One of the most talked about hiking destinations in Los Angeles county is the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, in part because it is a great wilderness experience, and in part, because the hike leads to an abandoned bridge that is still intact after eighty years. Invariably, however, any discussion of the hike either begins with, or ends with the fact that one can jump off of the bridge with Bungee America, who has held a license to conduct jumps since 1993. As with any extreme sport, there are two types of people; in this case people who would jump off a bridge; and people who would not. If you’re the latter type of person, this experience is not for you; but the hike – and the opportunity to watch people risk life and limb remains an excellent experience. As for me, I am the type of person who would jump off a bridge, so I set out to find out what the experience was like with Bungee America.
Review: Bungee America touts itself as the oldest Bungee Jumping company in America, and states that since 1987, over 178,359 jumps have taken place off of the bridge. Importantly for adventure junkies and weekend warriors alike, the company has a perfect safety record. With credentials like this, one expects a professional operation, and from start to finish, I was not disappointed with how I was treated, or the experience. To try out Southern California’s only bungee jumping location, my wife and I purchased a Groupon for two jumps, and one Saturday morning, drove up to the meeting location – the trailhead for the Bridge to Nowhere hike. As I was aware that this was a popular hike, I selected an early morning slot for us in order to ensure that we would get parking, which was a good decision, as the lot was almost full at 8:00 a.m.
At the lot, we met our first representatives from Bungee America, who checked us in, went over our gear and waivers, and then began to lead our group down the trail. Along the way, the guides discussed various pieces of history regarding the region, the company, and the trail. While the guides didn’t impose a rigorous pace on the group, they did do a good job of keeping the group happy, motivated, and together. And, after a little bit, we arrived at the bridge, to see other Bungee America staff working to set up the equipment for the day’s jumps. At that point, we were allowed a few moments to take pictures, catch our breath, and mentally prepare ourselves to jump off a one hundred and forty foot bridge.
As with any extreme activity, before one can do the activity, one has to receive a briefing about how to experience it safely. In this case, we were given a presentation of how the harnesses operate and connect to the bungee cords (I volunteered as a model to boost the chances I would jump first); the safety record of Bungee America; and what not to do. Like any safety briefing, the discussion itself does little to alleviate one’s inherent fears or nervousness, but the main point of the briefing was clear: Bungee America operates as a professional business with a track record to boot, and not some fly by night operation.
Once the presentation was over, it was time to begin the jumping. Since I had volunteered to model the gear, I was the first up to jump, which was fine by me, especially when I saw the long jump lines forming. In order to jump, one first has to step over the concrete railing of the bridge, and onto an exposed metal platform that Bungee America has securely affixed to the bridge. On the day we went, it was raining, the metal was wet, and even if that hadn’t been the case, stepping over the bridge railing to me would have been the most intimidating. The reason? In order to step onto that platform, one has a death defying view of the 140 drop and an inherent fear that they might slip off the platform. While nothing would happen even if one did slip off the platform as one is in a safety harness and affixed to ropes and cords, the irrational fear remains in one’s mind of a fatal fall (or at least mine).
Once I was on the platform, having set up for a “front facing” jump, I followed the instructions and leapt off without hesitation (after all, I was already on an exposed platform). From the moment of departure, one gets the immediate physical rush as one plummets down toward the ground – a rush that intensifies when the rope snaps back up. This, for me, along with having to step over the platform was the “scariest” moment because one feels out of control, and for a second, feels like one is going to smack back into the bridge (spoiler alert: you don’t). After that, all that’s left is a series of smaller up and down motions, before one is hauled back in, onto the platform, and back onto the bridge, to either jump again, or watch others jump.
Since I had gone first, I then waited with my wife while she made her way to the front of the line. In my opinion, if you’re nervous about jumping, you want to be closer to the front of the line than the end, because waiting in line provided many people with too much time to think and worry about what they were doing. After my wife jumped, we took in some more jumps, before heading back down the trail to the parking area. Overall, it was an awesome experience with a professional service, and one that I would highly recommend to hikers, thrill seekers, and just about anyone, and one that we will likely do again.
Costs: Variable. Direct pricing through Bungee America starts at $100.00 USD for weekend jumps, but additional jumps cost more; and occasionally, online deals do exist, such as the one we utilized through Groupon.