A.S. Outdoor Adventure program offers travel excursions throughout the semester

Juana Esquivel

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Bungee jumpers take a leap of faith off the bridge before making the 5 mile hike back through the "Bridge to Nowhere" trail on March 12. Photo Credit: Simon Gambaryan / Contributing Photographer

A battle between gravity and the human body ensues as Leticia Garcia attempts to balance herself on a log smack dab in the middle of the San Gabriel River.

She manages to remain upright by gripping a rope supported by two groups of men flanking opposite sides of the riverbed.

The men concentrate on keeping it as steady as possible so Garcia can hold on to it and successfully cross the river.

All is quiet as the 21-year-old child development major slowly and cautiously continues to make her way across the river by making sure her feet keep her balanced on the log.

As Garcia reaches the other side of the river a smile stretches across her face as she jumps off the log onto solid ground.

“I felt great about it, like if I accomplished something,” she said.

Garcia is the only female among a group of six men who went on a nine-mile hiking trip along the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles National Forest en route to the Bridge to Nowhere on CSUN’s A.S. Outdoor Adventures, March 12.

Trekking across the river on a log was only part of their adventure. The hiking trail to and from the Bridge to Nowhere included mountain climbing, walking on rock beds crossing the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and bungee jumping. To meet this challenge, participants formed a human chain as they walked across the river, waist-deep in water.

Frequent stops were made to allow resting time in which the participants could enjoy the natural landscape.

George Taylor, 19, business management major and one of the A.S. Outdoor Adventures staff members.

“They were working on a road to span across and while they were working in it, this huge flood came and took the whole road along the way, but the bridge stayed,” he said. “So now they maintain it (the bridge), and keep the bridge there because it is now owned by a private company.”

Upon finally reaching the bridge, the hikers took off their shoes and sat down to eat their lunches. They were joined by a group of people who gathered for bungee jumping instructions.

The crowd chanted a count down that launched the bungee jumpers into the air and off of the bridge.

Garcia said she contemplated taking the plunge but the cost to participate stopped her.

“The only reason I want to do this is because I’ve never done it before,” she said. “It looks fun to try that, just to be in the air. I’ve never done so before.”

As for being the only woman in the first group, Garcia, who was on her first hiking experience since middle school, said it felt awkward because it was only guys.

“They’re (the men) pretty nice, I would like more girls to be here so they could see this and experience it,” she said. “It’s a good experience to be here. It makes me happy.”

Timothy Szczepanski, outdoor activity coordinator for A.S. Outdoor Adventures, said the program began two years ago as part of the rock climbing feature in the Fitness Center.

“Our goal is to actually get people away from the city life, television, movies, video games, homework and actually allow you to come here and sort of be one with nature, just meet new people,” Szczepanski said. “I hope everybody who comes out here meets somebody new,  says ‘Hi’ and hopefully sees them on campus some time and wave at them.”

The program now has its own office which is located directly across the A.S. Central Office in the USU and hosts at least 15 trips per semester with activities that include group outings, special events, day trips and overnight campouts with a staff of about 15 students.

Although Outdoor Adventures did not initially receive much funding from A.S. because they are a fairly new program, Szczepanski said in November of 2010, the Senate passed a resolution to increase the funding by $70,000 so for the 2011-2012 school year, the program will be able to purchase more equipment and hire more students.

“We can offer more jobs to students, which is ultimately our goal to be able to employ students and have them get experience as leaders on campus,” Szczepanski said.

A few of those students happened to be part of the staff that voluntarily led the eight-hour hiking trip, which began at about 9 a.m.

Szczepanski said it was the first hiking experience for all of the participants, with the exception of the student leaders.

He added their next trip will be to Mt. Baldy on March 18 and a backpacking trip is scheduled for the first two days of spring break.

“If you’re nervous about the outdoors or kinda scared to go on your own, this is a great way to get an introductory lesson,” Szczepanski said.

As the viewing of the Bridge to Nowhere comes to an end and the hike back to the cars begins, Garcia said she would do the hike again.

“I think I’m going to do this more often,” Garcia said. “This is a lot of fun.”