"Rattlesnake" View Platform
on the Del Dios Gorge Trail
This project was to construct a viewing platform on the Del Dios Gorge Trail with views of the Lake Hodges Dam and the San Dieguito River down below in the gorge. Scroll down for construction photos.
In San Diego County, just south of Del Dios Highway, downstream of Lake Hodges Dam. The map above shows the Del Dios Gorge Trail, and shows the location of the view platform. There are two ways to access the viewing platform. If driving east on Del Dios Highway make a right just after Calle Ambiente (at the Lemon Twist Fruit Stand) to the Del Dios Gorge Trailhead and Staging Area; on foot, bike or horseback head east on the trail for approximately 2 miles. If driving west on Del Dios Highway make a left on Rancho Drive and park at the trailhead at the bottom of the hill; on foot, bike or horseback head west on the trail towards the dam for approximately 2 miles. For more information or maps visit www.sdrp.org/trails.htm.
River Parkway (Proposition 84) grant funds from the State Resources Agency. The grant is also funding a major eucalyptus removal (and replanting with native sycamores and cottonwoods) in Del Dios Gorge and trail improvements, including several covered picnic tables and benches.
What is this Project?
This is a viewing platform for trail users to sit and enjoy the views of the dam and the river below in the gorge and birds that fly by. We call it the "Rattlesnake" view platform, not because you'll be viewing rattlesnakes, but because it is made from native rock in the shape of a rattlesnake. An interpretive panel explains the place of rattlesnakes in our ecosystem. Another feature is a burned and dead tree, which provides information about the impacts of wildfires. In the center of the view platform sculpture (at the apex of the snake's tail) is a pipe scope through which one can look and line up with another feature, marked A, B or C, which point one's view toward a particular sight, the spillway, the bullwarks of the dam, and the river below.
Below is a model that the architect, Scott Stevenson, provided to show what the view platform would look like before it was completed:
Architect/Builder Scott Stevenson, who created the concept, began work on October 4th. Below are a series of daily "reports" he wrote, accompanied by pictures of construction in progress.
Day One Tuesday, October 4, 2011:
One Ugly Looking Tree
This is day one at the construction site, and we couldn't have asked for a better day - not too hot and not too cold with a few rain drops to keep us moving. The Bobcat was delivered at 7:15 am and the 250 bags of concrete and mortar mix were dropped off shortly thereafter. The first thing I realized: this is one small construction site - a Bobcat, a pile of steel rebar, and eight pallets of material doesn't leave much room for the actual work (it looks so much bigger on paper). We quickly organized the building materials and set up a line of orange safety cones to divide the construction area from the trail. Our goal for the day was to dig the foundation for the tree (fire-damaged tree) and have the tree braced in place - tomorrow we will pour the foundation around the tree.
Our plan was to tie a chain around the top of the tree, connect the other end of the chain to the bucket of the Bobcat, lift it into the air, and then gently set it in place. It didn't go quiet as smoothly as we'd planned, but, after a couple hours of finding the best way of connecting the chain to the tree so that it would hang straight up and down, we managed to get it close to where we wanted it. Half way through the process with the tree laying on the ground, Susan (my wife and integral member of the construction team) arrived at the site and the first words out of her mouth were, " That's one ugly looking tree! " I like to think that the tree has character. The tree is supposed to make people aware of the dangers of forest fires, and after going through the Cedar Fire, this tree has character. The tree is about twenty-four inches around at its base and about fifteen feet tall. Along the way there are two burned off branches, the bark is gone or burned to a crisp, and the top of the tree was broken off during a wind storm last year. I think it's a great looking tree.
See photo below, to make up your own mind on the tree.
THE SNAKE EMERGES
Day Two (Wednesday October 5, 2011)
Another great day on the site. We poured the foundation to the tree and started the foundation and stone work of the snake. The snake is beginning to emerge.
See photo below of the snake and tree.
Day Three (Thursday, October 6, 2011)
DANCING IN THE RAIN
Rain, mud, and slippery. No work today. Will try again tomorrow.
Day Four (Friday, October 7, 2011)
It's been a good but short week. We started on Tuesday, lost Thursday to rain so ended up working only three days, but it was a productive three days. The fire-damaged tree is up along with it's three thousand five hundred pound concrete base (the tree is not going anywhere), twenty-five feet of the stone wall has been started - twelve feet of that twenty-five has been completed, and the entire snake wall has been layed out with flour on the ground. You can now get a feel for the size of the viewing overlook and for the style and character of the stone wall.
And yes I said flour. Typically I would use lime to lay out the foundation, but they only come in large fifty pound bags. Since this is such a small layout and since I didn't want the remains of the bag of lime sitting around the yard . . . probably for years (Susan is already on my case about all the other materials around the yard), I decided to use a bag of cooking flour for the layout - it looks the same.
Day Five (Monday, October 10, 2011)
It's always nice to get a-head on Mondays, to get a little more work done than you thought you would - it typically makes the rest of the week go a little smoother. Well . . . today we got a-head. But not just a-head, we got a head of a rattlesnake and a mighty fine looking rattlesnake head it is. See photo below.
Above: Worker Jose on the job. Below: Workers Scott and Susan Stevenson on the job!
Below: View Platform under construction seen from up above on the trail. (click to enlarge)
Day Six (Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011)
Is a glass of water, half full or half empty? Who cares! All I know is that our rattlesnake is half complete. See photo.
Day Eight (Friday, 14, October 2011)
The tail, as well as the rest of the rattlesnake, is taking shape. We set the concrete foundation and the first layer of stones for the tail. The entire shape of the snake is now revealed. Check it out on the photo below.
Day Ten (Tuesday, October 18, 2011).
I've spent the last two days (Monday and Tuesday) working on the metalwork part of the project - graphic sign stands, monument sculptures, and the pipe scope. I miss being out on the site. I haven't finished the metalwork (another two days), but tomorrow (Wednesday) and the rest of the week we'll be out setting more stones for the tail of the snake. See attached photo of the beginning of the pipe scope and sign stands.
Day Twelve (Thursday, 20th October 2011)
I'll flip a coin and you can call-it heads or tails - it's up to you. In reality it doesn't matter because our stone rattlesnake has a head and now it has a tail. Either way, heads or tails - we are all winners. We pretty much finished the stone snake today, complete with its tail winding its way up into the air. The only thing remaining to make the snake one hundred percent done, is to install the pipescope sculpture onto the top of the tail. Hopefully I will finish the sculpture tomorrow and on Monday the pipe scope will be in.
Day Fourteen (Monday, 24th. October 2011)
Can you guess what this is?
See these two photos. Don't look at the third photo down below yet, it will give it away.
I'll give you a hint, by giving you four choices.
A. A petrified flower from the gardens of Babylon?
B. A mythical bird that is reborn from its ashes and brings you good luck - the Phoenix.
C. A replica of an ancient Egyptian sundial. This sundial was discovered in the early nineteenth century by Sir Francis Podus, who in order to escape his nagging wife, set off on an expedition to discover the origins of the head waters of the Nile River. He never discovered the headwaters, but on his return, he took a side trip (he was in no hurry to return to his wife) into a small uninhabited valley just off the main flow of the Nile where he stumbled upon a temple half buried in the sand. Within the courtyard of the temple he discovered a magnificent sundial. This photo is a replica of that sun dial. (I'll give you another hint . . . I wouldn't select this one.)
D. A pipe scope that focuses the view of the user to various aspects of Lake Hodges Dam and surrounding area.
And the answer is . . . . . . (a little drum roll please) . . . . "D - Pipe Scope!!!"
Yes, we have completed the installation of the pipe scope and, even if I do say so myself, it looks and works great.
Day Sixteen (Wednesday, 26th. October 2011)
The rare and somewhat endangered yellow Monument Flowers of the San Dieguito River Valley are in bloom. It is the first time in . . . I guess forever that the flowers have bloomed - what a treat. See photo below.
We have completed the three stone monuments holding the directional sculptures that will pinpoint the pipe scope on the spillway and flying buttress of the dam and on the San Dieguito River. The small bull seye on the monuments and their corresponding letters (A, B, and C) are painted a bright, yet subdued yellow. We also started the installation of the flagstone courtyard.
Day Eighteen (Friday, 28th. October 2011)
It's Friday. I'm tired, hungry, thirsty, and in no mood to write, at least not much, so . . . . I'll just show a few pictures.
Photo One: A picture of the Fire Tree with the graphic sign stand located about half way up the tree.
Photo Two: The existing graphics of the Lake Hodges Dam, on a new stand, relocated inside the curve of the snake.
Photo Three: Monument "A" with its little yellow dot focused on the spillway of the dam. Also, Monument "B" with its little yellow dot focused on the flying buttress of the dam.
Photo Four: Monument "C" with it's yellow dot focused on the San Dieguito River.
Photo Five: A picture of the pipe scope. The stand for the graphic sign is just below the scope.
Photo Six: A picture of the stone pedestal for the Rattlesnake Graphic Sign. The metal stand for the graphics is the metal plate attached to the top. The two pieces of wood are supporting the metal stand as the concrete dries.
Photo Seven: We have begun the installation of the sandstone pavers.
Day Twenty-Three (Friday, 4th November 2011)
Yogi Berra, the great catcher for the New York Yankees, once said while his team was losing and his teammates had all but given up, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings" (referring to the end of an opera when the last song is usually sung by a fat lady). Well, the fat lady has sung for the Rattlesnake Overview project of the Lake Hodges Dam. We have completed the rattlesnake!
We gave the snake and flagstone pavers a final wash in a mild acid bath, cleaned up the site, hauled all the trash to the dump, removed the lodge pole fence, and spread landscaping bark around the disturbed area of the project. It looks good. Check it out on the attached pictures.
Photo One: Overall view of the snake as you are walking down the trail.
Photo Two: Overall view with the San Dieguito River in the background and the tongue of the snake visible in the foreground.
Photo Three: Overall view of snake, monuments "A, B,and C", and the Lake Hodges Dam in the background.
Signing off for now. It's been a total pleasure.
Scott and Susan
INTERPRETIVE PANELS INSTALLED 12/28/11, OUR THANKS TO STONE IMAGERY FOR INSTALLING THEM DURING THE HOLIDAYS! See below:
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