When my friend Hank asked me how I felt about going on an all-day hike to the Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel mountains, it didn't take me long to specify the conditions for my participation.
"As long as I'm fed, I'm fine with it." I responded over IM.
He told me that I'd need to pack a lunch to eat after we hiked the five miles to the bridge, and while I was at first dismayed that the San Gabriel mountains doesn't house a purveyor of delicious country griddle cakes or sprout-laden veggie burgers, I was secretly excited about reverting back to the days of cafeterias and pencil sharpeners.
The morning of our hike, I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread using a good two tablespoons of Peanut Butter & Co's "Smooth Operator" and a heaping tablespoon of Smuckers' apricot jam. With the proper ratio of peanut butter to jelly achieved, I cut my sandwich into two triangular halves, dropped it into a plastic bag to prevent the dreaded dried out bread scenario, and then secured it in some Tupperware so it wouldn't become squashed in my backpack. A bag of baby carrots and a Jazz apple from Farm Boy at the Fairfax and Third Street farmer's market rounded out my sack lunch, but I tossed in some homemade trail mix (made with walnuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and raisins), and an oatmeal raisin Luna Bar for some mid-hike snacking. Pleased with my nutritionally sound, yet still delicious loot, I skipped out of my apartment ready to take on the mountainous climb to the Bridge to Nowhere.
As is the case during most of my daily morning activities (physical, recreational, Twitter and work-related), lunch was on my mind for most of our hike out to the bridge.
Well, more accurately, lunch and the wonderful squishy feeling that resulted from crossing the river several times during our trek out. Prior to the hike, I'd been nervous about plodding through the foot-deep water in my two month old pink and silver Nike Structure Triax running shoes, but was mostly pleased with the sensation of my water-logged tennies. It was oddly satisfying, and my friend Suzanne likened it to a massage for her feet.
But she was also a bit delusional from lack of proper hydration and sustenance.
While we stopped a couple times to chomp down on fistfuls of Hank's bag of TJ's dried mixed fruit, by the time we reached the bridge at 11:40 am, we were all starving.
Or at least, I was.
"Are we eating now?" I asked my friends when they didn't immediately rip open their sacks upon our arrival at our destination for the next several hours.
I looked around at the other hikers camped out along the sides of the bridge, each clustered into small groups or cliques with jealousy. They were already digging into their turkey sandwiches, cans of Pringles and apples.
"Can we eat now?" I repeated again, not wanting to be the first in our clique to break the seal on my Tupperware.
Hank, the leader of our pack, nodded and removed his and Suzanne's sandwiches from his bag. I eagerly followed suit and reached into my bag for my perfectly prepared PB & J and carrot sticks.
I ate my lunch methodically as I surveyed the clusters of hikers around me. A bite of sandwich, a sip of water from my pink Nalgene bottle, a baby carrot, and then back to the sandwich again. I'd forgotten how good a simple PB & J sack lunch could be, and watching the other hikers enjoying their lunches, I couldn't help but feel a rush of nostalgic pleasure. It did feel just like grade school. Except I was actually eating my lunch, and not throwing out my sandwich so I could get to my Keebler Fudge Striped cookies sooner.
When we'd all finished eating, the hikers who were going to be bungee jumping off the bridge (not me), were asked to meet in the center to hear the lecture on the do's and don'ts of risking life and limb for a (not so) cheap $69 minute-and-a-half thrill. I was skeptical about the whole thing, and irritated at the number of improperly attired high school students in my vicinity, but as the group began readying for the jumps, something strange began to happen.
Unlike my years in the cafeteria, the various lunch cliques on the bridge began to come together into a cohesive unit. Even though I wasn't one of the jumpers, there was the distinct feeling that all of us were "in this together," and when the first girl climbed up to take her leap of faith, we all gathered at the side of the bridge to watch her. A hush descended over the crowd, as we wondered, "Would she do it? Would she really jump?"
A cheer sliced through the silence. Another cheer followed. Within seconds we were all cheering her on -- giving her the encouragement she needed to push off from the ledge and fall toward the river bed below. It was an incredible moment -- a moment that extended far beyond the couple minutes of her stay on the bungee cord. Regardless of height, weight, sex, physical attractiveness, ethnicity, or age, each subsequent jumper received a similar reception from the audience along the bridge. It wasn't like grade school at all. Or at least not grade school as it exists outside of after school specials.
My friends and I spent the next four hours watching the jumpers (and two of our own brave soldiers) take their leaps of faith off the bridge. It was a long afternoon, especially considering the five mile hike we had in front of us, but none of us felt reason to complain. It was the perfect intermission for what we all later declared was a perfect day. We didn't just recapture the nostalgia of our childhood PB & J brown-sack lunch days, we captured new memories to be nostalgic about in the future. A girl overcoming her fears to make the jump. A perfect elevator dive from a first-timer. And the looks of pure joy on Hank and Suzanne's faces after they'd completed their jumps.
For another perspective on the hike and jump, check out Without Baggage, Hank's travel blog.