A retired CSUN professor led a series of hikes in June to fund scholarships for students in the department of geological sciences.
Gene Fritsche, a former geology professor, ended the trail-blazing series June 18 at Cajon Pass in the San Gabriel Mountains. The hikes started June 1.
The charitable event known as Geo Trek is the second hiking series led by Fritsche, who started the first one in 2004 and successfully raised $4,800 for the department.
Fritsche’s love for geology prompted him to explore the geological traits of the Santa Monica Mountains while realizing that the hikes could be used as a fundraising event to benefit the department’s Scholarship Endowment Fund.
“The fact that I can use the experience to support geology students is a bonus for myself and the Geological Sciences Department,” said Fritsche, who retired in 2000. “I’m glad I can turn a fulfilling event for me into something fulfilling for the department.”
Contributors to this year’s Geo Trek managed to raise over $12,000 for the fund, exceeding the first event’s pledges by nearly $8,000.
CSUN faculty, alumni and friends of the department were among the supporters of the event, pledging whatever they could, while participating in some of the hikes.
Vicki Pedone, associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, hiked a 10-mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Grassy Hollow Visitors Center to Wrightwood June 17 – one of the days of Alumni Weekend.
“It was great,” Pedone said. “All of the hikers were fun companions, and we shared lots of laughs and interesting stories along the way.”
Pedone said the hike reunited her with some of her former students who participated in the event and was able to meet new students who graduated before she became a professor.
CSUN alumnus Leni Field hiked 11.8 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and had previously pledged money for the first Geo Trek in 2004.
“It was an interesting hike, as any with Dr. Fritsche is bound to be,” Field said. “We saw lots of wildflowers, great scenery and we talked about the geology of the area that we hiked through.”
Having benefited from scholarships as a student, Field values what people such as Fritsche and the Geo Trek supporters have done to help students afford an education.
“Dr. Fritsche has been both a teacher and a mentor,” Field said. “It was a pleasure to hike with him and his wife and to do it for the shear joy of it.”
The group covered a total of 108 miles of mountainous terrain over a nine-day period, about 35 miles more than the distance covered in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2004.
Fritsche said 12 people volunteered their time and vehicles to transport hikers back to their parked cars after a long day’s hike.
In preparing for the lengthy hikes, Fritsche and his wife Sue began extensive training, walking long distances in their neighborhood every two to three days until they reached 10 miles.
In addition to the difference in distance, Geo Trek 2006 hikers were faced with higher elevated trails – the highest elevation peaked at 9,399 feet at Mount Baden Powell. The highest elevation in the Santa Monica trails reached 3,111 feet.
Fritsche said the hikes offered a unique opportunity for geologists to study the igneous and metamorphic rocks that comprise the San Gabriel Mountains, some dating back 1.7 billion years.
The hikers also had the opportunity to experience California’s wildlife within a hand’s reach. Fritsche said he recalled seeing California Condors circling over the hikers’ heads, while one even landed near them on the side of the trail.
Another memorable moment for Fritsche was on the sixth day, when the hikers walked along Cooper Creek and ate lunch at Cooper Creek Falls, basking in the beauty of the Californian outdoors to take advantage of the cool creek that runs parallel to the trail.
It was the only trail next to water that Fritsche and his crew hiked in the entire nine-day period.
“Geo Trek is a perfect idea for geologists,” said Pedone, who has hiked with Fritsche since the first trek in 2004. “(The event) brings people together in an activity that they all love: going where the only traffic is by foot, surrounded by the beauty and the power of the Earth.”