Dead Dog/Bridge to Nowhere Hike

Azusa Canyon was once made famous for the amount of dead body Mafia type drop-offs in the area. Back on February 3, 2013, I drove to the area with our Labrador retriever Lucy, and my two nephews, not for a drop off, but, for a hike, to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” From its name, you can already assume, that it really does go, to, no where!

People actually do die in these canyons; but, today I prayed, please don’t add anyone of us to the body count!

According to the City of Azuza, the first recorded reference to this area was found in the diary of Father Juan Crespi, in 1769. Father Crespi walked all the way from San Diego, looking for Monterey Bay. Passing through this very area.

If you don’t know Monterey, it’s just roughly a 400+ mile drive today that would take you, with traffic, around eight hours. Father Crespi must’ve been some hiker in his day.

Out of nowhere – this huge, 120-foot high bridge suddenly shows up on your hike. The Bridge to Nowhere was supposed to go somewhere. In 1929 work started on the East Fork Road, which was going to connect San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood to the north.  The bridge was a vital link on that road and was built in 1936. But only two years later, in 1938, catastrophic flooding in the San Gabriel River washed the road away, leaving only, the Bridge to Nowhere.

In the 50s, everyone thought that this road could once again be used so, work started on a new route to the bridge by mainly using prison inmates, hence the locals name for the road of “Convict Road. Only 5 miles of the proposed 25 mile road was finished before the work was again abandoned in 1969, leaving the appropriately named “Highway to Nowhere.” The highway never made it to the bridge.

Some on-line background: 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 upstream from the Bridge to Nowhere.

On our return part of our “Bridge to Nowhere ” hike, Lucy and I opt for a shortcut up and over a huge, near vertical cliff. We both fought a hard battle of free climbing. Up, up, and finally over, until finally reaching a small, worm shaped oak tree, with outward jutting roots exposed.

The more free climbing we now do, the more I’m now starting to get really scared; no, not necessarily for me but, for my dog.

They say that the best way to train for climbing is to climb. Dog is certainly doing that now. And Lucy is showing no sign of having a “fear” gene in her. Somehow, I’ve got to get her to understand that falling from this height- is a really bad thing. … 

Ever been in a situation where time starts to stand still; right about the time, that something bad is about to happen? I was scared and the little brown dog was now starting to sense it.

Our near vertical climb to what first started out as a hiking trail shortcut, is now a climbing trail that continues, similar to the Bridge to Nowhere- literally to Nowhere.

At some point, in every one’s life, you reach a monumental decision, as in – should I go, or should I stay. Go and possibly risk losing dog from a slip and several hundred foot fall.

Stay, and now try to figure out how to get her back down. I predicted we gad a greater than 70% slip, fall, maim and die chance, for dog and I.

Due to our earlier water crossings, my feet are now soggy and wet; my hands and clothing are muddy and sweat in my eyes is making it hard to see. My heart now races. I take a quick picture or two. Just in case. This is one example where pictures don’t do the scenery, the height and the amount of danger from a fall justice.

Only a soldier in combat would trust one as much. Lucy now seemed to sense the consequences of one missed paw step.

Only a foot away from where I now stood, was the edge of a huge drop-off down to the rocky San Gabriel River.

Sure footed Lucy now held on as I coaxed her down; to where only a sure footed mountain lion could make the descent.

What happened? Did we miss the trail? After a couple hundred more feet up the trail, the roadbed abruptly ended, with the trail dropping right into the riverbed. My mistake was in choosing to continue upward, rather than take another deep water crossing. As we continued on, we stay on an old roadbed that was once carved out of the canyon wall and rocky boulder creek we see below us. There are many obstacles that lie in your way on this somewhat treacherous hike. The way you go in inay not necessarily be the way you come back out.

At times, on the way to the bridge, I say to myself – the bridge is near. It’s easy to lose sight of the distance as you are more weaving your way than on a hiking trail.

As we pushed on, Lucy was either to my side, near or up ahead, briefly stopping once in a while to look back, as I caught up. I think she covered twice our distance today.

Keep track of time because if you don’t; the sun may set on your Bridge to Nowhere expedition. Our feeling of accomplishment,combined with cheating death yet again, with dog is difficult to describe. My goal for the rest of the year is to try to be as good a person, as dog already thinks I am.


February 3, 2013