Exactly four months ago, the UCLA Anderson Class of 2013 received an email inviting us to sign up for a Pre-Orientation trip. With options ranging from rock climbing, to hiking Yosemite, canoeing in Arizona, I knew it when I saw it: “Trip #4: Backpacking Big Sur, Ventana Wilderness.”
Activity level was marked as “physically demanding” and the UCLA Recreation department was not kidding. Each equipped with a backpack that would last us 4 days in the great outdoors, we were on our way. The breathtaking beauty of Highway 1 took us to our first stop, Limekiln State Park.
We gradually began our transition to the tranquil outdoors at Limekiln. We listened to the sound of crashing waves, got our feet wet in the Pacific Ocean, and stacked stones in cairn zen-like piles.
That first evening we got the "101" on the great outdoors: we learned to recognize poison ivy and hiked a bit to a beautiful waterfall in the state park. We then worked together to chop ingredients and cook the best Thai Fried Rice I’ve ever had. No cell phones, no currency, just a group of 12 incoming MBA students with our 2 amazing guides – about to begin our adventure.
Laid out like sardines on a few ground tarps, every single one of us slept under the stars. There is something so zen, so amazing about waking up to droplets of early morning dew falling on your face. And once you open your eyes, you see the vast height of redwoods stretching out into the dawn-colored sky.
Filled up on hearty oatmeal and fresh fruit we packed our bags, dividing all group gear we’d carry on our backs over the next 3 days. And thus we ventured off into the Ventana Wilderness, backpacking 10 miles each way across the rolling Pine Ridge Trail.
Our guides jokingly described the trail as “uphill both ways” and that’s exactly what it was. The hilly terrain ensured that we were always walking at an angle. I had a few moments of revelation during the trip. The most memorable was the importance of taking life one step at a time. We hiked across some very sleep hills with 30 lb bags on our shoulders. I made a point to look around, left and right, but almost never directly ahead. Uphill or downhill I walked one step at a time. Hour after hour, taking pictures, stopping for breaks, chiming in on conversations – all of this was the focus, not the hills. I wasn’t tired; I was challenged. I was happy. I never dreaded an uphill, I simply conquered it one step at a time. This was my biggest lesson and realization, something that I will definitely apply during my MBA.
That second evening, we filtered our own water, boiled sausage and cooked sweet-potato fries. We saw a baby scorpion, and deepened our respect for “leave no trace.” We were fascinated by the story of Jack English who homesteaded land in the Big Sur wilderness.
The next morning, we made our way to Sykes Hot Springs. The springs sprout earth-heated mineral water into 3 separate hot-tub-like natural pools. Despite smelling a bit like sulfur, the water was unbelievably warm with temperatures ranging between 80 and 100*F. To cool off, some of us bathed in the river underneath.
We started making our way back on the third day. We slept that last night under the stars near a flowing river, returning to civilization the next afternoon.
Thank you to everyone for a great time and I can’t wait to see you on campus in exactly 10 days!