The Bridge to Nowhere — Page 6

The Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere

Near "The Narrows" of the East Fork of San Gabriel Canyon, the canyon closes dramatically. The trail is now high above the river—in several places, high enough to make a fall fatal.

To the right of the trail is the incredible northeast face of Iron Mountain, shooting seemingly straight up more than a vertical mile. A sign warns that we're entering private property—a mine inholding within the Sheep Mountain Wilderness—and then at last the Bridge to Nowhere comes into view.

Approaching the Bridge Bridge from Below Andy Swimming Andy Lewicky & Bridge to Nowhere

That first impression of the Bridge is in fact the least impressive—it simply looks like a concrete platform extending across the canyon.

Is is only as you get closer that you realize how big—and how high—the bridge actually is.

Though built in 1936, the Bridge to Nowhere still looks brand new, a consequence perhaps of it having never seen active duty. No cars nor trucks ever crossed its span.

Surveying the area, we can clearly see where the road existed (briefly!) to the south of the bridge.

To the north, however, there is not a shred of evidence of the old road.

In fact, imagining putting a road through here today and up into the Narrows conjures an engineering challenge on the order of I-70 through Colorado's Glenwood Canyon.

Of course we're supposed to celebrate the fact that the wilderness here remained pristine.

And yet...

The backcountry skier in me can't help lamenting the loss of what would have been the holy grail of access to the interior north faces of the San Gabriel Mountains's most coveted peaks.

It would indeed have been an engineering marvel had they succeeded in building the road, but nature had the last word on that subject. And as I stare at this impressive structure, in all its man-made glory, rendered now so perfectly isolated and useless, I find myself feeling oddly melancholy.

I imagine the reactions of the Bridge's boosters when they learned of the calamity to their project. Denial must have been first. Then, as surveyors reported back on the true and devastating extent of the damage, there must have been a furious push to rebuild despite the obvious futility of it all.

And then, in the end, acceptance, such as it were, that the road would never happen. The bridge would sit as it is today, until such time as nature eventually sweeps the last gleaming-white blocks of concrete away. I scramble down the steep loose ground north of the bridge, where I find a swimming hole to flirt with, and a flat rock upon which to eat my lunch.

The Bridge to Nowhere looms high above me, both beautiful and sad, a superlative monument to human ingenuity and impermanence. Lunch concluded, I recross the bridge, stopping at the opposite side to take one last, long look at it. I feel a moment of admiration for the Bridge's builders despite the end result. And then, just like their grand plans, I'm gone.

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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