Bridge to Nowhere
East Fork San Gabriel River
May 15-16, 2010
This is the time of year when the deserts are getting hot but the highest
mountains in So Cal still have snow you gotta find somewhere in between to go
hiking. Serpicorabbit suggested the East Fork San Gabriel River Canyon. A lot of
people dayhike the 10 miles up to the bridge and back, but he knew of some cool
camping spots in the canyon, so we decided to overnight it. Greg1062 also came
with us. We've hiked a lot together this year, the 3 of us - Whitewater,
Anza-Borrego, Joshua Tree, Carrizo Plain.
We met at CVS in Azusa and carpooled from there up to the trailhead. A ton of
cars were at the trailhead - later on we found out that they were mostly bungee
jumpers. But we found a spot luckily and headed up the trail.
There are lots of river crossings on the way up the canyon. The first one is the
swiftest, but not the deepest - a couple were up to my waist. I wore my older
light hiking boots just for this reason - they've been wet and muddy many times in
the past. After that first crossing they wouldn't completely dry out again until I
The river canyon is very pretty this time of year. Tons of wildflowers blooming -
including all the chaparral shrubs that normally one doesn't pay much attention to.
White sage, yerba santa, chamise - all were blooming and very fragrant Prickly
phlox, bush monkeyflower, Indian paintbrush, yucca, blue hyacinth, phacelia,
western wallflower, California thistle, farewell to spring, tobacco bush, yellow
pincushion, canterbury bells, nightshade, and others were also in bloom. We also
saw lots of birds, including one of my favorites - an American Dipper, and saw
dozens of lizards - no snakes or bighorn sheep, though. This is part of the Sheep
Mountain Wilderness and we did see some tracks and scat.
So the trail follows the river and crosses it many times like I said, so it's a little
slow-going. But it's shady and quite a pleasant hike for the first half or so. After
that the trail climbs up a dry ridge and starts to follow the old road bed up to the
bridge. At this point we left the trail and hiked cross-country up the canyon to a
campsite near the mouth of a side canyon. There we set up camp and relaxed for a
little while. Then we set off hiking up canyon to see if we could get within site of
After passing a prospector's camp and doing some scrambling we found ourselves in
a very narrow part of the canyon where the only way you could proceed was if you
swam - but the water was too cold so we then tried to climb out of the canyon back
up to the trail. Greg tried ascending a scree slope but found it to be too unstable.
Then we hiked downstream a bit and found a use trail that led back up to the main
trail. From here it was just a short jaunt over to the bridge.
The Bridge to Nowhere was going to go somewhere at one time. They were
building a road up this canyon in the 1930's that would eventually connect to Hwy
2, the Angeles Crest Highway. But the road was wiped out by a flood not too long
afterwards, and what remains is this big beautiful bridge spanning the canyon.
The bridge and the land immediately surrounding it is on a private property
inholding. So some enterprising individual(s) have set up a bungee jump business
and no doubt make a good living offering this experience to dozens of college kids
on weekends. We watched a bunch of people jump off the bridge that afternoon -
crazy people :p
There are some campsites beyond the bridge but the trail gets very narrow and
scary hanging above the canyon. So we didn't go far up the canyon before deciding
to head back to camp. We went back via our found trail and decided that would be
the way we'd head out in the morning as well - since it was easier than rock
scrambling back down canyon.
The evening was pleasant and it never really got cold - I guess I'm just not used to
packing for warm weather because I brought a fleece and fleece gloves and hardly
even needed my sleeping bag!
That night we had a visitor, probably a raccoon, that decided to drag away Greg's
trash stuff sack and chew a hole through it. Or Nick thinks it could have been a
skunk because he smelled one sometime during the night.
After packing up in the morning we headed back up to the use trail and climbed up
to the old road bed/trail and hiked down canyon. It was a pleasant morning, warm
with a breeze. When we'd hiked back down to about a mile of the trailhead Nick
decided he wanted to go swimming in the river, fully clothed. We watched him for
a little while then I decided why not? He had found a nice deep swimming hole, but
the current moving through it was quite swift, so you could ride it through the hole
and then stand up where the river got shallow again. Nick kept floating down it on
his back with the current, but when I tried the current drug me down underneath
the water - whooooeeee! It was cold! But refreshing :D
I tried again, but again I couldn't keep on my back and went under, lol The third
time I was finally able to float through the hole. It was fun! We finally got Greg
to join us and he floated through a couple of times. Then Nick floated through and
forgot to stand up in the shallow area and kept floating down - we thought he'd
found the fast way back to the trailhead and we'd pick him up down there, lol We
coined this activity white water body surfing!
So, after much swimming and laughing, we dried off a little then dried off
completely hiking back to the trailhead - except for our boots. We drove back
down to Azusa and there parted ways. Not before formulating a plan for our next
backpacking trip, though, which will be in the southern Sierra next month ;)