I was introduced to Marshall Canyon more than 20 years ago when this emerald beauty became the home base for the La Verne Trail Trekkers. We know it as a complex of paths stretching some five miles north of Baseline Road. Sometimes called Sherwood Forest, this hidden gem includes two streams, Marshall Creek and Live Oak Creek, and steep cliffs with views of Pomona Valley and beyond.
Imagine my surprise when, after 21 years of hiking these hills, a series of puzzling trail signs appeared at the same time that park rangers erected a bench in honor of retiring county supervisor Mike Antonovich. (Who also happened to be running for a seat in the State Senate.)
One day we found, less than half a mile from the trail head, a brand new six mile trail marker. There are three entry points to the canyon’s trail system…and none of them are six miles apart. An almost nonsensical one mile marker stood nearby and further uphill, markers indicating seven and more miles sprouted.
Ah, but we’re a resourceful bunch of hikers. And thanks to the Carters, we were led to the very beginning…mile marker zero…at the northern end of Bonelli Park. It starts at the point where Marshall Creek flows into the park, almost four miles from the actual canyon. (The Carters did some serious online research, looking at Los Angeles County’s park and trail system maps, using their own maps and gps to locate this trailhead.) (And no, at this point in time, there is no map of this new and puzzling trail system anywhere in Marshall Canyon.)
It is nevertheless an interesting walk between Bonelli and Marshall Canyon. Yes, it follows Marshall Creek, which is sadly channeled in concrete and dressed in chain link.
We started early in the morning, located the first mileage sign and headed down into the wash.
We trudged in the early morning light, either in the wash with a sparsely running creek or alongside at street level. We emerged from underground to cross Wheeler Avenue, then headed down into the wash again, through miles one, two and three. At one point, the path and the creek cross over the 210 freeway before heading into the neighborhoods between Foothill Boulevard and Baseline Road.
After four miles or so, we entered the walkway that would take us to the debris dam that serves as boundary for Marshall Canyon. We were again in the cool, green forest walking along a wild creek, unchanneled and running with spring rains. One mile from the debris dam, we crossed under Esperanza Drive and less than two miles later, arrived at the six mile marker.
We ended our trek from mile marker zero to mile marker six on the sunny trail that heads north and east towards Claremont and Mount Baldy. According to the county trail map, this system ends at 7.8 miles in that direction. But that (and the puzzle of the one and two mile markers nearby) is for another day.