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COUNTY: Los Angeles County
LOCATION DETAILS: It was on the trail leading into the San Gabriel Wilderness from the east, at the saddle on the wilderness border. Smith Mountain is to the south of the saddle.
NEAREST TOWN: Azusa, CA
NEAREST ROAD: Highway 39
OBSERVED: This is what you might call a stretch, but here goes anyway:
About 15 years ago, when I was 17-18, I went on a hike with a friend trying to reach Smith Mountain, on the edge of the San Gabriel Wilderness. We made it up to the saddle where the trail goes downhill into the wilderness, and where we were supposed to leave the trail and go south up the mountain, and decided we didn't feel like going any further. I'm assuming we rested for awhile, and I remember just talking and hanging out. As we were getting up and ready to go, we heard a strange noise coming from the bushes nearby. We stopped talking and listened, and it was a very low sort of growl/snuffling sound. My first thought was that it was probably a bear, but that ultimately I had no idea what it was, and it sounded like it was growling at us. The bushes along the trail there were very high, such that we couldn't see through them. It scared the hell out of us and so we quickly hoofed it back down the trail. I'm not sure if we ever spoke about it again, except to maybe say I wonder what it was, that was scary, etc.
But afterwards I actually looked through field guides trying to figure out what was making the noise. I knew that bears, mountain lions & bobcats are relatively prevalent in that part of the San Gabriel Mountains, so assumed it was probably one of those. But, after browsing around your site, and seeing several sightings near the SG Wilderness listed, I'm beginning to wonder. In retrospect (although it could be my overactive imagination), it sounded a bit apelike. VERY low-pitched, so that we almost couldn't hear it at all, and had to ask each other, "Do you hear that?"
Take it as you must; I just think it's interesting in the context of the other sightings in the area. I only wish I could remember any more details, and that we had had the cajones to hang around longer and check it out further.
ALSO NOTICED: Nothing. We saw no other people the entire hike.
OTHER WITNESSES: One other witness, friend of mine, haven't talked to him about it since, am no longer in contact with him.
OTHER STORIES: Only others on this site.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Middle of the day, I think it was somewhat overcast. The only reason I remember it was fall is because I still have a picture I took from the trail that day, with a maple-like tree in its fall colors.
ENVIRONMENT: Typical southern California thick chapparal, on a saddle between two peaks. Very wild land to the west.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Richard Hucklebridge:
I spoke with Steve on the phone, on the 11th of July 06. He attempted to mimic the sounds he heard. His rendition of the growls does not sound like something beyond the repertoire of bears sounds, but Steve believes it was much larger than a bear because of the very low pitch.
[Editor Comments below]
For years, bigfoot researchers in Southern California have mentioned incidents from this mountainous area between greater Los Angeles area and the Mojave desert. Some of the stories date back more than a century. The majority of the reports are second-hand, or were published in the 1970's and 60's. There have not been any Class A sightings from these mountains for at least ten years. That does not mean that some are not still around. It might mean that they are in a different valley than the valleys with the trails.
The San Gabriel Wilderness is 36,000 acres, but has only 3 trails: Bear Creek Trail, Mt. Waterman Trail, and Devil's Canyon Trail. The terrain is very steep alpine forest with granite outcroppings.
Much of this wilderness area is high above the smog layer of the Los Angeles basin. Although it is subject to high winds, lighting, and freak cloudbursts, and snow in the winter, it is one of the few places in Southern California where water is ALWAYS flowing from clean, mineralized spring sources.
Civilization has been steadily filling in most of the nooks at the base of this mountain range, especially on the coastal side of the range, but relatively few people actually live in the mountains themselves. In most places the terrain is too steep for residential development.