Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flying without a Net -- Ziplining

The older we get the more we tend to accept our limits, often self imposed. We may think we can't do something because we never have, or because we failed at some other point in our lives, or that we are "getting too old."

If there's anything I hate it's when someone my age or younger uses age as an excuse for anything. (Sorry, this may turn into a tangent rant.) I was at a birthday party not too long ago talking with a woman I didn't know who was commenting on her inability to run and keep up with her little girl (a child who needed more running) who commented to the hostess that she'd understand when she reached her age, which she revealed to be 44. The hostess is actually only two years younger (although she doesn't look it) and I'm a good bit older. I could have easily kept up with the child and do keep up with three smaller and more active on an almost daily basis. Of course, I also wasn't standing there smoking a cigarette and feeding cake to my muffin top.

I've also seen Facebook posts by people I went to school with complaining about how hard it is to do something at their age....Whoa, I want to scream. It ain't the mileage, it's the maintenance! I'm in better shape now than I was 20 years ago, wear smaller clothes, etc. I just wish I'd realized how important the right kind of diet and exercise were when I was a bit younger. End of rant.

But back on topic, when we fall into that can't do it rut, it usually takes a friend or loved one to pull or prod us out. Then we go in a group and conquer whatever that hurdle may be.

Well once I started seeing pictures of people ziplining through the trees I knew it was something I wanted to do. My lack of friends with a schedule anywhere close to mine meant I generally didn't have anyone to go with. While my husband and frequent partner in whatever comes along was willing, our weekends are generally slammed.

This week with babies away in Florida and time on my hands, I decided to take to the trees on my own. I was spurred by one of those school discount cards that I bought as a favor to a friend of my daughter's whom I see regularly at birthday parties and events. One of the featured discounts was $30 off of the price of an adult's ziplining experience at Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tours. The original price might have been daunting, but with the discount and the fact that mapping the trip meant I only had to drive about 30 minutes each way, I was game. I called and made a reservation.

Over the weekend I talked to a couple of friends about going. One was game, but didn't fit her schedule. The other wasn't sure she would be up to it. Ok, I figured I'd just have my experience with a bunch of strangers, no biggie.

I left home well in advance of when I needed to arrive, just in case I missed a turn. I did wonder what would happen if I got there and completely chickened out, but then I tucked that thought away. When I arrived it was a rather nonchalant building tucked into the edge of a wooded area. Goats grazed in a field nearby. I went inside to learn that I was getting a solo tour as no one else had been able to make my day/time. Just me and two guides off to the trees.

Soon I was harnessed and helmeted, wearing a pair of way too big gloves and hiking into the woods. During the cooler months of the year I frequently spend time in the woods, so other than the harness and helmet, which were surprising comfortable, nothing unusual. We even had a pair of dogs along to make me feel at home.

We climbed a short flight of stairs to a wooden platform and the guides decided who was tossing and who was catching -- sounds way more ominous than it is -- then sent me across my first short, low line. Two hooks secured me to the line, one on the braking mechanism, for use on lines that drop a great deal, and the second over the brake and the line. For braking lines the right hand is on the brake much like a foot on a scooter brake and the left holds the securing line; non-braking lines both hands are on the line. No problem. The catcher goes first, the tosser hooks you up and advises on the best method for leaving the platform, then follows. After the first line we walked a swinging bridge (they called it a sobriety check) then took another line for practice.

Then we took to the trees. It was an absolute blast. Sometimes we climbed steps to reach a platform and others we landed on one swinging from the branches above, then launched to another. At each line they would advise me on braking or not and where I might get a visual cue to brake. The catcher also held up his hand to remind me of braking, or, if it was a braking line, I was free to slow down and look around or even stop if I wanted on some. I was warned not to brake on other lines or I could get stopped mid point -- with the wind I almost didn't make it across one line to the next platform, even with no braking.

There were stairs, swinging bridges, and swaying platforms and occasionally a little hiking. The dogs followed us back down the ridge on their own paths. Finally we came to highest platform of the trip. The landing stage was across a field and hardly visible.

Because I was touring alone I had no one to take my picture but asked the guide to do a few. He caught one before I left the highest platform. He also snapped a few as we did the next to the last run, which has dual cables. But since I was unwilling to risk my best camera, they weren't all as good as they could have been.

All too soon we were sailing over the goats and coming in for a landing on a small ramp near the parking area. The trip through the trees was over after about an hour. With just me, it could have been shorter had we chatted less, but it gave me a chance to enjoy the upper level scenery; with more people, it would take longer.

Now I just want to do it again. Higher. And I've already been on line looking for more locations. For a longer trip I'll make sure to take my partner along. So look out Asheville! Oh, and there's the simmering idea of taking the girls back to Carolina Ziplines. They do ages 3 and up.

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