[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: R.I.P. Dagger Flat | 08-07-2016
Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
93°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 25
1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]


Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Aug 7, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelDagger Flat began as a small Native American Tataviam footpath.

The Tataviam Indians spent much of their time living in what is now known as the Pacoima Wash. Back in the days when the Tataviam inhabited the area, the wash was a clear, clean river that ran most of the year. The Tataviam used this footpath to harvest the native plants from the hills above the wash – buckwheat, Indian rice grass, holly-leaf cherries, red berries, yerba santa (a medicinal herb), and yucca flowers, stalks and roots. They would also use the leaves of the yucca plant to make cordage, the branches of the basket bush to make baskets, pine needles to make baskets, and they would harvest dead branches, leaves and moss to make debris shelters. The area was loaded with rabbits and deer that the Tataviam hunted, as well.

The condors were present in the mountains at the time. There was nothing that threatened them the way forest trash affects them now. Now, people shoot up bottles and dump trash all over the forest. This kills the condors.

Dagger Flat Trail view into Pacoima Canyon

Dagger Flat Trail view into Pacoima Canyon

In the day of the Tataviam, life was much different. The Tataviam were a sustainable people long before the word “sustainable” became a cool word to use. The Tataviam naturally took care of the environment, which assured a continual harvest each year. The land provided everything they needed. Man and condor lived together in peace.

Our area was considered the bread basket of California. The Tataviam would gather seeds and groats and travel to the Sierra Pelona Mountains in the Castaic region where they would meet with the Kitanemuk, Kaivitam (Serrano), Vanyume and Chumash. There, they would trade their baskets full of grains for dried fish and other edibles that were not available here.

Volunteers work on the Dagger Flat trail

Volunteers work on the Dagger Flat trail

Long after the Tataviam left the area, the Civilian Conservation Corps came in and made a trail where the old Tataviam footpath was, and called it Dagger Flat. We’re not 100-percent sure where that name came from, but after having removed 160 dagger-bearing yuccas from the trail, we are pretty sure “dagger” refers to these plants.

The year was 1930. The trail went unused because the northern part of what is now the Angeles National Forest was virtually unpopulated. There were only a few scattered ranches and the small town of Newhall. The trail eventually fell in and was no longer viable.

Nearly three years ago a friend of mine, Dave Pulsifer, saw the Dagger Flat Trail on an old Angeles National Forest map. He tried to find it and had no luck. He asked me to help.

The destroyed homes of U.S. Forest Service firefighters at Bear Divide

The destroyed homes of U.S. Forest Service firefighters at Bear Divide

We went out to the area, trying to find it. According to the map, it was 4 miles from the locked forest gate at Bear Divide. We walked in the four miles. We stopped and looked around for evidence of a trail. Nothing. We found several little trails here and there, eventually realizing they were animal trails. Then, I noticed the side of a hill that had obviously been cut at one time. It was loaded with chaparral, and hard to make out, but it was a definite cut. We had long last found a part of the trail.

Not much of the trail still existed. Pieces of shelf or wall cuts appeared here and there. We mapped much of it on our hands and knees, popping up here and there to leave a bright pink tag on a tree or chaparral. We met several rather perturbed rattlesnakes along the way.

Gate across 3N17, the road that leads to Dagger Flat

Gate across 3N17, the road that leads to Dagger Flat

About three-quarters of the way down the trail, we were totally lost. We had no idea where to go. We wandered through and under the brush, crawling around until we found another piece of shelf. We were back on track.

About five hours later, we found evidence of the bottom of the trail, and we were able to walk out through the Pacoima Wash and Dillion Divide.

Next, we had to get permission to resurrect the trail. The L.A. River Ranger District gave us permission to work on the trail. Luckily, because it was on a map, we did not need a NEPA study, and we could start work immediately.

daggerflat10We asked for permission to use the road, 3N17, to drive to what would eventually be our trail head. The road is not in the L.A. River Ranger District but the Mojave Rivers Ranger District, which refused to give us access, even though I had a key to the locked gate and permission for mapping purposes for my job.

This became a huge barrier to our success. We had to walk tools and supplies like railroad ties all the way in, four miles uphill every day we worked, and four miles out again. We managed to do that for four months.

We decided to try bicycles to make it easier, strapping tools to the bikes. We walked them uphill four miles and rode out using our brakes all the way downhill.

One of those days my tire exploded, and I was slammed down to the ground, ending up with a concussion, three broken ribs and huge bruises all over my body. That was the end of the bikes for me.

daggerflat5Volunteer Linda Castro and I visited the L.A. River Ranger District, and with backing of the Bear Divide Hot Shots, we won the use of the road. Working on the trail suddenly became easier without having to put in eight miles of hiking on top of the trail work.

Dave Pulsifer, Linda Castro and Steve Ritchie and I happily began working the trail in earnest. Dave and Steve removed chaparral while Linda and I cut the trail and made it look perfect. Dave and Steve built stairs in the landslide areas and secured the mountainsides. Linda and I carried railroad ties down the trail.

We progressed faster on the trail, and after nearly three years of work, the end was in sight. Chaparral was removed, the trail was secured with railroad ties to make it sustainable, landslides and falling rock were under control, picnic areas were ready for visitors, there was a parking area at the trail head, and we only had about a half mile to finish.

We were so proud of all the work we’d done. This was to be my special gift to the community of Santa Clarita. This was the first viable trail on our side of the San Gabriel Mountains. It meant we didn’t have to drive for an hour or more to get to a trail in the beautiful Angeles National Forest. It meant we had a trail HERE, an historical trail we could call our own. I was so proud.

The Sand Fire ended all of that. It thrashed the trail, burned up the railroad ties, burned up $25,000 worth of tools and supplies that I’d won in two grants, burned up all of my own tools and tools of two other volunteers, burned up nearly three years of work, and weekly toil of so many people including a dedicated intern.

That fire took away my hopes and dreams of a trail in Santa Clarita. It took away three years of my life.

I know that the chaparral will grow back. I understand fire ecology. Fire can be good for the region. But I’m not sure I have another three years in me to rework the trail.

Perhaps if I can secure more grants, perhaps if I get volunteers willing to help me, we can bring Dagger Flat back. We’ll see.

For now, I am in mourning. It’s as though I’ve lost a good friend and part of my heart. I miss you, Dagger Flat.

 

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

daggerflat7

daggerflat6 daggerflat4 daggerflat2

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

30 Comments

  1. JC says:

    Part of fighting all fires, is restoring the area back to what it was before the fire started. The cost of the damage is a part of the “state of emergency” declaration. The battle now is not cutting the trail, but cutting through the red tape to get the funds that will dwarf your previous grants. When you think of giving up, think of all the fathers (like me) and moms that will hold their kid’s hands as they walk them on the trail. I taught my kids about conservation, history, native plants, animals, and most importantly; how to really appreciate the beauty of God’s work, while hiking the trails people like you made for us. Thank you for what you have done, and I hope I can help you bring it back and finish it.

  2. Karen says:

    It would be nice to show where the trail is on the fire map. Or any map.

  3. Maria Christopher says:

    Hopefully this article will rally people to rebuild it. Sounds like it would be a great Eagle Scout project.

  4. Patrick Comey says:

    This is a wonderful story of what one person can do and inspire in others. You’re grieving now and this is to be expected. I hope you regain your energy and will to leave something for our community. I never made it to one of your workdays, but will when you start anew. Never give up, never surrender.

  5. Maria Christopher says:

    Love the map and Google directions (obviously not open to the public now. ).
    Any chance you can put up the old map it was found on and also show the course of the trail portion that was restored ?

  6. What a shame after all that hard work.

  7. Denny NNWofLA says:

    Dianne, THANK YOU
    Thank you for your caring, for your work and for sharing this story that would have otherwise been lost in the ashes. You inspire. You teach. You are is good influence and a bright light when so very much of what we should be caring about is buried under vitriolic rubbish that is far more destructive than any fire.

  8. Denny NNWofLA says:

    Dianne, THANK YOU
    Thank you for your caring, for your work and for sharing this story that would otherwise have been lost in the ashes. You inspire. You teach. You are a good influence and bright light when so very much of what we should be caring about is buried under vitriolic rubbish that is far more destructive than any fire.

  9. Vito Scattaglia says:

    I am ready to help rebuild this trail.

  10. Vito Scattaglia says:

    I am ready to help rebuild this trail, thank you for your time and effort.

    • Hi Vito. Thank you so very much. I do hope that we can rebuild it. The biggest problem will be the funding for it. We’d soaked $25,000 into the trail when it was burned. We’ll need a little more than that since 3 of us also lost our personal tools. Once we’ve secured funding again, we’ll be out there in force to rebuild it.

  11. Ginger Mac Donald says:

    Dear dedicated Dianne and volunteers, I am deeply sorry for the loss of such an amazing part of our History. Your work, the path, mapping the path is poof it is there. I know other’s one day will decide to start to build back brush and railroad ties. Donated tools AVs to move and make a path. Your work like those who lost their homes can be built back. I am so sorry, never will you give up after our first winter clears the ash and you will see much of your work is still there. Your work is important for History and don’t give up on your dream. You are truly amazing, so are the pictures of natural beauty you found.

    • Thank you, Ginger. To rebuild the trail it will take another $25,000 of donations and grants. And it will take lots of volunteers. Towards the end it was mostly me out there alone. I have no idea where I can get grants for this now. The resources are hard to come by.

  12. Tessa Lucero says:

    Yes, grieve for the work. It is disheartening to have this happen. So much work and so many hours put into this project and then to have it go up in smoke…but thank God nobody was working on the trail when the fire started, they would have had to run for their lives and quite possibly would not have made it.

    Dagger Flat Trail can be rebuilt. You and your core volunteers and many helpers did a wonderful job carving out that trail and the love and respect you all have for the mountains showed with every foot of that path. It can be done again.

    • I hope so, Tessa Lucero. It will depend upon whether or not I can secure funding to replace all the supplies. Even my own tools were burned up in the fire. I have nothing left…not even a rake. We had put $25,000 into it already, and we believed we could finish it with the last of the supplies we had. Without funding, the trail will fall in again, and will be lost.

  13. jim says:

    Diane,
    I truly do feel the pain that you and your supporters are living with due to the damage from the Sand Fire. All the work that your associates have done is lost, and that is sad.

    At the same time, I have to challenge an unmentioned issue regarding access to that same area.

    Pacoima Canyon is a well known geological and mineralogical area of interest. Despite the number of mining claims in that area, there are only a few recognized minerals that could possibly drive actual mining claims today.

    US ANF has blocked almost all access to this area for several years, based on locking the gates at Dillon Divide. Hiking in from this area is impossible for anyone who is impaired.

    Why should I care about your efforts and work if it doesn’t benefit me and others like me?

  14. Jim, We were working to get 3N17 open. The ANF was working on the road to make it useable. The trail head is off of 3N17. While not the entire trail was suitable for wheelchairs, the first 1/3rd of it was. After that the terrain was more difficult, and navigable only by steps which were necessary to contain landslides. But, you could have gotten a “feel” for the trail and enjoyed the spectacular views that can be seen only from the top.

  15. Robert Black says:

    I saw your trail when I hiked up to Magic Mountain in May, and even explored a bit of it on my way back down. When I heard where the Sand Fire was, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh no, and they were just about finished with that nice new trail…” I hope either you or someone else can regroup and restore it someday.

  16. C.R. says:

    I hope you are able to get The ANF to reopen the road once the area has healed.

  17. Matt says:

    Having labored at the oar on the stone cyn trail I until it was wrecked in the station fire I feel your pain

Leave a Comment


Commentary Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Related Content
RECENT COMMENTARY
Sunday, Sep 25, 2016
I have taken many walks on the plains of Tanzania with Masai body guards armed with spears and occasionally rifles. It is rather unnerving to think at any moment, you could become prey to a lion, cheetah or another apex predator.
Thursday, Sep 22, 2016
If you find yourself traveling east on Interstate 40 to Needles or beyond, you might want to consider a short side trip to explore Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. It’s located just off of National Trails Highway (Historic Route 66) about 28 miles east of the town of Ludlow.
Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016
Medicare’s annual open enrollment season begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. This is the time every year when you can sign up for a new Medicare drug or health plan, or switch the one you have now.
Tuesday, Sep 20, 2016
“Pseudologia fantastica” is defined as “a condition involving compulsive lying by a person with no obvious motivation. The affected person might believe their lies to be truth and may have to create elaborate myths to reconcile them with other facts.”
Monday, Sep 19, 2016
Edel Alonso is the best choice for new leadership and change on the COC Board of Trustees. She has the intelligence and dedication to ensure that the college’s priorities are focused on assisting students to reach their career and educational goals.
Sunday, Sep 18, 2016
We spent as much time as possible in the forests of California – camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, and at night we spent hours staring at the millions of stars above us. For a child like me, there was nothing that could compare to the amazing, continual sights, sounds and smells that the forest can offer. It’s just one eye-opening experience after another.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
I have taken many walks on the plains of Tanzania with Masai body guards armed with spears and occasionally rifles. It is rather unnerving to think at any moment, you could become prey to a lion, cheetah or another apex predator.
World’s Deadliest Creatures
1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]
The College of the Canyons men's soccer team played to a scoreless draw vs. West Hills Lemoore on Friday in a game that saw lots of back-and-forth action.
Men’s Soccer: COC Plays to Scoreless Draw with West Hills Lemoore
The College of the Canyons cross country program continues to improve each race, and with the Western State Conference championships a little less than a month away, the Cougars could be peaking just in time for another strong postseason run.
Cross Country: Cougars Keep Improving
1855 - Sanford & Cyrus Lyon establish Lyon's Station (for stagecoaches) near today's Sierra Hwy & Newhall Ave [story]
Professional endurance driver Carl Reese of the Santa Clarita Valley and Sebastián Montero of Quito, Ecuador, set a new world record for riding on motorcycles from the closest point on Earth to the sun to an elevation at sea-level in a single day.
2 Riders, 1 from SCV, Set World Record from Highest to Lowest Point
Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen is adding another special correspondent to its already impressive roster, announcing Tuesday that New York Times bestselling author and community activist Kim Goldman will join the Daytime Emmy-nominated show, which has just begun its second season.
SCV Nonprofit Leader Kim Goldman Joins WB’s ‘Crime Watch Daily’ as Special Correspondent
Jack and Jill of America Inc., a membership organization dedicated to nurturing future African-American leaders, has announced its 2016-2017 National Teen Board, Morgan Smith, a senior at West Ranch High School, is the Far West Region teen president from the Santa Clarita-Antelope Valley Chapter.
West Ranch Senior is Group’s Teen Leader for Western U.S.
Academy Class No. 415, which is made up of 63 male and 16 female deputy sheriffs; and 5 male and 2 female police officers from El Segundo, Inglewood, Los Angeles School and Montebello Police Departments, graduated from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Biscailuz Center Training Academy in Los Angeles during ceremonies held Friday.
86 Recruits Become Peace Officers Friday
The free test is valued at $40 and checks for 12 drugs — seven illicit and five prescription — and comes with substance abuse prevention strategies and a family drug prevention plan.
Sept. 26: Sheriff Handing Out Free Home Drug Test Kits in Val Verde
Assemblyman Scott Wilk honored California Bakery & Cafe on Friday as the 38th Assembly District Small Business of the Month.
Prieto’s Calif. Bakery & Cafe is Wilk’s Small Biz of Month
The City of Santa Clarita has been announced as one of the finalists for The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation’s (LAEDC) 2016 Most Business-Friendly City in Los Angeles County Award. Compton, Downey, Lakewood and Long Beach are also in the running.
Santa Clarita 1 of 5 Finalists for County’s Most Business-Friendly City (LAEDC)
The City of Santa Clarita invites nonprofit organizations interested in learning more about the 2017 Community Services and Arts Grants Program to a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at noon at City Hall.
Want City Arts or Community Services Grant? Come to Meeting
Proving education doesn’t always happen in the classroom, 23 students from Bowman High School volunteered to work next to construction workers at the Habitat for Heroes project on Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita Friday.
Bowman Students Learn Skills with Homes for Heroes
Women in California will have more reliable and effective access to birth control under a bill authored by Senator Fran Pavley and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday.
Pavley Birth-Control Bill Signed Into Law
Not everyone cares if the food actually includes a certain ingredient, as long as the flavor tastes right to them. But, says Douglas Balentine, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, if you don’t want a substitute source of the flavor you’re seeking — if, say, you want real maple syrup in your food — the information you need will be in the ingredient list on the food package.
What’s in a Name? What Every Consumer Should Know About Foods
1948 - Agua Dulce Women's Club organized [timeline]
The intersection at Whites Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road will experience nighttime and early morning lane closures from 7:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., on Monday, Sept. 26, and Tuesday, Sept. 27, due to construction for the Road Rehab Project.
Lane Closures Coming to Whites, Soledad Sept. 26-27
Logix Federal Credit Union donated $1,000 to Sequoia School’s biomedical curriculum, part of the cutting-edge course work from Project Lead the Way. The credit union’s contribution was about 30 percent of the cost of the program.
Logix FCU Donates $1k to Charter School for Biomed Program
Playing for the first time on Reese Field this season, The Master’s University women’s soccer team battled No. 10 Vanguard University in both teams’ Golden State Athletic Conference opener Wednesday afternoon.
Soccer: Lady Mustangs on Short End of 1-0 Conference Opener
The College of the Canyons women's golf team competed at Western State Conference tournament No. 3 on Monday, with sophomore Amanda Horii turning in a team-best score of 86 at Elkins Ranch Golf Course.
Golf: COC’s Amanda Horii Leads Team Effort on Links
The No. 11 College of the Canyons women's volleyball team picked up a 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-20) victory over San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday, to record the program's 20th consecutive regular season home win.
Volleyball: COC Sweeps San Berdo for 20th Straight Win at Home
The College of the Canyons women's soccer team finally had the opportunity to play a home match on Tuesday, with the Lady Cougars exciting the home crowd behind three goals and a shutout defensive performance to claim a 3-0 win over Los Angeles Valley College.
Soccer: Lady Cougars Win Home Opener 3-0 Over L.A. Valley
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, the stepsister and an ex-con were charged with the murder of the woman who was found dead in Gorman. Plus, Westfield Valencia Town Center saw "Elements" on display. Watch these stories and more in tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Thursday, September 22, 2016
The Saugus Union School District announced all classrooms in all 15 District schools will be outfitted with interactive touchscreen flat panel computers by November.
Interactive Touchscreen Computers Come to the Saugus Union School District
One of the biggest events of the year is coming up October 29 at College of the Canyons and volunteers are needed.
Oct. 29: Rampage Comes to COC, Volunteers Needed
The intersection at Whites Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road will experience nighttime and early morning lane closures from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., on Monday, September 26, 2016 and Tuesday, September 27, 2016 due to construction for the Road Rehab Project.
Commuters Warned of Lane Closures on Whites and Soledad Due to Road Rehab Project
CHP officials are investigating the death of a Littlerock man after a dump truck lost six tons of gravel on the northbound side of Highway 14 near Sand Canyon Road.
Rock Spill on SR-14 Claims Life of Motorcyclist
Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary announced that Ernie Maldonado joined the company as sales manager and that Steve Quach, who started at Eternal Valley five years ago, was promoted to assistant sales manager.
Eternal Valley Expands Team to Meet Growing Needs
A man and woman who were on the run last month with three children whose mother was found dead in Gorman have been charged with murder.
Stepsister, Ex-Con Charged with Murder of Woman Found in Gorman
If you find yourself traveling east on Interstate 40 to Needles or beyond, you might want to consider a short side trip to explore Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. It’s located just off of National Trails Highway (Historic Route 66) about 28 miles east of the town of Ludlow.
Amboy Crater
1969 - College of the Canyons opens with first class of students in temporary quarters at Hart High School [story]
After rebounding with a pair of three-set conference wins against San Diego Christian College and Arizona Christian University, the Lady Mustangs entered Tuesday’s match against No. 13 Biola University motivated to make a statement against the NAIA perennial powerhouse, and prove that the last 10 days may have actually been a blessing in disguise.
Volleyball: Lady Mustangs Soar Over Eagles in 5-Set Thriller
The sophomore midfielder from Malawi, Africa, was in the right place at the right time in the second extra stanza, taking a pass from Trevor Mangan and shooting it past Lion keeper Brandon Gomez in the 106th minute (105:19) to win the match and set off a jubilant celebration.
Tembo Lifts TMU to 1-0 Win Over No. 8 Vanguard
Quest Diagnostics, the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services, announced Wednesday the availability of a new antibody test service that aids the diagnosis of infection with the Zika virus. The CDC has licensed the test to Quest Diagnostics and other select national reference laboratories to aid the response to the Zika emergency in the United States.
Quest Diagnostics Unveils New Test Service for Zika Virus
Tejon Ranch Co. announced Tuesday that it has signed a joint venture agreement with Majestic Realty Co., the nation’s largest privately-held industrial developer, to build an approximate 480,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center.
Tejon Joint Venture to Erect 480K SF Industrial Building on Spec