This summer, I finally took the opportunity to get out and explore my surroundings a bit more. Pasadena is a nice town, but it’s really pretty limited to be honest – shops, and restaurants, but everything really interesting is just outside of walking distance. Beaches, mountains, the vibrant LA community – it’s all just a hair farther than convenient. I mean, you can get there with public transit – but only if you’re willing to take a 90 minute bus ride each way. During the year, with classes, that’s not quite feasible.
There are two ways around this time-block that keep students from exploring all that California has to offer (and, as a native Californian, I can say with the utmost of bias that California is the best state ever. No question, we’re awesome). One is to have a car or make good friends with someone who does. This actually tends to happen – Caltech has reached that stable equilibrium where it seems like there is approximately 1 car for every 4-5 people: perfect for House trips or big activities. I have a car now (I drove it here from my home in San Francisco this summer), but I didn’t during freshman year. The other way to get out and explore is to do it over breaks. Sure, we have SURF in the summer, but once the work day ends, there are no sets to do or quizzes to study for, so the nights and weekends are ours!
So, one weekend this summer, a group of us (sophomores in my house) got together and decided to go camp in Angeles National Forest, which is a short drive away from Caltech. However, before we went camping, we decided to go cliff diving up at Chantry Flats, which is about 15 minutes from Caltech. For those who don’t know and are unwilling to guess, cliff diving involves jumping off of big rocks into pools of water. It’s more or less safe – after all, the National Park Service wouldn’t endorse it if there were any real risk of hurting yourself.
We piled 8 people into 2 cars and made the drive up to Chantry on a perfect day – really really sunny and hot. After a roughly 3 mile hike, we arrived at Hermit Falls. Being a really nice summer day, it was packed with people, most of whom were milling around the small 15-foot jump and the natural waterslide (a little waterfall down a roughly 45° angled rock), afraid of the "big jump". Needless to say, we rambunctious scamps ran straight to the big jump and dove in right away, whooping and yelling and seeing how high we could count before we hit the water.
Unfortunately, by "we rambunctious scamps" I mean 6 of us. My friends Erin and Jen took one look at the big jump and stopped in their tracks. Like I said, it’s nearly impossible to hurt yourself on this jump, but if you give yourself time to think about it, you get vertigo, psych yourself out, and refuse to jump. In the end, we had to wait 3 hours (enough time to apply sunscreen, have it wear off, apply another layer, and have that second layer wear off and get sunburnt) before Erin finally jumped – and of course, she ended up more or less fine. Once we were all done there swimming around and cliff diving, we dried off and drove deeper into the forest for camping.
And, to forestall the inevitable disbelief, here’s me going off a 45-foot jump into water (we timed the jump with an iPhone stopwatch and worked backwards to calculate the height… It’s a little nerdy)