Mt Bliss, AirWest 706 and Fish Canyon

Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

February 17th, 2018, 3:59 pm #1

In June 1971 a major accident occured above the San Gabriel mountains: a passenger jet (DC-9) collided mid-air with military fighter jet (F-4B Phantom):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_Airwest_Flight_706

Much of the DC-9 debris was removed for the NTSB reconstruction. When the tail was being air-lifted out by the helicopter, the pilot felt that the load was making his flight unstable, so he dropped the tail back down to the ground shortly after takeoff, and nobody tried to retrieve it since. So there're 3 distinct sites that should contain artifacts: the DC-9, the DC-9 tail and the F-4B.

The news reports and the easy-to-find sources all claim that the debris lies on Mt Bliss. Past that, the internet is very sparse about where any of this is, and I suspect very few have tried to reach the wreckage. There's one pretty good trip report, though:

http://www.lostflights.com/Commercial-A ... -DC-9F-4B/

This is from the 1980s. The author flew a Cessna over the area several times to locate the wreckage, and then returned on foot.

The reason few have visited this one is because that area has been extremely brushy, making it difficult to both figure out where the debris is and getting to it. But in 2016 the Fish fire came through, burning down the vegetation. And since them I've been wanting to go find the wreckage.

OK, so I've been talking to headsizeburrito about hiking something this week. He wanted to do something easy, and to return at a reasonable time. So we thought about walking up to Mt Bliss, looking around with binoculars, and maybe making some sort of loop. This is looking for a needle in a haystack, so the odds of finding anything seemed low. The night before the hike I looked around for clues a bit more, and was able to get some indirect information from that trip report that narrowed the size of the haystack significantly. It was still a haystack, but a much smaller one.

So on Fri morning we walked up Van Tassel road to Mt Bliss. It has an MWD benchmark called "peak":



The summit has a register, and may people come up here apparently. The same names keep coming up again and again. Some people REALLY like this one. Not sure the peak is worth it, but the views are nice





This was a clear morning, and you could clearly see the Pacific and Catalina. I looked around with binoculars because it seemed like I should, but it was clearly not going to yield any results.

We walked down a ridge into an area with old road cuts



Then we kept walking, got to the center of the smaller haystack, dropped into a side gully and BAM





We found a debris gully! At this point we were in the drainage of Fish Canyon. We didn't feel like returning via Mt Bliss, and headsizeburrito has never seen Fish Canyon falls, so the plan was to take this gully all the way down to Fish Canyon (finding wreckage along the way), then getting around the falls somehow, and leaving through the quarry. Somehow.

We found a number of plane chunks along the way, but nothing bigger than the first ones in the above photos. Most of the remaining DC-9 is either above where we dropped-in, or below where we bypassed a steep area. And I've a vague idea of where to look for the tail. As for the F-4B, no clue. Along the way we passed some other artifact admirers







The frogs were everywhere, especially further down in the river. The skull is like many things I've seen, but not exactly like any of them. It's too small and pointy-nosed and small-fanged to be a racoon, but too big to be a skunk or ringtail. The head is too square for an opossum. What is it?

Nobody goes into this canyon





Because it's in the middle of nowhere, hard to both get into and out of. The descent wasn't terrible. There were some steep drops, but all were bypassable. Until they weren't. A few hundred ft above Fish Creek our gully reached a landslide area that wasn't directly bypassable:



We took a sketchy and unpleasant traverse to the right, eventually ending up on a minor ridge overlooking Fish Creek. This was good enough to eventually drop us into the main canyon.

The canyon has a good flow in it. And even though the whole area burned, it has been long enough that it doesn't feel like everything is dead. The canyon is still quite nice, actually. We walked downstream towards the falls. I was excited to find what I thought was another plane part, but it turned out to be a bicycle wheel, almost entirely buried in the riverbed



Probably this was here for a LONG time. I don't even know when the trail around the falls was easily passable, on a bike no less. We got to the falls eventually. The top of the upper (4th?) tier looks like this





No bypass was clear. Obviously. The USGS topos do show a trail that bypasses on the left (East). This wasn't at all visible from where we walked so far. There was a steep, crumbly slope to our left, so we decided to just scramble up that, meet whatever is left of the trail, and take that around. Eventually you can see both trails



The upper one is the old bypass trail. The lower one is the main trail to the falls (also abandoned, but only since the most recent fire, and it will be reopened someday soon-ish).

The scramble up was unpleasant but doable. The upper trail cut is clear in the photo above, but this is true only on that wall. Traversing to that cut from where we were was unwise, let's say. I feel like I always say this, but this area is steep and loose. Except much more steep and loose than usual, which wasn't helped at all by the fire. This was the sketchiest thing I've ever done in these mountains. Don't do it. There is no reasonable bypass. If you really need to go around, try to climb all the way up to the ridge. Or do like smart people, bring a rope and rappel down the falls.

In any case, we climbed up to where the trail possibly could be, did the traverse, and reached the trail cut. As a reward we got to see the falls from a pretty great vantage point



Where the trail it exists, it's in OK shape.



And we found the remnants of somebody's decades-ago party. There were some glass bottles of something, something that used to be a cassette player (I think), an old jacket, a scythe and a saw. Good times.







Then the trail disappears again, but this is a friendlier area, and we could descend down to the creek more or less directly. There was a fire here.



In places the walls were covered by prickly pear cacti. Most of these didn't like the fire very much:



But some other cacti are doing just fine



We were now almost done. Predictably, the trail through the quarry was closed. But we didn't want to bushwhack the old trail up and around it, so we walked in. The trail inside is mostly fine, but is messed-up in places, and the quarry people are clearly not maintaining it anymore. There're a few places where the trail crosses a fence, but each of those had a human-sized gap in the fencing. Eventually you reach the quarry entrance which is fenced off too, and take the grand exit through some drainage pipes.



Or at least we thought this was an exit. We then walked through an MWD water pump station, a homeless camp in a bamboo forest and some sort of horse thing before popping back out on the road, a short walk from our cars. And we made it a few minutes before headsizeburrito's target time!
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Sean
Cucamonga Man
Sean
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

February 18th, 2018, 12:13 am #2

Another MWD triangulation station! From when they constructed the Colorado River Aqueduct, which runs through the foothills in front of Mt. Bliss.
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Joined: November 15th, 2017, 9:18 pm

February 18th, 2018, 12:59 am #3

I'll take responsibility for the very sketchy route to get past the falls! My assumption was that even if the trail on the old map that bypassed the falls wasn't really there anymore, presumably the slope could be reasonably traversed just following the remnants. Nope. The first half was eroded to nonexistence on the steep and lose slope, with a long way below. In a two places I spotted an old metal pole from the retaining walls built in a few spots, but there is not enough there to be safely crossed. Like Dima says, it is not a route that should be repeated.

Here is the slope we crossed just east of the falls. See any trail? We made it, but it wasn't a good idea...

slope.jpg
Here is a shot from the quarry we were probably trespassing in, but we were not excited by the thought of going back the way we came!:


quarry.jpg
All in all it was quite an adventure for a 3,678' peak!
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Joined: January 16th, 2018, 1:09 pm

February 18th, 2018, 1:03 pm #4

headsizeburrito wrote:Here is a shot from the quarry we were probably trespassing in, but we were not excited by the thought of going back the way we came!
Awesome trip report. Once upon a time I use to bagged plane wrecks. I use to and still might have coords to the bigger pieces of these two planes. Also technically you were trespassing once you got to the quarry and restoration site. That was one of my old restoration work sites. Lucky the quarry didn't see you. They will provide legal access and even escort you to the trail near the mitigation site. Atleast they use in 2009.


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Sean
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Sean
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

February 18th, 2018, 2:56 pm #5

Here we have another example of property managers restricting normal access to an open area of the forest and using the excuse that the trail is not safe. The FS is trying to do this with the Gabrielino, and Vulcan/FS are doing this with Fish Canyon. In other places where trails are not safe, they post warning signs. But in these two cases, they attempt to keep people off the trail completely, saying it's closed. I see a contradiction there, and it helps establish an arbitrary power to dictate how we travel through the forest. Apparently a trail must be "safe" before we are allowed to use it. Yet what it means to be "safe" is relative to the user's ability. So, in theory, a trail could be shut down until it is rendered "safe" for the least skilled hikers.
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Joined: November 15th, 2017, 9:18 pm

February 18th, 2018, 4:12 pm #6

There is a signed trail through the quarry for hikers that is fenced in, we did out best to stay where we were supposed to as we passed through. In one or two places that wasn't an option, but we did the best we could.

Once you pass the quarry from the trailhead, it's actually very easily passable. It's a little washed out in places, but it's practically flat and a wide stream bed. It's significantly easier than getting to Bridge to Nowhere. I kind of assume the quarry just doesn't want to deal with it, and would not be surprised if they leave it closed indefinitely unless they are forced to restore access. The only official closure notice I found before we did this hike ended in September 2017.
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Joined: January 16th, 2018, 1:09 pm

February 18th, 2018, 4:34 pm #7

My experience with the site was that the quarry was more likely concerned with the public crossing a active quarry with large vehicles and explosive blasting. Actually quite dangerous and a liability for them.
It's great canyon. Rugged and wild.


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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

February 18th, 2018, 6:29 pm #8

Sean wrote: Another MWD triangulation station! From when they constructed the Colorado River Aqueduct, which runs through the foothills in front of Mt. Bliss.
Huh? Where's this? Wikipedia says it ends far to the East of there. Are there tunnels by the San Gabriels?

And as for the trail access, my feeling is same as headsizeburrito's: there's not much incentive for the quarry company to work on this, so they won't until somebody important yells at them.

Does anybody know the history of the trail bypassing the falls? When was it passable? I can't find any old aerials at all that show it.
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Joined: January 7th, 2015, 8:47 pm

February 18th, 2018, 6:39 pm #9

Sean wrote: Here we have another example of property managers restricting normal access to an open area of the forest and using the excuse that the trail is not safe. The FS is trying to do this with the Gabrielino, and Vulcan/FS are doing this with Fish Canyon. In other places where trails are not safe, they post warning signs. But in these two cases, they attempt to keep people off the trail completely, saying it's closed. I see a contradiction there, and it helps establish an arbitrary power to dictate how we travel through the forest. Apparently a trail must be "safe" before we are allowed to use it. Yet what it means to be "safe" is relative to the user's ability. So, in theory, a trail could be shut down until it is rendered "safe" for the least skilled hikers.
You should see what the City of Monrovia does with its Hillside Wilderness Preserve. Every year you can practically set your watch to the fire chief issuing a closure order in the winter because of "dangerous conditions created by the rains/previous fires" and as soon as that closure expires in the spring, he issues another one for "extreme fire danger." Predictably, that closure lasts right about until the rain closure order. It's particularly egregious because the City of Monrovia used state grants to purchase private property for the preserve, and one of the conditions of the grants was to maintain public access. Even more "funny" is how the city "forgot" to purchase some really prominent properties when they went on sale to some political friends, and they continue to allow him to literally bulldoze entire hillsides into nearby ravines without even a permit.
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Joined: January 7th, 2015, 8:47 pm

February 18th, 2018, 6:42 pm #10

headsizeburrito wrote: There is a signed trail through the quarry for hikers that is fenced in, we did out best to stay where we were supposed to as we passed through. In one or two places that wasn't an option, but we did the best we could.

Once you pass the quarry from the trailhead, it's actually very easily passable. It's a little washed out in places, but it's practically flat and a wide stream bed. It's significantly easier than getting to Bridge to Nowhere. I kind of assume the quarry just doesn't want to deal with it, and would not be surprised if they leave it closed indefinitely unless they are forced to restore access. The only official closure notice I found before we did this hike ended in September 2017.
The trail is closed by the Forest Service, not the quarry. Contact Jeffrey Vail and/or Freddy Duncan for more info.
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Sean
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Sean
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

February 19th, 2018, 4:32 am #11


dima wrote:Wikipedia says [the aqueduct] ends far to the East of there. Are there tunnels by the San Gabriels?
I guess, technically, it's called a siphon. The terminal storage facility is Lake Mathews, then they send water through the San Gabriel foothills at an elevation of about 1000' in a series of deep tunnels to Morris Reservoir and on to Pasadena and LA. Another siphon distributes Colorado River water to Orange County, but I don't think they need tunnels for that line. I'm not sure how big the tunnels are through the Gabes. But the tunnels through other mountain ranges (San Jacinto for example) are something like 18' in diameter.
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Sean
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Sean
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

February 19th, 2018, 5:22 am #12


SGBob wrote:Even more "funny" is how the city "forgot" to purchase some really prominent properties when they went on sale to some political friends, and they continue to allow him to literally bulldoze entire hillsides into nearby ravines without even a permit.
Hmm, I think maybe I was on that property while looking for the old "Monrovia" benchmark. The hilltop had been flattened and used to create an orchard of sorts. I ran into a caretaker, and he blamed firefighters for bulldozing the hilltop, which, upon reflection, doesn't make a lot of sense if it's private property.
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Joined: December 27th, 2011, 3:54 am

February 19th, 2018, 2:50 pm #13

Sean wrote:
dima wrote:Wikipedia says [the aqueduct] ends far to the East of there. Are there tunnels by the San Gabriels?
I guess, technically, it's called a siphon. The  terminal storage facility is Lake Mathews, then they send water through the San Gabriel foothills at an elevation of about 1000' in a series of deep tunnels to Morris Reservoir and on to Pasadena and LA. Another siphon distributes Colorado River water to Orange County, but I don't think they need tunnels for that line. I'm not sure how big the tunnels are through the Gabes. But the tunnels through other mountain ranges (San Jacinto for example) are something like 18' in diameter.
There is a tunnel from San Gabriel Dam that goes down canyon along the reservoir behind Morris Dam down to the penstocks that end at the Pasadena powerhouse behind the old Foothill Dairy at the mouth of the canyon.  From there the water flows into a ditch and pipes to a water treatment plant near Arrow Highway in the valley below.  The tunnel and headworks predate the construction of San Gabriel Dam and a section of the original tunnel is a source of potable water for the dam.  To my knowledge, San Gabriel Dam, rainfall and a few side canyons are the only source of water for Morris Dam.
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Sean
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

February 20th, 2018, 10:12 pm #14

Gene wrote:To my knowledge, San Gabriel Dam, rainfall and a few side canyons are the only source of water for Morris Dam.
I'm reading an old MWD report on the aqueduct. The tunnels through the Gabes are referred to as part of the "upper feeder" distribution system. MWD purchased Morris Dam from Pasadena in 1935 to provide additional storage capacity for the upper feeder line. I don't know if it's still being used to store Colorado River water or not. The dam is now managed by the LACDPW. Also, I found out that the MWD tunnels in the Gabes are ten feet in diameter. The entire CRA system is/was considered one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

Screenshot_20180219-235427~2.png

Screenshot_20180220-002748~2.png
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Joined: December 27th, 2011, 3:54 am

February 21st, 2018, 2:19 pm #15

Thank you for the response, you learn something new every day, especially after living in the canyon for almost ten years.  During that time Morris was operated by the MWD, the Navy was still there and we seldom had reason to visit.  
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Joined: September 14th, 2012, 11:21 pm

February 26th, 2018, 3:01 pm #16

Here is an interesting article regarding the "discovery" of Fish Canyon Falls in 1916; it also features the only mention I have found thus far for the namesake of the Tom Sloane Trail.

3-9-1916.jpg
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Sean
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February 26th, 2018, 3:55 pm #17


Paul Ayers wrote:Here is an interesting article regarding the "discovery" of Fish Canyon Falls in 1916; it also features the only mention I have found thus far for the namesake of the Tom Sloane Trail.
"Finest waterfall in the Southwest." High praise from our forefathers of the forest. It sounds like they climbed up the left side.
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Joined: September 14th, 2012, 11:21 pm

February 26th, 2018, 4:27 pm #18

Charlton immediately designated 2k to build a trail to the falls, that is about 50k in today money; wonder what it would actually cost today, labor was a lot cheaper in 1916.
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AW
Canyon Man
AW
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Joined: October 1st, 2007, 6:00 pm

February 27th, 2018, 3:44 am #19

Sean wrote:
Paul Ayers wrote:Here is an interesting article regarding the "discovery" of Fish Canyon Falls in 1916; it also features the only mention I have found thus far for the namesake of the Tom Sloane Trail.
"Finest waterfall in the Southwest." High praise from our forefathers of the forest. It sounds like they climbed up the left side.
Southwest? Yeah, i thinks thats a bit much? Although I think Robinson called it the best waterfall of the San Gabes. He wrote Glen Canyon, but he meant Fish Canyon...since he said it was 80ft. Glen is not 80. Neither is Fish but thats the usual number thrown around. Id say its the best waterfall in Fish Canyon :)
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Sean
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February 27th, 2018, 4:25 am #20

It's such a subjective evaluation, we really need to establish some objective criteria for qualifying as one of the best waterfalls in the Southwest. I think it should be at least one hundred feet high and/or wide--minimum.
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

February 27th, 2018, 5:17 am #21

That's a really great article, Paul. Thanks for digging it up. Sean: it's not obvious to me that they climbed either side in particular. If anything, they'd pick the easier side, which looks to be the right. The left is indeed more cliffy, but both sides could be described that way, and since we're dealing with people who claim these are the best falls in the SW, everything is to be taken with some salt.
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Sean
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February 27th, 2018, 1:05 pm #22

dima wrote:Sean: it's not obvious to me that they climbed either side in particular. If anything, they'd pick the easier side, which looks to be the right.
My thinking is that without any trail whatsoever, which side would have had a possible route that goes straight up a great cliff? When I stood at the bottom, the left side looked like such a climb with solid rock holds going nearly straight up. I tried it but stopped about two-thirds of the way because the climbing got extremely airy. I didn't see any route going straight up the right side. But maybe there was one back then. Unfortunately it is indeed not clear from the text.
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Joined: September 10th, 2013, 1:20 am

April 22nd, 2018, 3:20 pm #23

Do you have any other photos of the conditions in Fish Canyon above the falls? Thanks for the report. Glad to see the creek looks healthy. 
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

April 23rd, 2018, 9:25 pm #24

I don't but headsizeburrito might. The canyon was relatively wide with a good flow. Most if not all the gullies coming in from the West are very steep as they drop into the main channel of Fish Canyon. I'd try to use the old Silver-Fish road, which may or may not be passable. Write a report if you try it out.
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Joined: November 15th, 2017, 9:18 pm

April 24th, 2018, 12:14 am #25

I didn't take many pictures of that area since we were only in it for a very short time.

This is looking down from the ridge we descended towards the little horseshoe bend a bit upstream from the main falls, this bend can be seen in the 7.5 USGS maps:

fishfalls1.jpg

This is looking down at the water from the south side of the ridge that creates the bend in the first picture:

fishfalls2.jpg
And here is looking upstream at a small pool before the minor falls that Dima posted a picture of before the main falls:

fishfalls3.jpg

Like Dima said, your best access might be to try the old Silver Fish Road, from the aerial photos it seems like it should be easily walkable even if it's not maintained anymore. From there you could just reach where it crosses the water and head downstream to see how it goes from there. From the topo there is very little elevation change in that upper section, so I would expect you could follow it downstream to the falls without too much difficulty. Check it out and let us know!
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Joined: September 10th, 2013, 1:20 am

April 24th, 2018, 2:50 am #26

Thank you, good photos! I'm interested in whatever is in the creek in that stretch, seems untouched. Appreciate the tips. Will report back.

Found this: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/397149

HSB, you have been posting epic reports on Reddit lately, very enjoyable to read!
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