Thursday, November 10, 2011

4 of 30: Ziplining – The Death Slide That Really Isn’t

Zip–Line: Also known as flying fox, foefie slide, zip wire, aerial runway, aerial ropeslide, death slide or tyrolean crossing.

I don’t know if you could consider zip lining an extreme sport… I guess to me it just felt like an activity! A fun and aerobic, and maybe a little daring, activity.

I went with my friends, Nelson and Wriss (pronounced Reese) on a chilly Saturday morning. We had booked it with a company called Navitat Canopy Tours that offers ziplining adventures up in Wrightwood, CA – which is located right by Mount High where we go snowboarding. I didn’t know what to expect. But I knew we were gonna have fun!

Wriss, Nelson and I after being properly geared up

There’s a maximum of 8 people per tour, which is a pretty good number. It’s easy to manage, and you don’t have to wait too long for your turn. We were with a couple of teenagers with an adult male supervising them (which I assumed was one of their dads), and a married couple celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary (hard core… I liked them!) Our instructors were these two punk hippie dudes who looked like they were either snowboarders or surfers (or both). They explained that they helped build the course, and that they all made sure they remained “forest friendly,” meaning they never did anything to hurt any of the trees in there during construction, which I thought was really nice.

After a really bumpy ride in a badass truck deep into the forest/mountain (what do I call it??), we had to do a 15 minute hike up to the first platform where we were to do our first zip ride. (We were already wearing our zip lining gear at this point.) The hike wasn’t so bad, but could be a little challenging for smokers. The air is a little thin up there, and the altitude makes it difficult to breathe. They have a couple of water stations at various stops though… but I avoided drinking because I didn’t want to have to pee in the forest. It was a 4 hour tour and I had all that heavy equipment on me.

The reason why you have two guides with you is because one of them helps you lock and load for the zip line, and the other one waits on the other end to catch you – just in case something goes wrong etc. It’s a pretty fine tuned system. Not once did we feel unsafe. The surfer boys really looked like they knew what they were doing, and the equipment we had on felt (and smelled) new! 

Being true to my eager character, I volunteered to go first. We were so high up on one of the trees, but I’ve never really been afraid of heights so it didn’t bother me. One of our guides, Joel, already zipped over to the other end to wait for us. And then I was next. I was being taught how to break (using your palm, press down gently on the line) and do a full stop (both hands gripped tightly on the line on either side of our hooks). I was also taught that the more balled up you are, the closer your form is to a cannonball, the faster you’re gonna fly. The visual they gave us was jumping into a pool in a cannonball position yelling “Banzaaaiiii!”

Right. That sounded like fun!

And after one final equipment check, our tourguide, Josh, gave me the go signal! And without any hesitation, I lifted off and zipped!

Perfect "Cannonball" Position

It was amazing… Totally relaxing. Like I was one with nature. Completely zen

The first zip ride only lasted about 15 seconds – it was the shortest line on the tour. And when I got to the other side, I was eager to do more! Luckily, we had about 10 zip lines to ride, and they only got better and longer!

It was a great feeling, just letting go. We were way up in the forest/mountain, and you can see different shades of green everywhere. It really had a magnificent view! But for some reason, everytime I would go on the zip line, I found myself closing my eyes. It was an automatic instinct. And it wasn’t because I was scared – I wasn’t at all. I guess it just felt natural because I felt so present… So – “ in the moment,” that it was almost meditative… All I was aware of was my breathing. And I guess, in those 15 – 30 seconds of ‘flying’… I felt really alive. But not in a crazy ‘I’m going ziplining’ way, but rather in a calm and content way… If that makes sense… 

My SWAT moment (click to enlarge)
And to shake things up a little bit, part of what we had to do in the tour was rappel from one platform to another. Seriously, I felt like I was in a SWAT team! Swinging down from a rope and kicking and swaying our way down a giant tree? That was freakin AWESOME!
Oh and did I mention we had to cross the most narrow bridge in the world, walking only on ONE PLANK? Yeah.. if anything, that was probably the scariest part of the tour… Although, it took all my self control not to go “planking” on the plank. 

Since we had a small group, it was easy to make friends with everybody. Every time someone got ready to zip line, people cheered them on, yelling ‘whoohoo’s’ of encouragement. It was really sweet! I love it when you get some lovin’ from people you just met! Maybe being around natural habitat makes people a lot nicer! I mean you’re away from all the smog, the traffic, the noise, the stress… It’s quiet and it smells so good! The smell is overwhelming, actually, and in a good way. Like you can actually TASTE the air, it’s so good. Even the trees smelled yummy! Like maple syrup and chocolate. For realz.

Smiling through the fear on the Death Plank
They weren’t kidding when they said ziplining was a “tree based”adventure! You climb ‘em, you rapel from ‘em, you zip line from ‘em, and you smell ‘em!
Also, the forest/mountain is very peaceful… I don’t get a lot of peace living in the city, so being surrounded by trees and birds and being that close to the sky…  That definitely was a breath of fresh air – pun intended.

The whole thing lasted for about 3.5 hours. It sounds like a long time, but it couldn’t have gone faster. I was a little sad when it was over though… It felt like we could have gone on all day. 109 dollars for 10 zipline rides, 3 rappel’s, 3 short hikes and 2 deathly bridges. It was definitely definitely worth it!

Wriss and I with our Surfer Dude Tourguides