Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Backpacking the Bridge To Nowhere

The Bridge To Nowhere

With the record year of rain and snowfall, the local mountains have been full of water in the creeks and rivers late into the summer. The East Fork of the San Gabriel River is a popular spot for many hikers, gold panners and day adventurers as they are drawn to the cool and refreshing waters of this river that are so easily accessed in the mountains above Azusa, CA. The most popular hiking destination in this area these days is the Bridge to Nowhere, a bridge built in 1936 deep back in the canyon of the East Fork. The history on this bridge is quite interesting but in summary it was built to complete a road that got washed out and was later abandoned in 1938 leaving a bridge, in the middle of nowhere, that dead ends into the side of a mountain. A very strange sight to come across in the middle of the wilderness indeed!

A group of eight of us headed back to overnight somewhere near the bridge. It has changed a lot since I did this when I was around 19 and mountain biked/hiked my way back there with a few friends. Back then we wore backpacks and rode our bikes mostly on trail but a little on portions of the old road. Back then we slept on the bridge itself. Today there are only vague traces of the fact there was a road there at all as most has been washed away. Amazing what 20 years of erosion has done this area since I was last there. The bridge is also now overrun by bungee jumpers and us hikers are allowed to cross but not loiter on the bridge. Back when I went there on a mountain bike the three of us on the trip were the only people that made it to the bridge that day, now nearly 100 people are gathered on it on the weekend.
Jason's piece of driftwood points the way.

The trip back to the bridge is not necessarily difficult but does require a little determination. The trail in areas can be hard to follow and multiple use trails and river crossings make this task more difficult. It can get rather warm during the summer but the cool water is very refreshing, in fact we looked forward to the water crossings as an opportunity to cool off.

Upriver exploration
Jason and I practice our rock climbing technique and anchors
Mike enjoys our swimming hole adjacent to camp
The great news about this rather popular and heavily traveled area is that once you pass the bridge and continue hiking up the river into the narrows, the crowds nearly disappear! Our plan was to pass the bridge and find a suitable camping location to make camp at and then do whatever each of us felt like doing. Between a half mile to a mile past the bridge we came across numerous camp sites, some occupied, others available but to small, and finally one that met our requirements. It was big enough for all the tents, and nice rocks to sit on and a great swimming hole and cascade in the river next to camp. We quickly set up camp and immediately afterward proceeded to go swimming. After a few hour swim and sunning session we broke up and went different ways. Several headed up river to explore, Mike stayed around camp to test his luck gold panning, while Jason and I practiced our rope and anchor systems for an upcoming trip to the Sierras where we will likely need to place anchors and use a rope for protection on some class 4 routes up a few fourteeners. The afternoon was hot and the rock we were climbing was scalding our hands at times but we all accomplished what we wanted and rolled back into camp around 6:30.

Clark's chicken quesadillas, always a great appetizer
Our evening was just a giant food fest! Clark kicked it off with making some chicken quesadillas complete with fresh avocado. Others had some store bought freeze dried meals, tried and true freezer bag meals and Jason cooked up some peppers, onions and sausage. I had worked up a new freezer bag meal to test for making burritos and tacos on the trail as we had commented on a recent trip how much we would like something like that. The taco meat portion of the meal was perfect but I had brought some fresh grated cheddar that did not hold up to well in the heat of the day. Thankfully Clark had some extra store bought grated cheese that has proven to hold up on our Catalina trip so I used that to finish of the soft tacos along with a little left over avocado and our group favorite, jalapeno salsa from Chick-Filet. I had plenty of taco fixings to share and everyone who tried it agreed that this is a must do meal on our future trips. What is the recipe you ask? See the end of this entry for the details.

We all ate so much at dinner that the only dessert that was shared was some astronaut ice cream. The fresh popped pop corn and cheesecake would have to wait for another trip. We opted instead to drink more fluids to replenish ourselves, hot tea, electrolytes, San Peligrino and lime, and even a little wine. Just before going to bed a few even decided to go for a swim by headlamp. Apparently the headlamps really are waterproof! Under a full moon, we all headed to bed around 11PM.

Heading out through the Narrows in the morning.
The following morning was a simple get up, packup, eat a quick breakfast and head out. It seemed much hotter than the day before. We rolled out of camp around 10AM. I wanted to look for the tunnel that was being blasted into the rock that was to meet up with the bridge. I went into the tunnel 20 years ago but just a little. I figured this time we had way better headlamps and more of them. Unfortunately erosion and time have had there way and I could locate where the tunnel entrance once was but it is now covered in dirt and rock and is buried.
A bungee jumper takes a leap of faith!

Our group photo on the bridge.
Plenty of people were once again at the bridge for bungee jumping. The guys running this operation have figured out how to make more money out of this canyon than the miners ever did! There were plenty of people lined up to jump and during our hike back we came across a line of nearly 50 of them hiking up to the bridge. As was expected, there were plenty of people once again as we returned back to our cars.

All in all it was great, relaxing trip with lots of fun. I liked it better in the old days with far fewer people but at least they are getting to enjoys it as well. This is definitely a great hike for intermediate hikers looking to have fun in the water and enjoy playing in their surroundings.

Trail Tacos:
Serves 3

1/2 cup freeze dried ground beef
1/2 cup taco TVP
1/4 cup freeze dried corn
1/4 cup instant black beans
1 T taco seasoning
1 T dried onion
2 C boiling water

Flour tortillas (about 7) or hard taco shells or Fritos (you figure out how you want it!)
Store bought grated mexican cheese blend , 8 oz. (holds up well on the trail)
Favorite salsa or hot sauce packets (Chick-Fil-A Jalapeno Salsa is our favorite)
Avocado and or fresh tomato if desired

Place all above dry ingredients in a 1 quart Ziplock freezer bag. Add the hot water, seal the bag and place in an insulated cozy for 20 minutes. Remove and stir and spoon into tortillas, place over Fritos, or for low carb just eat it out of the bag. Use cheese, salsa, avocado and tomato if desired. I get the meat, TVP, corn and beans from Shelf Reliance.

1 comment:

  1. Wow ...I think you should write a book :)
    Excellent job as alway's !!! :)