If you live in Southern California and want to be reminded of the majesty of nature I have a hike for you. Not a metaphor (unless you want it to be) , The Bridge To Nowhere, is a bridge for a failed highway built in the thirties. A flash flood killed hopes of this road linking Los Angeles to Wrightwood, but the impressively sturdy bridge remained standing in the wilderness.
My friend, Jose, had told me of this hike that was so long you had better pack a lunch, so wet that you had best bring an extra pair of socks. Against my internal clock’s wishes I woke up at 5:45 last Sunday. It was Jose’s birthday. His girlfriend, Melva, had arranged for the two of them to bungee jump off this bridge as a birthday present. The eternal cheapskate I am I had no intention of jumping off a bridge for ninety dollars and only wanted to check out the trail. We had to be at the trailhead early. There were sixty other people planning to bungee jump.
It was cold that February morning. As it rained the night before we were warned the river’s water level might be chest high. We walked down the dirt path. Sometimes the trail got so narrow I felt like one of the Smurfs lined up after Papa Smurf. We got to the first crossing. The organizers advised us to sidestep with your hand on the person next to you’s shoulder. That morning water was cold, but fortunately it was only thigh high. We had to cross the river a total of six times. I had put on my sandals and after the first crossing my toes were numb until the second crossing when the sun rose high enough to warm up the canyon.
This San Gabriel River was very unSouthern Californian. It was wild with rapids, rocks, and eddys. The natural world could not be more amazing. We were surrounded on both sides by green mountains. In the distance were snowy peaks. You wanted to inhale it all, so you could carry it with you in the rush hour traffic.
It took us just over two hours to walk the five miles to reach the bridge. The guides from the bungee jump company were setting up their equipment. I gazed over the edge. Ninety five feet down were sharp rocks and a vicious current. It was hard to imagine diving down into that. But first an overweight woman jumped into the abyss and then a gray haired older man followed by a tiny Asian girl. They all had vast smiles on their faces as they were towed back up to the bridge. I was bummed I had left my wallet in the car. I really wanted to dive head first toward my death right then. But it gave me a reason to come back.
After Jose and Melva had their turn to kick up their adrenaline dosage we headed back to the car. Without a guide and without a clearly marked trail this proved to be an adventure. There was no worry of getting lost, for as long as you followed the river downstream you would eventually get back to the parking lot. The difficulty was finding safe, shallow spots to cross the river. The water, though only three or four deep, flowed at a furious enough velocity that you had to worry about being knocked over and pushed into a fallen tree or submerged rock. But we were strong enough to endure the travails and now we return to society with tales of our adventures.