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Try Ziplining!

Okay, do you want to come face to face with your fears? Do you want to live for real that dream you have of falling off a cliff? No? Me neither.  But last fall I purchased a Groupon for a Canopy Zipline Tour from Spring Mountain Ski Area without actually reading the full description. So it wasn’t until I got to the ski lodge, with my son Ian, my friend Sandy, and her son Adam,  that I learned there would be “challenges.” And it wasn’t until I got to the first challenge that I realized how much I really didn’t want to do challenges. Or even what they were.

  Check out the photo on the left and you’ll see our first challenge. The 65-foot Burma Bridge located in mid-air (about 50 feet off the ground according to the website).  The Spring Mount website says you can choose your own level of difficulty. In fact, I chose to avoid the bridge and just zip across on the line I was attached to with a safety harness. The guide did not accept this choice and threatened to shake the line if I tried it. So, no way out. I literally felt terrified stepping out onto that bridge. Harness or not, walking across a narrow swaying bridge fifty feet off the ground is something your brain strongly objects to. Slowly, I proceeded (even though the guides told us it was easier if you did it faster). I made it to the half-way point before slipping off the edge. The safety line worked. I stepped back onto the bridge and made it to the end. Whew! “Was that the worst one?” I asked one of our guides. She smiled ruefully. “I’m not saying anything,” was her response. My stomach, so recently steadied,  lurched again.

Onto Challenge No. 2: Rappelling out of a tree.  Step to the edge of a platform, and jump backwards. I’m not sure how far down. Very far, that’s all I know.  But I’d used up all my fear adrenaline on the last challenge, so I was calmer. My son, his friend and my friend were all less skittish than me, although Sandy did say “I’m not sure I can do this,” right before she jumped. Our four guides were very encouraging, and I soon learned that watching them cross a challenge had a calming effect, because they were nonchalant about the course.  In fact, when crossing the tightrope, one of them put on a pair of prescription sunglasses they’d discovered beneath one of the challenges, just to make it, well, challenging.

Oh yeah, about the tightrope. Let’s just say I did it real, real slow, my heart pounding the whole time, while I was thinking: Exactly what is the purpose of a Challenge Course, anyway?

Well, according to Wikipedia (and I mean, where else are you going to find an answer to that question?) “High ropes course and climbing programs generally focus on personal achievements and ask participants to confront their personal fears and anxieties.” I think that’s great. For other people. For myself, I just wanted to do the zipline.

 The 7 ziplines were all fun. I liked one where we were encouraged to do “Dead Man’s Drop,” falling backwards out of a tree with arms outstretched. By that time, I was used to the whole challenge thing, and if all I had to do was fall, I was fine. According to the Spring Mountain website, one zip was 280 feet long, with an average speed of 45 mph. The last one was 340 feet long. I never did manage to do one upside down, although all my companions did.

I think it’s safe to say that while I liked all the ziplines, I didn’t really ever warm up to any of the challenges. The worst for me was the “Sloth Crawl,” which required us to grab onto a thick rope, kick our feet over it and, hanging backward over the ground, pull ourselves to the next platform. We were told to use our legs to propel ourselves. I just used my arms. My entire upper body was sore for two days.

Overall, we all had a lot of fun doing this. My son swears he was never scared at all, which makes me realize two things: one, that fear of bodily harm from falling and speed may be age related; and two, that I better keep an eye on him when he starts driving in two years.

I also learned a thing or two about myself. I learned, for example, that heights really do make me nervous, and the best way to deal with that is simply to jump backwards off a tree with a safety harness on. I also realize (possibly not for the first time) that I will never be a circus performer, as the tightrope was clearly not my forte. But most of all, I learned that I should really read all the text on my Groupons, and not just the price.  In the future, I hope to always know in advance if I am signing up for a speedy ride through the woods, or a quivering walk along a high, swaying bridge.

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