Hiked Monday, January 19. After another annoyingly late start, I was all set for an afternoon charge on up to Mt. Zion, which is above Chantry Flat. On typical weekday afternoons, there's almost always plenty of parking up there. I didn't think the MLK holiday would have that big of an effect, but I was wrong. So this wound up being something like a 30-40 minute useless detour before I got back out of the canyon and back on the Foothill Freeway (I-210).
From the 210, you exit at Azusa Blvd and head north, to East Fork Road. Turn right on East Fork Road (shortly after San Gabriel Dam reservoir), then left at Shoemaker Canyon Road (on the left, shortly after the Burro Canyon turnoff, also on your left). Follow the road to the end.
As previously noted (My last trip here was back in August,
although I've been here a few times before that), this trail follows an old road cut from the early 1960s.
You start off with a nice overview of the East Fork trailhead (where the trails to the Bridge to Nowhere and Heaton Flat
both start). Then you walk along the cut for about 2.5 miles, passing through two tunnels along the way.
The East Fork of the San Gabriel River is far below and on your right for most of the trip out. The roar is quite audible, despite the distance down to the water.
Last time here, I think I only made it to near the first tunnel, because I came across a pair of deer, walking the rocky cliffs before that tunnel. Not wanting to disturb them more than necessary, I turned around there.
This time, I saw no deer, nor tarantula, nor any other significant life, so I continued through the second tunnel, giving myself a somewhat longer overall hike than the time before.
My main surprise was upon exiting that second tunnel. The fire damage (this would be from the Colby Fire, which burned above Azusa and Glendora in May 2014) was quite obvious and up-close, here.
Where there used to be a foliage-covered ravine was now a denuded cliff. Water still trickled down the bottom of this ravine, but it supported essentially no growth. Erosion was quite evident.
Additionally, a large metal tank that used to be up the ravine a few feet was now laying on the road before the ravine. And there was no obvious way to get from one side of the ravine to the other. Oh, sure, I could have scrambled up there, but before the trail was obvious, though it soon petered out on the other side of the ravine, anyway.
Still, I heard the "ribbit" of a toad or frog down in that tiny little waterway.
Under a root ball that was no longer connected to any sort of tree or plant, there was an undercut. And that's where the sound of the amphibian came from. Whether he survived the fire, or made a really long hopping climb from the river to get here, he was here, now. Seems unlikely he'll find an answer to his calls, but you never know.
That was the end of my hike. It was getting near dark, so even if the trail was in better condition, I likely would have turned around there, anyway.
The tunnels were darker, and I was really annoyed my flashlight wasn't in there, any more. But walking slowly, no problem making it through without tripping.
Got back to my car shortly after sunset, and returned home uneventfully. It was another enjoyable afternoon in the San Gabriel Mountains, for me.
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