chilao Mountain Crew plowing snow from Angeles Crest Highway (SR-2) at 6,000-foot elevation. If visiting the mountains, be prepared with chains and drive cautiously!

Feb. 5: Caltrans Crew close right lane on eastbound I-10 in Covina near the Via Verde Street off-ramp for an emergency pothole repair.


Feb. 5: State Route 39 (San Gabriel Canyon Road) is CLOSED in both directions at East Fork Road due to a slide in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa.

Friday, February 1, 2019

How Do We Build the Frame for the Deck of the New Valley View Ave. Bridge in Santa Fe Springs?

The new Valley View Ave. Bridge is a key part of the reconstruction of the I-5 Valley View Ave. interchange, where we are adding lanes to I-5 and to the bridge. The new bridge will widen Valley View Ave. where it crosses the bridge from four to six lanes.

The final section of three for the first half of the new bridge is under construction. We are in the process of building the frame for the deck. What is the process? See photo galleries below:

First, workers construct the "falsework", or lumber and steel frame support:


Then a crane lifts the falsework into a vertical position and places it:

Next the falsework is secured with cable and steel arm supports:

Then the crane lifts steel beams and places them horizontally across the falsework:

And the deck frame of the bridge begins to take shape:


Monday, January 28, 2019

Caltrans to Replace Mesh Above CHP Truck Scales in Thousand Oaks

The cliffs overlooking the CHP truck scales, or weigh station, on the north side of US-101 in Thousand Oaks have "mesh" secured to them to prevent rocks from sliding down into the weigh station area and damaging trucks.

What is mesh? Double-twist mesh is wire configured like link fencing that is secured against the cliffs / slope. The mesh is coated and secured to the earth by nine foot rods driven into the ground. The top 20 feet of the mesh in this location was compromised by the Hill Fire last autumn and will be replaced soon. The replacement operation will require either a crane or helicopter to lift the segments of mesh into place and rock scalers to descend from the top of the cliff by rope and secure the new mesh.

Photos below show the damaged mesh and installation preparation.

The mesh secured against the cliffs above the scales (below):

Rolls of new mesh prepped and cut to measurement of 20 feet (below): 



Cable securing the mesh from the top of the cliffs (below): 

A view of the truck scales from the top of the cliffs on the north side of US-101 (below):

Thursday, January 17, 2019

25 Years Later, Remembering the 1994 Northridge Earthquake

On January 17, 1994 at 4:30 a.m., a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rattled Los Angeles and Southern California, leaving a path of devastation and damaging homes, businesses, and infrastructure. 

In Los Angeles County, the quake caused highways and interchanges to collapse on Interstate 10, Interstate 5, State Route 14 and State Route 118. Caltrans responded immediately and demolished the damaged highways in order to begin the rebuilding the process. 

In the video below, you will see the damage that our highways received from the quake and the hard work it took to rebuild and open the highways:   

After the Northridge quake, California’s Seismic Activity Board reported 60 bridges that were retrofitted after the Sylmar Earthquake in the 1980’s performed well. Since then, our work to strengthen the state’s aging bridges has continued and today we have completed retrofitting more than 2,200 bridges on the state highway system. While recognizing that bridges will likely be damaged by significant quake activity, the goal of our seismic retrofit program is to preserve life by preventing bridge collapse. 

Graphic of seismic retrofitting to freeway structures in California.
Graphic explaining construction and repairs of I-10 in Los Angeles
Photos of damage and repairs on I-5 and SR-14 connectors in Sylmar/Newhall

Photos of damage and repairs on I-10