Saturday, July 1, 2017

EVERYTHING You Need to Know Before You Hike Bridge To Nowhere

The infamous Bridge!
  • $5 Adventure (parking) Pass required
  • Hike length about 10 miles round trip.
  • Hydrate the day before.
  • Bring MORE water than you think you need-I brought 1/2 gallon and felt it was NOT enough. 
  • Vault toilet at the parking lot and trailhead.
  • You WILL get wet-water levels vary by season but there will be multiple river crossings.
  • NOT for newbies or beginners.
  • NOT stroller friendly.
  • Bring plenty of high protein/energy foods.
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply along the trail--here are a few suggestion markers to remember:
  1. before hitting the trail
  2. at the river crossing that has the ruins of a wall on each side
  3. at the bridge where the Sheep Mountain sign is.
  4. after swimming at the  destination Bridge.

    1. ALL these pictures are in opposite trail order,
      from the end to the start.
This was my fourth time taking this hike. A friend who had never taken it before joined me. It felt more challenging than previous times but also more rewarding. The great thing about this hike is that even though it is primarily full sun, you can hear and see the river most of the way. It adds a refreshing and soothing element to be near the water.

Right now, the river is flowing nicely. Expect to get wet. Dress and prepare appropriately.  River crossings were at about ankle depth for me (5'6) and I could mostly keep my feet dry by rock hopping across but I did get my shoes a bit wet on the way up and fully submerged on the way down because I wanted to move faster and stepped right in. Do whatever you feel most comfortable doing. The depth can be unpredictable and the rocky bottom slippery and unstable. If you don't mind sandy feet on the trail, water shoes might be good. You could always stop and change shoes at every water crossing but that will add time and may begin to feel like a nuisance.

The watery views are gorgeous right now. Last time I was here the water had more of a grey look to it and the water under the bridge was a chocolately brown--think Willy Wonka's chocolate river. Seriously. This time around, the water holes were sparkling blue and clear!

Waterfall and swimming hole below the bridge.
Most of this hike is FULL sun. Dehydration and heat exhaustion/stroke/sun stroke is a real concern. Please familiarize yourself with the signs and be honest with yourself if you or anyone in your party begins to exhibit them. The trail will always be there and waiting for you. Always choose safety over risk. I strongly suggest hydrating the day before and bringing more water than you think you will need.

I saw one suggestion of bringing 1 liter which is 33 ounces. I brought 1/2 a gallon which is 64 ounces, twice as much. I still felt like it was NOT enough. Remember you need to have enough water for the trip up AND enough for the hike down! If you run out of water before you have reached your destination-TURN AROUND immediately. I am not joking. Actually, if you drink HALF the water you brought--TURN AROUND--regardless if you have reached the bridge or not! If you have or use a filter system, well then, you're obviously at a river.

Of course sunscreen is a MUST! As well as sun protective gear like spf clothing, long sleeves and a hat. Not everyone likes to cover up so at the very least, wear a hat and sunscreen. Don't forget to reapply. This hike is HOURS long. I offered a few reapply location suggestions above to help you have visual cues to remember.

Calm shallow water well past and beyond the bridge.
There are gold panners along the river. They won't be hiking on the trail but will be hanging out along the river digging or panning, or at their camps. The regulars may look rugged and give off a friendly or stay away vibe. I respect the sense I get and give a friendly acknowledgement of 'Find anything today?' or 'Good luck' as we pass if they seem inviting, or just eye contact with a nod if they are busy and continue on our way. Always use wisdom and caution. I have never ran into trouble but be aware of your surroundings at all times. You may also come across weekend adventurers attempting their luck at striking it rich!

Away from the river, the trail is dry and dusty with native drought tolerant plants. I noticed some Poison Oak. Again be aware! Try to avoid contact with any plant you don't have definitive recognition of. If you come in contact with any Poison Oak, Tecnu is a good product and they have a variety for before and after exposure. Signs of exposure may not be immediate and reactions can be delayed up to 2 weeks.

Same waterfall pictured above from farther back.Graffiti sux!
The trail itself can be tricky at times. Often what appears to be the trail, is just common worn ground from people hanging at the river. The trail does stay along the river a little but often strays away and above the river. It feels counter-intuitive. The first time we hiked here we did not make it to the Bridge because we missed a turn along the trail and stayed along the river. The good thing is if you begin to feel disorientated or lose the trail, you CAN follow the river OUT and back as long as you are going in the right direction.

Don't be afraid to ask other hikers you see for directions whether you are heading up or down. No room for pride on the trail. That includes HOW you hike. This trail has climbs over boulders, up rocky steps, including steep and narrow, gravel/slippery spots. Take your time. Sit, slide, scoot, hold hands, whatever is necessary to always stay SAFE. Be prepared for unexpected emergencies (that goes for any hike!). Have an escape plan in place and make sure all hikers in your party are familiar with it. Know what you will do if you or someone in your party is injured and must move slower or can not walk at all. You will NOT have phone reception btw. This is also why it is a good idea to bring extra supplies, a first aid kit and food/water. Again, I have NEVER had an issue but I always keep these things in mind. You can respond better if you have a plan before hand than in the chaos and stress of the moment. Normally, I am also hiking with numerous kids of varied ages, even though I was kid free this time. (my youngest did this same hike the first time when he was 5 years old!)

Because of the nature and length of the trail, it is best to start as early as possible. We got out there *late* on this trip, starting about 10:40am. We did ok but we were headed up at the hottest time of the day and headed down as the sun was setting. It's a canyon so the mountains block out a lot of light as the sun sets. The tree cover also limits light and visibility. Keep that in mind with your timing and how long you want to hang out at the bridge.

Sparkling river as the sun sets.
 This time we actually hiked beyond the Bridge. There are many small rocky waterfalls to see and enjoy. Most people stop right under the Bridge before turning around and heading back. If you have time, it's still worth it to explore farther. It feels like a a bit of paradise. My pictures definitely do NOT do it justice. I felt like I could stay there all day and did not want to leave.You will probably enjoy a little more privacy and solitude beyond the bridge as well.

The area of the Bridge and beyond is *private property*. Please be respectful and follow all posted rules. There is no fishing, gold panning or camping there (around the Bridge) but there is camping and fishing before the bridge on the public land. The gold panning is debatable.

The water was not cold at all. Depths in the swimming holes were unpredictable and the water rush at the falls is powerful. There are very shallow spots and deep areas. In one waterfall pool, the depth went from my ankles to my neck due to underwater ledges, boulders and rocks. Many of the rocks can be unpredictably slippery too.

The following pix are examples of the environment and trail conditions along this hike. Most of it is full sun, dry and dusty. We saw a ton of lizards--more than I've ever seen before. We did not and never have encountered a rattle snake but others HAVE. Be aware and know snake protocol.  Depending on the time of day, you may also encounter many other types of animals. There will also be bees, and other flying insects as well as creepy crawlies, large ants, beetles, spiders and possibly infestations of fly larvae along rocks and logs in the water (they look like tiny black worms). It was not bad enough for us to need bug repellent on this day but that is your call.

Pets/dogs ARE allowed on this trail. It will be hot. Protect your dogs paws. It is not uncommon for a dog to have to be carried out due to fatigue/heat exhaustion/burned paws. If you are unsure, leave your pet safely at home.

This is a very narrow spot.
Take heed for rattle snakes. Stay near the center
and make noise warning of your presence.

If the river is low (it is in some areas) you can walk right
down the middle of it. This was only an option at one spot.

Those spiky looking plants HURT.
Try to avoid them.

A few cool spots near the river offer
respite from the blazing sun with a definitive
temperature drop.

This is a very narrow section leading down under the bridge.
There is one potentially major fear inducing step.
Go slow and use caution.

Expect dry dirt, gravel and dust.

This part of the trail was wider today than it has been
in the past but is still narrow. It has small gravel which produces a slide risk.

The trail can disappear in the wide open areas.
Pay attention to foot prints left by others.
Bring a map.
Look for other hikers.
Ask for directions if possible.

This is an amazingly rewarding trail. I hope you enjoy it and stay safe! 

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