November 15, 2010


November 15, 2010

This 2 1/2 hour adventure offers nature lovers and thrill seekers alike the opportunity to zip through the treetops on a network of cables and skybridges suspended high above the forest floor, overlooking a cave, rock cliffs, and the Hocking River.

--from the Canopy Tours brochure

I’m standing on a platform about twenty-five feet above the ground. I look across at the suspension bridge and dirt path that led me to this awful place and think seriously about admitting what a wimp I am and hiking back to the safety of the snack bar.

I’m tethered to a wire, waiting my turn to zip across the cable suspended from our tree to another one that looks to be about a mile away. We have two guides, one who goes ahead to wait for us at the next platform and one who stays behind. This is a “bunny” run, the stay-behind guide announces.

My throat is parched. I’m in big trouble. I hate heights.

The guide calls my name. I climb some steps, expecting the hangman’s noose around my neck.

He clamps me to a thick cable that slopes down gradually through the trees before it inclines upward to a platform. He hooks me into place.

“Clear!” the forward guide shouts through a walkie talkie.

“Sit down,” my guide says.

“Do I have to,” I think. “I really want to go home.”

But I do as I’m instructed, leaning back in my harness, resting my hands over the top of the metal clamp that holds me to the cable.

I’m off. A breeze stings my face, and I’m flying. Before I know it, the forward guide signals me to stop. I put my left hand on the cable and try not to squeeze.

I’ve slowed down, and he catches me just as I’m about to slam into the tree. My feet come to rest on a step. He unhooks me and tethers me to the trunk.

I’m pretty proud of myself, until I catch sight of another cable that disappears into the forest. Our forward guide tells us this second zip is twice as long and fast as the first one and then jumps off the platform.

I watch him, terrified, but there’s no turning back. I can’t climb thirty feet down the tree. My heart jackhammers in my chest. I may die up here.

The stay-behind guide says I can increase my speed by cannon-balling my legs or, alternately, sticking them straight out in front of me.

“No way, Jose,” I think.

We do a couple more zips and walk across two suspension bridges, the second one much more “mobile” than the first.

Along the way, something weird has happened. I’m actually enjoying myself. At the “Bonzai” zip, I request a push, lie back, and stretch out. High above the Hocking River, I’m zooming along at about thirty miles an hour.

At the “Flintstone,” I get a running start, legs pumping as I go right off the side of the hill and across a gorge. I never want to stop. I’m happy, and I feel like I could live forever.


I’ve been wondering over the last few days about what my ziplining adventure has to do with writing. I think the connection is overcoming fear. A blank sheet of paper provides a different set of challenges from an eighty-foot zip, but both have to do with taking a deep breath, letting go of whatever holds you back, and leaping off the edge.

No comments:

Post a Comment