Burt took me to see his Grandma and Grandpa Nelson’s house in Glendora today. The place still retains an air of redneck nobility perched up on its hill surrounded by newer and flashier homes. I saw the oak tree where the bees lived in a hollow. The hollow was still there but no bees today. Burt’s grandparents rented from the owners who lived next door. The landlords raised rattlesnakes and collected venom to make anti-venom when Burt was hanging around. The houses had been surrounded by an orange grove but even now with all the new development open space is only about a block away so you can get a feel for what a wonderland this must have been for him.
Then we drove up San Gabriel canyon and did a day hike along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. We noticed signs on the way up the canyon mentioning a parking permit but couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to get the permit. Being wild and crazy people we didn’t try to find out. I mean, come on, we followed the rules at Venice Beach, but pay to park in the National Forest? Not if we could help it.
The hike was a closed and paved road leading to Cogswell Dam. The first half mile was swarmed with families up from the city. Rainbow trout are native to this stream and there were people trying to catch them. I ignored the pavement and told myself we would out walk the people n 20 minutes and we did. In about 25 minutes there was a bridge with a sign off to the side that mentioned the public lands were closed beyond “this” point. The sign was off the road and at a 45 degree angle to the bridge. There was no chain, no obstacle on the bridge so we decided it was ambiguous at best and perhaps referred to the land on the other side of the stream. We really were unsure and I hesitated for a moment but I thought, if this road is closed why not a chain? Or a sign in the road? Or a notice at the trailhead? Oh well, there’s nobody here anyway.
We walked on. We saw a couple cyclists. Two carrying fishing rods. The land here is steeper than anything I’ve seen. From the road the terrain heads up at about a 6o degree slope with thick vegetation. Rock climbing would have been easier than walking anywhere other than the road. Just shy of 3 miles in we found a magical water fall with a series of pools we could scramble to. The cleft cut into the steep hills and just like in the Grand Canyon I wanted to see if I could get to the next pool. I gave up at 3. It was late and we had places to be.
We turned around at mile marker 3 and headed out. Quickly a car coming from the trailhead pulled up to us. In it was a middle aged man out with what I took to be his mother. In an absurd display of bureacratic puffery he told us the area was closed and that we must leave at once. Burt and I both expressed our confusion which resulted in him telling us we would be fined $5000 if we were caught. I have done less agregious things than walk on pavement in a National Forest for which I have felt much guiltier. “Let them try,” I thought. I turned to leave when I heard Burt mildly ask, “What are you doing here?” “Well I work for the Forest Service,” was his response. Then some mumbling from “mom” and our public servant explained to mom and Burt that well no, he didn’t give the tickets, the sheriff did, but by god the sheriff was around and he’d find us. And by the way your dog has the be on a leash. Now the last line, dear reader, is utter BS. Yours truly is always looking to see what the doggie rules are everywhere we go. There were no signs about dog leashes AND we had indeed passed the sheriff (on the unambiguously open portion of the road) with our dog running amok and there was no citation or warning issued. All of which left this former public servant itching for a fight with the feds. BECAUSE…what the hell was this moron doing DRIVING on a closed road on a Sunday, in a private car with his mother, telling us we weren’t allowed to walk on it? I think Burt was less pissed off than me.
We made it out without incident. On our windshield was a parking ticket. Pay $5 now or $100 later. Pretty nice deal. With real motivation we could see the parking permit kiosk and made our peace with Uncle Sam.