|Otis' General Store|
The CCC Road
©1990 Christopher Nyerges
| I left home with my canine
friend, Cassius Clay, about 4:30 in the afternoon, hoping to hike into
Oakwilde camp down the ridgeline before dark. From La Canada, I drove
5.9 miles from Foothill up the Angeles Crest Highway. At that point,
I arrived at the old California Conservation Corps Road, built during
the Depression. There was no sign, but I knew I was there because I
saw the large metal bar across the dirt road, and the dirt turnout on
the opposite side of the highway.
As I drove up, I watched the canyon to the east, which is the Arroyo Seco. At a certain point -- about four miles up -- I noticed the large ridge coming down from the Angeles Crest Highway and leading into the canyon. The ridge line appears well-travelled, though there's no actual trail there. At 5.9 miles up the Angeles Crest, I arrived at the CCC Road which would take me back down to that ridge.
When I arrived, I pulled over to the right, and then sped across the road into the turnout when the road was clear. You've got to be quick and careful here, since cars speed down the Angeles Crest.
Cassie and I first walked down on the CCC road for approximately a mile , and it was already getting dark. It was that time of day when you no longer see colors, but you see silhouettes and shades of gray. A mile down the road, we came to a point where the road is washed out, and a sign says "Trail Closed." I've walked down on the road all the way to Oakwilde Camp via Dark Canyon back many years ago when there was still a road. I've also walked it since it washed out, and I can guarantee you that there is no road, and there is no trail. Don't go that way.
If you want adventure, and you have good footwear, you can hike down on the ridgeline and get into Oakwilde Camp in about 15 minutes. But don't forget -- what goes down must come up! Depending on your physical condition, it could take you as much as 45 minutes to hike back up the ridgeline to the road.
But on that early evening in the first week of November, Cassie and I had no intention of going into the canyon. It was too dark. We hiked around a bit where the road ended and we looked at the ever-darkening distant hills. Then we headed back up the road, back to the car.
I identified some of the wild herbs by their aroma and silhouette, such as white sage and yerba santa. As we walked, Cassie would occasionally try to dart out at something ahead on the trail, and he'd practically pull my arm off as he ran. There were these small sparrow-sized birds that would land on the road and then take off. I only see them just past sunset, and I did hear their cheep. At first I thought I was observing bats, but I have ruled that out. Can any bird watcher tell me what I was seeing?
It was so dark, so cold, and so quiet on the walk out that I began to get that sense of isolation and large imagination that sometimes afflicts people who live in the forest and who have little contact with the outside world. I was reminded of childhood's scary campfire stories, and how real they seemed in that atmosphere. I began to recall stories of children who were raised by wolves, of strange creatures with shiny blue eyes who come out of the woods and make you crazy, and of many tales of Bigfoot. I heard a noise off to the east and both Cassie and I froze and listened. It was probably just a rock from a deer or a bobcat way down below. Still, I picked up a large walking stick just in case, even though there wasn't another person on the trail for miles. We saw no one else that night, but at times I did expect a Bigfoot to confront us. I wondered to myself if he would try to eat Cassie, or if Cassie would bite him first.
Nearly back to the Angeles Crest Highway, I noticed an upper fork to the CCC road which followed the very top of the ridge. I'd never been on this road before, so I explored it. I soon saw a round cement structure, which I assumed to be a small water tower. Further down the road, we noted what appeared to be the foundations of an old building on the outer edge of the road. I also was surprised to see a trashcan up on the road. Seemed like a funny place for a trashcan.
It was now completely dark and it was cold -- much colder than I had expected. But we kept walking. I enjoyed the adventure, and Cassie loved to be in the mountains. Suddenly as we came over the top, we viewed the orange glow of the city. In the nearly complete blackness all around us, the view was stunning. Nestled between the two rising hills on either side, the city view looked like a glowing inverted pyramid. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time.
We sat down in the dirt to take in the view. I ate some sesame cookies I had in my pocket. I offered some to Cassie but he wasn't interested. He was too busy sniffing the air and listening for whatever creatures moved in the darkness.
There was a bit of a wind coming out of the canyons, Dark Canyon to our west, and Long Canyon to our east. Looking south and east, even in the darkness I could see the Arroyo Seco twist and rise and it wound up over the hills to Switzer's Camp. Some sections were very steep. As we sat there looking, breathing, smelling, I was struck by the absolute silence. It reminded me of times when I go to the remote desert, where it's so quiet that you seem to hear a hum or buzz.
To the west, I could look down into Dark Canyon, and realized how appropriate was its name. I watched the cars driving up the Angeles Crest Highway. They were orange dots in the distance -- probably at least a half-mile away -- that slowly curved this way and that as they made their ascent along the winding walls of the canyons. It was only 6:30 at night, and so most of the cars were headed north, out of the city. There were about 15 cars going up.
forget to take
Local Hiking Trails
The CCC Road
The Switzers Area
Garbage: Good Enough to Eat?