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 got home.
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 the bridge.
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 ;)