CSUN faculty raises funds for scholarships while enjoying local trails

Christiaan Patterson

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Geologist Gene Fritchse showed the Geotrek group a sand dollar which had been inside a rock since its fossilization. Photo Credit: Christiaan Patterson / Staff Reporter

In an effort to raise scholarship money, CSUN’s geology department hosts multiple hikes throughout the Southern California mountain ranges. These Geotrek’s have raised about $38,000 for undergraduate and graduate students studying geology since they began.

“The hike’s are for scholarships,” Vivki Pedone, geology department chair, said. “Money is not raised by a certain amount per mile. It’s all volunteers. If you want to pledge, then you do but you’re not obligated to pay.”

When weather permits, retired CSUN faculty member Gene Fritsche and wife Sue Fritsche, take students, professors, alumni and other geologists from around the state on guided trails. There are 10 Geotreks every year. They are broken down into about 10-mile hikes through the mountains. Saturdays hike through the western Santa Monica Mountains marked the fifth hike this year.

“He (Gene) lives for this,” Sue Fritsche said. “We didn’t do this trek last year because he was diagnosed with cancer. But three weeks ago doctors said he was in remission and he decided to go ahead with this hike.”

Gene Fritsche pointed out and explained the variety of physical features of the mountains and valleys during the hike. These mountains have only been around for about two or three million years and are a result of tectonic plate collision, Fritsche said.

Before being thrusted upward by earthquakes, the Santa Monica mountains were under the ocean collecting layers of sedimentary rock. Fritsche made sure to point out the several layers embedded on cliff sides and explained why they were angled at 45 degrees.

Pedone also contributed information to the group by demonstrating chemical reactions using hydrochloric acid. When this solution comes in contact with calcium carbonate, it bubbles rapidly. The higher the amount of bubbles, the more calcium remains within the rock.

“I try to go when I can, to show support and help with the logistics,” Pedone said. “They’re all doing so much for the department. I figured I should help too.”

One of the highlights of the trip was stopping for lunch in the middle of the abandoned set where the television show M.A.S.H. was filmed. The show depicted military doctors in the field during the Korean War and ran from 1972 until 1983.

The last half of the hike consisted of a climb up a mountain trail to an elevation of 2,415 feet as well as an examination of fossils in the area. Terrain was relatively moderate in steepness and not too difficult. Frequent stops were made as Fritsche described volcanic rocks, folds in the sand layers and other formations.

Fossils were found inside rocks that had been broken. One fossil, which excited the group, was an intact sand dollar. It still had every detail of its arms and mouth. The group found other shells and barnacles, confirming that these rocks and mountains had been under the ocean at one time.

Members of the group consisted of CSUN faculty and staff, other employees of nearby universities including USC and a scientist from the United States Geological Survey. Although students are encouraged to join the group, none were present at Saturday’s Geotrek.

“I really enjoy being outdoors,” Mike Tacsik, staff member of the geology department, said. “I’ve been on three hikes so far, but this one has been the most treacherous.”

Geotrek hikes in many different locations  include all types of terrain. Some of the past trips took groups through Griffith Park and a 100-mile trek broken up into 10 segments called “L.A. Zoo to Point Magu.”

All ages are welcome to participate in Geotrek hikes. The next hike will take place Sat. April 30, from Towsley Canyon to O’Melveney Park in Granada Hills.