TJ: For our anniversary, Dara got me a few awesome presents, one of which was a gift certificate for bungee jumping!
Dara: TJ’s been talking about wanting to go bungee jumping for a while so I knew that that was what I was going to get him. For the experience, I chose Bungee America because not only is it the closest bungee place to LA, but it also includes a 10-mile roundtrip hike that I knew TJ would love. Their 29 year, no deaths, track record was a plus too…
TJ: Ha! The jump was from the Bridge to Nowhere – a 1930’s 120ft arch bridge in the middle of the mountains that was meant to be part of a road over the San Gabriel Mountains but now goes (you guessed it!) absolutely nowhere. It’s so far in the middle of nowhere that the best way to get there is a 5 mile hike up a canyon through the San Gabriel Mountains, alongside the east fork of the San Gabriel River.
Dara: I chose the 7:30am trip so our day started off early, waking up at 5:30am for the drive to the trailhead, near Azusa, CA. Bungee America does offer an earlier time and other times by special request, but this was perfectly in the middle, allowing us to enjoy the second half of our Saturday.
The drive was about an hour and a half, ending with beautiful roads through the San Gabriel Mountains. I recommend people print out the directions that get emailed to you when you buy the tickets though because you won’t have service for the last 20 minutes of the drive.
We brought a large camping backpack to fit both of our extra clothes, lunches, snacks, sunscreen, lots of water, and more for the hike! It’s always good to be more prepared than less.
Most people have already signed the online waiver by the time they get to the trailhead, so the first thing we did when we met the group was step on a scale, since the bungee jumps are organized by weight. After that, we got wristbands indicating we were part of the group and our weight class, got briefed on the hike, and got going up the canyon!
The hike to the Bridge to Nowhere takes almost exactly 2 hours, and crosses the east fork of the San Gabriel River at least 5 times. It’s important to bring shoes that can get wet! It’s not possible to hop over rocks for most of the crossings (and is frowned upon since you’re likely to slip and fall) so you’ll definitely have to step into the water.
The hike is beautiful. The canyon is an interesting mix of rocky cliffs, chaparral greenery and Joshua-tree like desert plants, just on the verge of the taller trees in the higher areas of the mountains. It’s dotted with the whimsical-looking Yucca trees, which made me feel like we were on an adventure out of UP.
Note that the Yucca bushes are very very spiky! I got poked by one and started bleeding twice. Don’t underestimate them!
Once you get up to the Bridge to Nowhere, you get a quick lunch break and bathroom break, while the group leaders put the final touches on the bungee set-up. There is a bathroom up there, but due to the large lines, and the fact that the “bathroom” is more of a hole, we recommend just going in the forest on the way up.
After a bit, we were briefed on safety guidelines and ow to jump off. They use waist harnesses, instead of feet harnesses, which are safer and give you a greater peace of mind than the feet harnesses. Also, you can choose to jump off forwards or backwards, and thanks to Dara’s gift, I got to go twice and try both!
They have two platforms to jump from, but only one person goes at a time, and the two platforms switch off, each with a different weight group. I was in the first set of weight groups that went so after about 30 minutes (Dara didn’t want me to go first), I got to go!
I started jumping off front-ways, in a (not so elegant) swan dive, then did another jump right after, going backwards. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush! Maybe the best there is, more palpable and insane than sky diving (which I’ve also done) because the ground is right there looking at you.
Going front-ways is the much more psychologically scary of the two. Since you can’t feel the rope until it pulls taut, it really does feel like you could be jumping to your death. Going backwards is a bit more fun. I felt like you could relax a bit more since you see the rope in front of you the whole time, and since you’re never really looking down at the ground until you bounce back up.
I think TJ’s crazy because there was no part of the bungee experience that I felt “relaxed” during. I chose to go backwards so that I didn’t have to look down, but that was honestly just as terrifying for me since you can’t see where you’re going. And your brain doesn’t really care about the fact you’re attached to a rope because it’s way more concerned about the fact that you just jumped off a freaking bridge.
I have to say, though, that Bungee America is really smart in that they do a countdown before each person’s jump that’s a weird form of psychological peer pressure that makes you jump. I don’t think I would have done it if someone just yelled jump. I probably would have just yelled “F*$k no” right back at them. But because multiple people are around counting down at you, you feel like you HAVE to jump when they get to 0.
Well I thought the bounces after the jump were super fun, which definitely surprised me. On the bounce back up the first time, you end up going very very fast up towards the bridge (so fast that we had to put our hands up in case we touched the bottom). Then you’re bouncing up and down like a rag doll, swinging away, enjoying the fact that you’re actually alive. Once you stop bouncing, the instructors lower down a rope to clip onto your waist harness, which pulls you back up.
Okay so those bounces were more fun than the first terrifying death drop, but still scary since they were pretty wild and uncontrolled. It felt like being on one of those amusement park drop rides, except faster, with less protection, and more fear.
For those who think they wouldn’t want to jump but want to watch friends, you can buy a spectator pass ahead of time and come along for the hike and watch. You’re also allowed to buy a jump at the bridge in case you change your mind after watching all your friends do it. When we went, some random hikers even randomly bought jumps, as well!
At the end our instructors had a fun time showing off fun jumps, running and diving off the bridge, doing backflips, and more. I think what I liked most about Bungee America was how fun it was. All the instructors were awesome and funny, they had a great playlist we jammed out to all day, and since it’s Halloween month there was a costume contest for all the jumpers.
And you get a free t-shirt, too!
After such a fun time, the 2 hour hike back was surprisingly less daunting then I thought it would be in 90 degree heat. What was also kind of fun is that fact that you could get “lost” and take your own path down.
There isn’t just one clear and obvious trail, but the only way to go is down with the river so as long as you keep walking down, it’s pretty impossible to not end up back at the parking lot. We definitely took a few detours and didn’t go down the same way we went up, but we still made it back in about 2 hours.
We celebrated having survived with McDonald’s and Jamba Juice on the drive home and spent the rest of the day relaxing at home in recovery mode.
It was overall such a fantastic day. Bungee America puts together a great experience that is perfect for all you adventurous Angelenos out there.