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Well, I'm going to be telling about them in the liner notes for the
forthcoming MP3 CD "Songs from a Tunnel", which should be available for
public consumption within two weeks! But, as I've been here for some time
I'll lay it down for you cats... :)
In 1991, in the midst of a case of Shingles, I was guided up in a driving
rain - driving my trusty Corolla SR5 (RIP) and dodging large boulders as
they "clunked" down in the road in front - and thus did not have a good
as to where I was. The next time I didn't have full directions, and
my way up to the foot of the road/trail. It's up San Gabriel Canyon, past
the dam, which is reachable via the 39 N, which connects with the 210 and
(though you wouldn't want to take it from way down THERE by the 10), North
of Azusa, CA.
The Tunnels, as I came to know them, take place twice a year - the weekends
that Daylight Savings Time comes and goes. When fires are in the area, or
it's dry, don't count on having a fire up there. It's awful cold in the
Fall sometimes. It's always a good idea to dress in layers, and perhaps
have something to sweat the hell out of on the way up, to change out of
you get up there. Bring some food of course, water, and etc., to say
nothing of your favorite noisemaker or other musical instrument. Sometimes
people bring things like Saxes, which have prompted me to say "I gotta
about chickens," before playing along w/bowed guitar. Mostly folks stick
the acoustic stuff, as it's sort of a no-no to be TOO amplified. I imagine
it would be all right to have a pair of those porto-amp cylinders hooked up
to a portable Zoom unit, and a guitar - but remember, who the @#$ is going
to schlep it all up there and back, eh? Think about it.
By the way, it's best to do this in the day. While driving up the
section of Azusa, keep an eye out for a convenience store on your left; be
sure to buy a parking pass, which is important if you're going to stay
overnight. Continue up the 39, winding up through the canyon; you'll pass
not only the visually stunning San Gabriel Dam, but also a site with odd
ramps leading down into the water 50 ft. below, used to test torpedoes
during WWII... Pay attention to the road, as it winds sometimes more
violently than the Big Sur drive - and there are reasonably large
to park and dig the scenery. Before long you'll see a sign for East Fork,
followed by a classic metal frame bridge across it, which you should take.
After winding your way up, you'll also pass a trailer park's sign (they're
way down in the ravine, and therefore not a toxic danger, though a good
place to go in case of emergency), and soon, after Burro Canyon, a bend to
the left and during the curve back to the right, there's an immediate exit
to the left, Schumaker Canyon. Watch out for the oncoming traffic of
course. The road goes up between some carved-out places in the side of the
range, then you'll see the gate at the base of the trail, to the side a
>From this point, it's 1-1/4 miles. Go over or under the gate, which is
perfectly all right, as it just keeps the motor vehicles/etc off for the
most part, though bicycles with tough tires are okay. Keep going. There
isn't a fork-off you should take - stay on the main trail, watch out for
tumbling rocks, and pace yourself. The road/trail has the same up-and-down
pattern familiar to most Southern CA mountain roads, and not much easier to
deal with on a stamina/confidence level. This hike is a real, Good Zen
Experience, so long as you pay attention and don't walk on the edge of the
trail, which often can be the only thing between the road and a ravine over
a hundred feet deep - the kind of ravine you can imagine Homer going
all the way down.
There may be an area right before the first tunnel that has fallen in -
happens perennially and the fixing of which is paid for mostly by the fee
you paid when you bought a parking pass. You didn't? Shame on you.
Don't pay attention to illusions offered that may show a tunnel far away;
keep going. You'll get there.
We stick to one concrete rule outside of the obvious ones of being kind to
one another, otherwise coexisting peacefully, and hopefully in musical
harmony as well - and that's "Pack it in, pack it out." as far as the
factor is concerned. The particular hikes in question have been going on
for quite some time, perhaps over 20 years now; and have developed a
positive rapport with the Park Personnel. I prefer the Spring ones, as
they've got the higher probability of being warmer, and take my acoustic
guitar, a hat, pancho, several layers of clothes, enough tie-die to be
respectable, food/water/etc., and a light aluminum beach/lawn chair. Some
folks bring tents, congas, you name it, and on occasion several people
create an ongoing reincarnated bit of technology known as The Cart, which
all concerned dump their junk onto, and all concerned grab a rope and,
collectively, pull. The first Cart was a heavy metal bedframe, welded to a
pair of bicycles, whose tires were burst before we'd dragged it 100 feet.
The last one I saw was impressive and had padded shoulder loops for those
who chose to use it. There will be another Cart next time I'm sure. The
base is a great place to meet folks to go up the trail with. I recommend
against smoking while resting on the way up - there's a considerable
altitude factor, and on the other hand you might decide to stop smoking
tobacco altogether. I know *I* did after my second time up.
In any event, the Tunnels predate the "Rave" as concept, and we're proud to
say so at this point. The Park Service presently offers up a story that
isn't the complete truth by a stretch, that this pair of tunnels was part
an aborted Nuclear War Escape Route halted in 1967. Period.
The actual story goes back to the 20s if not earlier, and involves the
Correction Facility that is still there, though no longer as a Work Farm as
it was until the 70s. If you look at the film "I Was A Fugitive From A
Chain Gang" (1932?), with Paul Muni - which by the way helped abolish Chain
Gangs in most of the US - Muni's escape near the end of the film is down
Schumaker Canyon Road. The guys in the back working aren't extras either.
Unfortunately for the planners of this great project, it was on the most
weather-facing side of the canyon, and tended to erode badly. One thing
mountains in Southern California do really well is crumble. Still.
Work continued until 1967, when the State, which had been quietly renting
off parcels of land for strip mining just miles north of the Tunnels,
encountered the work that the prison inmates had been doing for over 40
years - including an item findable on a Thomas map as "The Bridge to
Nowhere", which is farther up the trail than the second tunnel. There's
this bridge, just like bridges you see over ravines and such, only this one
goes right into the side of a cliff. The entire area, if one thinks about
the negative aspects, is a fine example of how the CA State and Fed Dept.
Interior have been letting people rape the land for ages, and for a fee,
without letting us know.
The Tunnels themselves are unfaced on the inside, and have a really cool
post-apocolyptic Mad Max kind of feel to it, when there's a nice fire
somewhere close to 2/3 the way through. There are paved "walkways" on the
side, which can be handy to put your stuff on instead of the unknown
Bring a hat, as sometimes water drips through minute cracks in the tunnel
casing. This can be particularly disruptive even if you like that kind of
thing, and has who knows what minerals in it, so save your scalp the
Do some brisk walks the week before so you're not dead by the time you get
up there. And tell them I sent you! But only if you behave yourselves. :)
So that's the long form, I guess. Questions?
Stephen Goodman - http://www.earthlight.net/Studios
EarthLight Productions - get the free Loop of the Week!