“Adventure Pass” Parking Permit required, wilderness permit at the ranger station Azusa Ave. north (turns into) San Gabriel Canyon Road—poster of 17 year old guy missing since April 25. Past Morris Reservoir and San Gabriel Reservoir, filled high with spring rains within ten yards or so of the green chaparral. Up the east fork to the end of the road, the parking area full already by 9:30 AM.

Short walk into free waterless fireless campsites on a wide bench in the trees overlooking the gravelly river as it rushes with the sound of wind around a broad bend. Yuccas sending up their singular great spike of cream-colored blooms, and as we wended our way up the rocky, sandy riverbed talking of everything. Jen’s house, teaching, student writers, Ava’s travels, Arturo’s (and Dianna’s) adopted twin 17 year olds, Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement, Ben’s black cap matching his black outfit, set off by red bandana, down to his black underwear when he rolled up his pants to ford the first river crossing, the deepest and swiftest running, the current high and hard. Tim, Taiwanese college computer instructor, linked hands with us (we all linked hands) buffeted by the cold water—to the hips—no one slipped under—Tim stayed with us for an assist at all the crossings and later said, “I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”

We wouldn’t have wanted to be in the river if the water had been much higher. Slippery footing could send you swimming, your gear—cell phones, keys, cameras, flashdrives—soaked. The clouds unfurled and burned off and the rest of the day was spent in brilliant sunshine. The alder leafing out luminescent greenery, the poison oak new leaves fresh and tender and often not reddened.

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Alder along the river, bigleaf maple, and in the expanses of ruffled eroded stony gravelly riverbed where we filed through the balls of yucca spikes conversing, talking as we went, buckwheat, a few Indian paintbrush, lots of white sage on every embankment and along the trail amid ceanothus, milkweed, weird bright green wild cucumber vines with their big leaves, soft spiky sticky fruits like some sort of joke with corkscrew tendrils—a thought that has gone its own way, it has taken on wholly a life of its own. Jen peered closely at one but nobody grabbed one.

People and dogs the whole way; it took us some four hours at least to negotiate the rocky riverbed, cross-cross the river, regain the high ground to the east and arrive at the Bridge to Nowhere. Arturo said it had the date 1936 on it; but it was covered in some seventy or so bungee jumpers, supposedly paying $70 a pop to leap off the center span into the deep rocky gorge, whooping and shrieking. Up around a bend in the cool shade where the river drowned out the distant shrieks of jumpers, we ate out lunch. Tim, the Taiwanese guy shared in; his water shoes were cutting into his heels and taking the skin off.

The approach to the gorge includes one stretch of trail where I suppose if you took a bad enough fall after a misstep and had some momentum you'd fly, or fall, 80 to a hundred feet into the rocks in the river at the base of the cliffs. There's excitement to this hike. The loose shale or eroded granite footing suggests you not get too wayward in daydreaming. Lots of lizards, pink, gray and black, but not much else wildlife as the place was crawling with noisy hikers. Some fly fishermen practiced catch and release in the river.

Sunflowers, and both common (whitish) and golden (yellow orange) yarrow. I felt repeated silly affection for the surging yucca furiously blooming, their single spike of blossoms before they die; and some already desiccated and blackened, their walnut-sized seed pods emptied of the many little black seeds open to the air. Some of the stalks broken, splintered, fibrous, and the spike ball at the base withered like some crushed old basket.

We didn't break through any hillside brush or grassy areas so I never bothered to check for ticks. Some 9 plus miles later we were back at the vehicle. I'd given away the baggie I carried my cell phone in away to a couple about to cross the first fording. I hadn't told them that they were starting too late in the day to make the bridge and back by dark. They'd find out. Ben and I had been talking about this hike for a year or so, waiting till we could go in a spectacular season like this, when the wildflowers bloomed. That's not how we scheduled it really, but that's the way it worked out.

river fotos by Arturo Romo-Santillano and Tim Yun-Ta Tsai at http://picasaweb.google.com/bbnslab/BridgetToNowhere2010050210miRT#