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September 4, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
“And about that ziplining invite? Sorry, but I just really don't see that in my future anytime soon.” — Famous last words from my blog
On the adventure scale — 10 being Mount Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary or perhaps Evel Knievel — I’m a negative seven. Call me chicken, but adventurous and athletic activities are just not my thing.
Earlier this summer when a friend suggested I go ziplining, I laughed.
In fact, just the question alone prompted my blog post,“The Weakest Link Gains Strength.” Never, ever, in a million years would I do such a thing!
Well, as they say, never say never.
Here’s the back story:
It was just three days after I posted the aforementioned blog when I received a call from Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Apparently, Eric Mauck, CEO of the resort, had read my blog. And the good news? Seven Springs was opening a zipline course that very day!
Good news, that is, for all those people who would like to go ziplining. A few of the powers that be thought it would be a great idea to follow up my blog with a zipline experience ...
“But, did you really read my blog?” I queried.
I was plied with promises of spa treatments and fine dining. A follow-up email from Alex Moser, director of marketing, asked when I’d be coming.
Three weeks. The date was set.
Great. I’d have three weeks to worry that I’d soon be plunging to my death — or figure out a way out of it. Subsequent emails to Moser were titled (by me) “Death Defying Visit.”
For the days leading up to my great adventure, I asked everyone I talked to ... friends, acquaintances, total strangers ... “Have you ever ziplined?”
Some had, and loved it. Some hadn’t, but wanted to. All I talked to were the adventurous type. They were all probably at least a seven on that adventure scale.
“I need to talk to a chicken!” I said to a woman at Seven Springs just before I embarked on this suicide mission.
My legs were like jelly, walking up to the plank — I mean steps — to the Screaming Hawk Zipline registration area. I was starting to hyperventilate.
“Breathe. Take deep breaths,” suggested my daughter’s husband, Chris Seidler.
And, then we — my husband Bruce, daughter Amanda, her husband and I —were registered, weighed (you must weigh between 70 and 250 pounds) and meeting our guides, Chad and Keenan.
Apparently, while I was making a last-minute restroom break, my family had clued Chad and Keenan into the fact that I was scared. Very scared.
“We know how to handle that,” they said. How? By making fun of that chicken, that’s how!
Our adventure started out by being fitted with our gear. We stepped into our harnesses, added a trolley system, some lanyards and safety clips, and, “you’re snug” we were told.
“Snug?” I said to my guides. “Snug to me means curled up under a blanket in bed in my hotel room.”
Hands on his hips, Chad said, “Are you going to be a Debbie Downer the whole time!!!???”
Whoa, Chad. ... “Nope, I’m done! That’s it,” I said. And I behaved, keeping my fears to myself, as best I could.
We were given helmets. Mine kept falling off. Chad had to get me a children’s size. “Hey, you need some ego, Phyllis!” (That would come later.)
OK, so we’ve got our harnesses and our helmets on, and we set off for the course. A moving sidewalk took us up the hill. Heck, I was unsteady even on that and didn’t follow the instruction to step on the orange dot. Geez, I’m already screwing up.
We got to the practice area. Chad and Keenan explained everything we needed to know. Don’t mess with our clips. Rest assured we would be safely attached at all times. And have fun.
They were incredibly knowledgeable and good at their jobs. Later (luckily), I found out that Chad just zipped for the first time three weeks prior to my zip, and well, Keenan? He just learned three days before. But they both ski, go rock climbing, etc., so this was right up their alley.
To practice, we would zip across what looked like a clothesline, just a few feet off the ground. I did it! A bit of a rough approach to the landing, but otherwise, not so bad.
Next was the climb up the Spider Web of ropes to get to Copperhead Tower, from which we could make our first zip. That was a bit of a challenge. A step ladder would’ve been easier — albeit, less of an adventure. Once we all made it to to the tower, it was time.
I needed to go first. If I didn’t, I wasn’t sure I’d go at all.
So, here I go. Sit back into your harness and just go.
That’s it. That’s it? That’s it!
I went, and I “whooooooooooooo-hooooooooooed” out loud all the way. All 350 feet until I heard Chad’s voice, “Feet up, feet up!” I reached him and the Flying Squirrel Perch in the blink of an eye.
It was fast and furious and fun and exhilarating. Not quite like flying; more like sailing.
And I wanted to do it again! Which is a good thing, because if you don't, they have to lower you by pulley system down 57 or so feet to the ground.
Next to zip was a young man in our group, 10-year-old Andrew Meyers from Pittsburgh, who looked like he weighed 80 pounds, soaking wet.
“Zipping!” yelled Keenan to Chad, and here comes ....
But, he didn’t make it. He slowed to a stop just feet from Chad, then gradually inched backwards to about the middle of the cable. Why? Because his weight didn’t give him quite enough momentum to make it all the way across. This was one time I was happy with those few extra pounds.
“What now?” I asked Chad, as he was busy unwinding a rope from a bucket. It had a weight at the end. He tossed it down the cable to 87-pound Andrew, and told him to grab on, then he reeled him in.
My first thought? Glad I went first, without having to fear it would’ve been me stuck, dangling in the middle for those long, long, long five minutes.
Next came Andrew’s dad .... just to check to make sure his son was OK. He was. Andrew didn’t mind the added adventure of dangling.
Once the rest of our group made it to a very crowded Flying Squirrel Perch, it was time to move on another 350 feet to Rattler’s Roost. Zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip ... we all made it. I couldn’t wait for the next one — 425 feet, to Red Fox Landing. This was fun!
Red Fox Landing was connected to Venom Tower by Black Bear Bridge, a treacherous ropes and plank bridge that we’d need to make our way across before taking the last zip. This was where looking down was not advantageous. This also was where Chad decided to be a smart aleck again.
“Did you feel that big gust of wind,” he said, as he began to shake Black Bear Bridge, just as I was a few feet from the end.
“You are not funny!” I yelled. Actually, he was.
We had one last zip to go .... a final 777 feet to the Jack Rabbit Jump.
Because the line was so long, we were all encouraged to “cannonball” or bring our knees up to our chests to add momentum to the zip. That definitely adds speed. Still not enough for poor Andrew. He had to be rescued once again.
When I zipped that 777 feet, I felt like I zipped faster than ever before barreling into Chad, one last time.
Whew. I did it! I did it!
I had conquered a fear. And I had had the time of my life.
But wait, it wasn’t over yet. How do you get down from Jack Rabbit Jump?
You jump. Excuse me? And why no ladder here? (Oh, yeah, it’s that adventure thing.)
Still attached, one at a time we walked the plank and stepped off of the platform to the ground. That actually may have been the scariest part ... that “leap of faith,” into the air, to a “perfect descent,” lowered about 20 feet at just the right speed by our cable.
We were on solid ground, all traipsing together back to the building. Relaxed, but invigorated. Chatty. Laughing. Confident. Alive.
Next time, I might need a bigger helmet.
Did I say “next time”?
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