I wanted to start the new year off with an exciting exercise adventure. So I roped in my pal Jeff (who’s always game to explore someplace new), and on the second day of 2015, we headed out for a hike.
It was a rather epic hike – 11 miles. We hiked to the Bridge to Nowhere and back again, and it was incredible. My favorite hike yet. I liked it even more than Mount Echo (where there are ruins from a 100-year-old hotel) or Inspiration Point.
Before I get into it, a quick announcement: I’m now on Instagram! For all you photo-loving social network types, you can follow me on Instagram at @keepitupdavid. I’ve already shared a few of these hike pics on Instagram, so that’s a good reason to follow me: to see photos before they show up on the blog!
Back to our regularly scheduled program. The Bridge to Nowhere is an actual bridge, and it definitely goes nowhere. More about the bridge itself in a bit – first, I’ll focus on the nowhere. Our hike started at a trailhead in the Los Angeles National Forest 15 miles north of Azusa, California – a suburb nearly an hour away. From the trailhead, it’s a 5-mile hike to get to the bridge.
The trail follows the San Gabriel River, which is more of a babbling creek, and the terrain is beautiful. Giant rocks to climb on…
…and the occasional ruin of a structure that’s long gone.
(You can click on any of these photos to see them larger.)
Sometimes the trail would disappear entirely in the river bed, and we’d navigate the rocks until it appeared again.
The trail crossed back and forth across the river, and it was up to us to find the best place to cross. It was cold (both the air and the water temperature), and we wanted to stay as dry as possible. A couple times there was a fallen log that helped some of the way, but most of the time we jumped rock to rock.
I’d like to present Exhibit A, a video that Jeff took of me doing a river crossing. Enjoy!
I loved the hike so much, because the terrain was always shifting. The trail would go from wide to narrow to non-existent. It would lead us through narrow canyons with dangerous ledges…
…to huge wide open valleys:
At one point, we avoided two river crossings by scrambling up the rocky side of a cliff. Someone had hung a rope to assist in getting back down on the other side.
All this by itself would have made for a fantastic hike. But what made it even better was our destination: the Bridge to Nowhere.
In the 1930s, a road was being built through this part of the mountains. The Bridge to Nowhere was built to accommodate that road. Then, in 1938, while the road was still under construction, an enormous flood washed away everything except the bridge. The road was never rebuilt or completed, leaving the bridge isolated in the middle of nowhere.
We had hiked for well over two hours when we came across a sign that let us know we were close:
Jeff’s pointing to the part that says “Smile, you are on camera!” but I’m pretty sure that’s bullshit.
At first sight, the bridge isn’t very impressive at all, but that’s because we were on top of it.
One you step around to the side, you start to see how massive the structure is under you:
And then you look down, and realize that the river is now 120 feet below you.
Does the bridge look familiar? A few years ago, when Jake Pavelka was the bachelor on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” he took Vienna on a date to the Bridge to Nowhere, where they bungee jumped off the side. They didn’t hike there, though – they took a helicopter. And anyone can bungee jump off the Bridge to Nowhere. There’s a company that leads expeditions there every weekend just for that purpose.
Jeff and I relaxed on the bridge for a while, ate a snack, and took in the scenery.
The bridge is at one end of a steep canyon, and other hikers had seen bighorn sheep on the mountain in front of us. We looked and looked, and finally saw a little guy scampering about. It looks like a juvenile (no horns yet), but what I do I know about bighorn sheep? It was profile for a while, but I was a Fumbly McButterfingers with my camera, and I didn’t get a picture until it had turned away from us. So you gotta take my word for it: there’s a bighorn sheep butt in this photo:
The Bridge to Nowhere is very well named. You approach from one end, and just feet beyond the other end is the side of a mountain. It’s hard to imagine where the road would’ve gone next had construction continued. Into a tunnel?
There’s a trail, after the railing ends, that winds down to the river, 120 feet below. Jeff and I headed down there next, and that’s where you can see the bridge is all its majesty.
This was our final destination, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t take the chance to go for a dip. The water was freezing, but I eased myself in…
…up to my knees. That was good enough.
It was worth it, just to get this photo with the bridge:
We left the bridge and started our five mile hike back to the car. The sun was in a complete different spot, so what was in shadow before was now bright, and vice versa. Because of that, a lot of the trail seemed new, and we had trouble identifying the places where we had previously crossed the river.
Eventually, though, we made it back to the car. Seven hours after our hike commenced. (Jeff’s GPS tracked our actual movement at 5.5 hours, so 1.5 hours of it was breaks and fun time at the bridge.) Add in travel time to and from the mountains near Azusa, and it was a nine-hour adventure.
It was worth every minute.
Keep it up, David!