My son turned 18 this past Saturday and we wanted to do something different and fun for his birthday. We tossed around several ideas, fishing, hiking, Cedar Point and Zip-lining. We’ve all been fishing and hiking many times and we weren’t sure the weather would hold, so we decided we could do that another time. Cedar Point opened the weekend of his birthday and we thought that standing in line for hours might not be great there. So zip-lining it was!
Disclosure…we wanted to go last year for Father’s Day, but my husband broke his knee and was in a knee brace, so we felt waiting until he was fully recovered would be best, so it’s not like this idea just came out of nowhere.
The website showed all these pictures of these really happy and smiling people. It talked about overcoming fears and many of the testimonials started with folks who were afraid to do it, but ended up having a lot of fun in the end. So I thought, “why not”? I know I’m a little skeeved out by heights, but I walked the edge of the Grand Canyon and looked down; I LOVE roller coasters and the Millennium Force is 310′ in the air and goes a LOT faster than the fastest stated speed for the zip-lines and most of them weren’t even that fast.
I was quite nervous at first, but things seemed to go well for the practice line and it didn’t seem all that hard. They showed you how to sit, how to break and what to do if you got stopped before the end. They were very reassuring about the strength of the equipment and how much fun we were going to have. There were 8 people and 3 guides for my tour, and we were told it would take approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete the course because you have to set everyone up safely and get them across and then 10 other people have to do the same thing. For each area, the guides told a little story about the line and the forest around the lines.
So a few people go for the first ‘real’ line, which we were told was 145′ long and though we would feel like we were going fast, it was really 5-8 MPH. I got all hooked up, and had to walk to the edge of the platform. The guide was on the other side doing the signals that told us when to break. I have a death grip on the handles and when told to break I couldn’t even think about what I was supposed to do. I tried to put my palm on the cord, but instinctively grabbed it and yanked my shoulder out, but I made it to the other side. Once I was unhooked, I hugged the tree, which was swaying all over the place (at least in my opinion). I was petrified and shaking. I was promised it would get better.
I get hooked up for the next one, a little faster 10-15 MPH and longer (approximately 325′). Here I braked so hard that I missed the platform. Now I’m in full-on panic mode, slowly sliding back toward the center of the line. I can hear the guide calmly yelling (so I can hear) telling me what to do, but I cannot process his words. I cannot think; I cannot understand language. All I know is I don’t seem to be able to stop my moving in the wrong direction. Finally, I put my finger into the pulley which stopped me, though was super painful. Now I had to try to listen to the guide tell me how to turn around, and start pulling myself hand over hand to the end. I’m sure it wasn’t very long, perhaps 10-12′, but it seemed forever in my panic-stricken brain. Finally, the guide grabbed me, unhooked me and I hugged the next tree, shaking even harder than the last time. The guide told me that I’d just done the hardest thing, a ‘self-rescue’, but I was unconvinced.
Two more, each getting longer and faster. I had zero small motor control at this point; I barely had large motor skills at this point. I’d also decided that braking was something I would never get the hang of doing and simply crashing into the trees was preferable. I was promised it would get easier; it never did. I was more and more petrified each time, crying, shaking uncontrollably, incoherent, and completely not comprehending how the others were laughing, learning how to brake and apparently really having a wonderful time.
At this point, we all found ourselves 60′ in the air and having to rappel down from the tree so we could hike to the next location. The guide started by showing us how to wrap the rope around our legs and where to place our hands. I immediately recognized this as the Spanish wrap technique from rope climbs in crossfit. I also just as immediately recognized that I didn’t have that ability, since I don’t have rope-climbs in my crossfit arsenal. I thought I was panicked before this…. Finally the guide showed us how we were going to be clipped into the rope and where to put our hands and the pulley system that would take about 80% of our weight, so we could slowly lower to the ground. I’m not recovered from the Spanish wrap ‘joke’ and found myself hooked to the contraption, saying out loud that I’m not strong enough. I heard my son say ‘bullshit’, you are probably the strongest person here. And before I knew it, I was dangling in mid-air a death-grip on the rope, going no where. Eventually, I managed to lower myself to the ground. At this point my muscles were starting to cramp from the shaking, the nerves, the sheer terror that I was still feeling. But I was on the ground and ready to hike. Hiking? THAT I can do.
We were told the next line had this spectacular view. I have no clue; I was too scared to look around. My death grip on the handles hadn’t stopped, nor had my sheer terror. To get to the last, and longest, line, we had to cross a 150′ rope bridge. We were still clipped in, but the wobbling didn’t help. I admit it wasn’t as scary as the zip-lines, but it was still scary.
Now we have two things left to do. An 1100′ zip-line and a drop from the last tree to the ground. The guide says he has a surprise for us at the end. He also said that this line was the fastest on the course; we could get up to 50 MPH. He wasn’t helping. But I stepped up and did it. Not looking around, not enjoying the view, not happy going that fast. All I wanted to do was close my eyes. I couldn’t even take my hand off the handles to even attempt to brake. The guide was forced to use this special braking system and catch me. I watched the others; they were obviously exhilarated by the experience.
The ‘surprise’ was something called a ‘quick jump’ rope. It allowed one to jump, free-fall for 6-10′ and then it lowered you the rest of the way. The first person to go made the entire tree swing. I increased my grip on the trunk. When it was my turn and I told the guide that I’d rather die of dehydration and exposure than go on that thing. Everyone laughed; I was serious. I’m crying, telling them I don’t want to. The guide was slowly moving me to the edge and he finally let go of my harness and I fell. And then I passed out. It turns out that one can pass out from sheer terror. I woke in a crumpled heap, safe on the ground, embarrassed, scared, shaking, and wanting nothing more than to crawl behind a large rock and stay there until the shaking and the tears stopped. The guides told me I was the bravest person there. That I didn’t give up that I overcame a fear. That’s not how I felt.
Everyone else was joking, laughing, discussing their favorite part. I just wanted to go home, curl up in bed with at least one dog and be left alone.
I have spent the past three days crying myself to sleep, still shaking. I have zero trouble recalling all the fear I experienced.
I’m not sure I overcame a fear, but at one point they offered me a way off the course. All I could hear was the voice of crossfit saying “don’t give up”, “keep going”. So I did. I’m still not convinced it was the smartest move on my part; I know for a fact that I’m not recovered mentally. I felt traumatized by everything.
Also, if you want to go zip-lining, just do it. Of the 11 people (including guides) on my tour, I was the only one who didn’t enjoy it, so please don’t take my experience as a sign that you shouldn’t do it. Most of the group had a wonderful time and would happily do it again. So if you think you want to try it, I would still recommend it. Buy the package; do the thing; have some fun.