By Dianne Hellrigel, Steve Messer
With the recent re-opening of Forest Route 3N17, the Community Hiking Club is searching for volunteers to help restore Dagger Flat Trail.
Dianne Hellrigel with the Community Hiking Club led a multi-year effort to restore the long-overlooked trail.
Though it was opened in 2014, work was still underway to improve and fortify the trail. Singletrack trails are few and far between on the north side of the forest in comparison to the southern slopes.
Currently, the PCT at Indian Canyon is the only legal forest trail on the north side of the forest.
Just two short years after Dagger Flat trail’s triumphant ribbon-cutting, but before its restoration was complete, the Sand Fire burned and devastated the area.
The extensive work done by the Community Hiking Club volunteers included wooden composite retaining walls, railroad tie retaining walls and staircases, picnic tables and even an emergency helipad to allow fire-fighting and rescue access.
Most were lost and much of the trail had begun to be reclaimed by nature.
Dianne Hellrigel and Steve Messer hiked and scouted the Dagger Flat Trail on July 9, 2021, starting from Santa Clara Divide Road, which had recently been reopened.
They were able to find and follow what remained of the trail, including the Community Hiking Club’s extensive efforts, and relied on GPS tracks to guide them in a few short sections where the trail wasn’t obvious.
Though the trail condition was disheartening to Hellrigel and Messer, seeing nature’s recovery was encouraging, even if it meant more work.
They said the trail requires a lot of brushwork, clearing slough and re-cutting the trail bench, armoring drainages, and replacing burned retaining wall structures (preferably with fire-resistant materials).
It was a shame to see only re-bar and charcoal where an elaborately built railroad tie staircase had been completed, they said.
Both Hellrigel and Messer were eager to see the entire trail for the first time since the Sand Fire. Given the rough, steep and dry terrain, recovering brush, and failed retaining wall structures, it took some time to follow the trail all the way to the bottom.
With temperatures in triple digits, they felt it would be quicker to hike out via Mendenhall ridge on an established trail rather than climb back through the loose terrain and brushed-over trail corridor.
Both ran out of water for the last hours of the hike but were able to make it to Little Tujunga road and call for a pickup.
The Community Hiking Club is looking forward to helping restore the trail as volunteer opportunities return to the beloved Angeles National Forest.
They’re working with the Forest Service now to prepare a work plan to begin the process of returning this much-needed trail back to service.
The Community Hiking Club would appreciate local volunteers to help restore the trail. Due to extreme temperatures, restoration work will begin in the fall.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Dianne Hellrigel at the Community Hiking Club via email at email@example.com.