A dog story: Lucy – originally written by yours truly and published in the Los Angeles Adventurers Club News (March 2013) http://www.adventurersclub.org/AC%20News/AC%20News%20Mar%202013.pdf
LUCY THE HIKING DOG
Deep in Azusa Canyon, made famous by Mafia dead-body dropoffs, lies the Bridge to Nowhere. From its name, it really does go no where. According to the City of Azusa, the first recorded reference to this area was found in Father Juan Crespis 1769 diary, while on his way from San Diego looking for Monterey Bay.
The Bridge to Nowhere is one of the most bizarre artifacts to be
found in the San Gabriel Mo u n t a i n s . Back in the 1920s, Los
Angeles County planned to build a highway up the East Fork canyon to the
Mine Gulch. From there the road would climb over Blue Ridge and
drop down into Wrightwood. It would be among the most scenic roads in
Construction began in 1929, most of the work being done by County
prison work crews. By the mid-1930s the highway had reached The Narrows
(2,800 ft) where the East Fork flows through a very deep gorge, the
deepest in Southern California. There it was necessary to construct a concrete
bridge high above the waters of the gorge. A tunnel was also chiseled
out of sheer rock.
After this difficult construction task had been completed, on
March 1, 1938, an unprecedented storm deposited many inches of rain
on the San Gabriel Mountains.
The result was a tremendous flood that roared down the East Fork, obliterating everything in its path including more than five miles of the painstakingly constructed highway.
Only the bridge, high above the raging waters remained untouched.
The futility of the project having been so emphatically demonstrated,
the County abandoned their plans, leaving a brand-new concrete road
bridge standing alone in the middle of the wilderness more than five
miles from the nearest highway.
On todays hike I nearly killed my loyal and trusting two-year-old chocolate
lab, Lucy. People actually do die in these canyons; but today please
don’t add my dog to the count. On the return part of the hike, Lucy and
I found ourselves on this huge near vertical cliff. We both had fought hard
to get there by free climbing a rock wall, up and over tree roots, and finally climbing over a small worm shaped oak tree. After a little more free climbing I started to become concerned, not necessarily for me, but for my dog. Time seemed to stand still.
The little brown dog, ever so trusting, kept her cool. Our climb started
out as a hiking trail, then became a climbing trail that continued to turn
vertical. While still safe, we reached a go or no-go moment. Go
and possibly risk losing my best dog in the prime of her
life; in my head I gave it a greater than 70 percent slip f a l l – and -d i e
chance. I made the decision to go back down. Of course, by not
climbing on, we needed to get back down to where we started . We rested
for about fifteen minutes. What to do?Due to numerous earlier water
crossings my feet were soggy, my hands and clothing muddy, and I was
covered in sweat. I could feel my heart racing as I considered the life critical
decision. My first choice turned out to be snapping a quick memorial picture and video of Lucy, to remember her by just in case. As it was, I considered the odds of going
back down just as bad. Hey, I’m hiker not a rock climber, so why was I even there?
Also, I’m OK with heights; otherwise, I might have dropped off the edge earlier, with Lucy staring down at me, all broken, face up on the San Gabriel river rocks below.
Another highly addictive and sometimes rewarding hobby in the river
below is recreational gold prospecting. These guys were out in force, but
not below us. One of the richest strikes on the East Fork was made at Allison
Mine located on the west slope of Mt Baldy above the confluence of Iron Fork
and the East Fork, just up stream from the Bridge to Nowhere.
Lucy seemed to know the consequences of one missed step. The edge of a huge drop-off above the rocky San Gabriel River was just one foot away. Sure-footed, she held on as I coaxed her down to where even a sure-footed mountain lion could make the descent.
Had we missed the trail? After a couple hundred more feet up the trail,
the roadbed abruptly ended with the trail dropping into the riverbed. I
chose to continue upward rather than attempt a deep water crossing. At
times we were on an old roadbed that carved its way along the canyon wall
with the rocky boulder-filled creek below. The bridge is five advanced-hiking
miles into the canyon. The many obstacles in the path transform this into
a seven-mile difficult and treacherous hike over severe, rocky terrain
with numerous water crossings. At times, while hiking on an old broken asphalt
road, I told myself that the bridge was near. It was getting closer all right, but the elevation was get ting higher.
We pushed on, Lucy either to my side or ahead, briefly stopping to look back as I caught up. Our arrival at the bridge caught us by surprise. After a few well-earned parting pictures of the Bridge to Nowhere, we realized that the sun would be setting soon, and commenced our downhill trek out of the canyon. My feeling of accomplishment at having cheated death for my dog is difficult to describe.
And now my goal in life (at least in this respect, anyway) is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am.
Lucy hauling in someone’s boat – vicinity of Big Pine Key, Florida Keys.
Dog Beach – Huntington Beach, California
Found – A dog stick; hiking San Gabriel river area – California
Columbia River – vicinity of St. Helens, Oregon
Stuck in the snow – Portland, Oregon
Cross country trip LA to Key West – she chews up our trip mascot!
Lucy & Jessie (Jessie RIP)