Why you must drive through San Gabriel Mountains at least once!
So, how did you choose your scenic drive location?
Well, I have always been fascinated by mountains. Being born and brought up in the country of Himalayas, one of the most majestic and highest mountain ranges in the world, where each mountain is worshiped or has a city or a shrine on top of it, I have more inclination towards mountains than seas or beaches. But having lived in the vast Indian plains for most part of my life, I could visit Himalayas on rare occasions only.
So, when I moved to Pasadena, I was pretty excited because this is the first time I am living in a place where I can see mountains, and this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I was looking for a reason to take a road trip in San Gabriel Mountains here, which I couldn’t do until this week. Moreover, the weather these days is perfect for a road trip neither too hot nor cold.
So after a quick search on internet about which routes to take in the San Gabriel Mountains we had 2 options, either the Angeles Crest highway through the Angeles National Forest or the California State Route 39 which goes through 2 reservoirs to an old bridge where bungee jumping and other sports happen. So, to help myself in deciding which route to choose, I took a small road trip on Angeles crest highway last Wednesday for about 10 miles just to see if it’s really as scenic as described on the internet.
Well, it actually is!
So Sunday early morning we (with Harry, Kunal & Kunwar) packed some food and started off in Harry’s car to freeway 2.
What did you learn from the trip?
Now, having taken the road trip with Harry (and driven too for some part on it), I can say that this is not a tourist ‘destination’ kind of thing, it’s not a single place or multiple points of the route which attract tourists. It’s actually the whole road and the feeling behind driving that attracts people.
There was only one small cafe on the whole 55 mile way, and it was filled with people who were there just enjoying the road. They weren’t going anywhere, they were just to take a relaxing drive in the nature with friends. Which is so hard to do these days…Oh! and I never thought I would see some of the most amazing bikes and cars in the mountains. And we saw ‘Magnum Walker’ with his Porsche there as well. But at that point I didn’t know who he was until yesterday when John told me about him, I just clicked his picture because of his cool beard with Porsche!
That’s true for many cafés around LA, then why is it a tourist destination?
Looking at the whole route one can say that it is developed keeping in mind the driving pleasure through the scenic mountains. There were marked locations to stop and enjoy the view throughout the route, with lavatories and seats to sit and relax for a bit. There were many detours as well along the way into the national forest, which were not open for people but forest authorities and fire department. The whole region gives a feel of protected environment, which is the whole framing, and it elevates the importance of the route. With proper signs saying not to litter and fire department office along the way further elevates the importance of the route and makes it more attractive.
And I think the most important contribution in making this route valuable is the fact that it goes through the a national forest, which acts as an enshrinement for this route. This makes the route much more attractive than normal freeways, the fact that you are driving through the untouched natural environment, which is really hard to find these days with all the urbanization, gives you a feeling that this whole area is sacred. And of course! the mechanical reproduction in the form of maps all over the place which shows not just the route but the mountains and the area surrounding it makes it more special. Moreover, one of the most obvious things that make this a tourist attraction is the presence of ropeway to take you up the mountains and hikers who were preparing there to go even higher. As for social reproduction, this is the first national park in US, and the fact that it has been named after the second largest city in US makes it the Prime national park or reserve in the whole area. The name of the park itself increases its attraction as it literally translates to Angeles top/high, which says the highest location in Angeles and in a way its geographical location too.
Okay, so what else did you see?
Well, we didn’t go all the way but went for about 45 miles to the point where we were at the height of 7900ft and could see the Mojave desert from between the mountains. That was one of best sights, because you rarely get to see the enormity of desert n mountains so closely at the same place. At one side you have snow where I was standing with temperature I am pretty sure temperature was below 0°C and on other side there is an enormous desert in front of you. It was so windy there that one could not walk straight easily.
Another interesting fact was alongside the all the scenic beauty and tourist-y stuff, there were places where one could see the negative effect on our nature due to our mistakes or natural causes. The burned part of forest that stretched for miles, the constant landslides due to drying up of soil and deforestation were clearly visible, which again contributes to its value as a tourist attraction.
So yeah, my trip on the Angeles Crest Highway was awesome and kind of an eye-opener as well. And I would love to go there again.
Originally published in December 2014