Ziplining has never been high on my bucket list of travel adventures. While I’m not overly scared of heights, I’m respectful of the distance between heaven and earth with a strong preference for staying grounded unless winging through the air from one exotic destination to another from the comfort of a Boeing jet. Think cushioned seats, seatbelts and a stiff drink.
Still, an invitation from Ziptrek Ecotours to experience “eco-exhilaration™” on their Eagle Tour at Whistler, BC, beckoned, hung in the air, so to speak. When I tweeted before the Big Event, asking readers to remind me why I was doing this, Ziptrek shot back in a nanosecond: “Because it’s FUN!” Ohhhhh. Right. The FUN factor. But for whom, I wondered: for me – or for those watching as I hurl myself like a shell from a loose cannon off into the stratosphere?
Yet here I am, poised on the edge of a platform alongside a hearty group of twelve, a mix of first-timers (thankfully, not our guides) and repeat zippers. We stop our pre-zip nervous chatter long enough to fix our gaze on our hero guide who shows us exactly how it’s done. He smiles before launching off, zipping through the air effortlessly before landing way too far away for my Boomer eyes to follow.
Lost in our own private reveries while processing the FUN we had just observed, another guide steps forwards and asks in a cheerful tone: “So who wants to go first?” A long silence follows. Finally one participant speaks up: “I will.”
My fellow zipper whips around to face me: “What!? I can’t believe you just said that!” Wait – why is she looking at me? I said that?? In my lightheaded daze, I must have been reflecting on what my dinner host had shared with me the previous night. “My mother was terrified before she went ziplining the first time,” she said. “If I can offer you one piece of advice, it’s this: volunteer to go first. That way you won’t be standing around getting more nervous than you already feel.” How else to account for my inexplicable moment of madness?
So this is how the body of a jellyfish feels from the inside out, I marvel, in my own out-of-body experience. With a smile plastered on my face, heart pounding, I step towards our launching pad. My guide opens the platform gate and closes it behind me, separating me from the supportive womb of the others. My smile fades as I fight the urge to curl into a fetal position, cry “Wah!” and ask for my mommy. He checks my helmet and full-body safety harness as many times as I ask, then says matter-of-factly, “You’re good. Just take one step at a time until you feel the slack between your harness and the zipline tighten. Then go!” Sure. Okay. Just a step at a time. Easy-peasy, right? I mean, hundreds of thousands of real people have been on a Ziptrek tour in the last 10 years. Real people from age 6 – 96 do this all the time – theoretically, at least – since to date, the oldest participants on Ziptrek Ecotours have been only 92 years old.
Of course, stepping down stairs into space with a railing on either side of you is one thing. But stepping down into space with no railing on either side in sight, even when harnessed? Can’t I take the stairway to the stars instead?
Whoa! I remind myself to breathe. Long, slow, deep breaths follow. Just do it, I coax myself, becoming my own best coach in the moment. Don’t think about the fact that you’re about to dangle somewhere over Fitzsimmons Valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains from a height of up to 300 feet. Or that you’re about to zip through old-growth rainforest at speeds that can reach up to 56 mph depending on weight and weather conditions. Never mind that the first zipline on the Eagle Tour is the longest – 2400 feet with a 30-story descent. No, better not to think about any of that now. Better to hum a few notes from Donna Summer’s blockbuster hit, “I Will Survive!” instead. Remember, I tell myself. The actual time on each of the five ziplines (yes, there are five on the Eagle Tour) is only 35 – 40 secs. That’s it! Oh, well, in that case . . .
In one cotton-mouthed gulp, I’m off! Whee! Sure they can hear the screams of my inner Jane all the way down in Whistler Village. No matter. I’m doing it! I’m zipping through the air, well, maybe not with the greatest of ease, but on my own terms, eyes tightly shut until I remember to open them two-thirds of the way through my run, twisting and twirling most of the way, hearing the whoosh of the wind surround me as I zip my way to the landing platform. Yes! Success! One down, only four more to go. Whew.
And the payoff for accepting Ziptrek’s offer of this thrilling outdoor mountaintop adventure? Besides my personal treat of The Pacific Rim Caesar at Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill (“Make mine a double – stat!”). Besides gaining new-found confidence that comes from working through one’s fears and picking up tidbits of ecological information from knowledgable guides which I would gladly have shared with you here had my focus been on learning rainforest lore rather than on survival, is this text exchange with my 16-year-old daughter afterwards:
DD (for Darling Daughter): ZIPTREKKING? What have they done to you? Looks like a blast!!
Me: Ha, ha – It was totally FUN! First step off into space was the hardest. And I went on 5 different zip lines!
DD: OMG. You’re crazy. That sounds like so much fun. Hahaha. I’m impressed. Becoming an adrenaline junky?
Me: No worries.
There. That’s it right there. Thanks to your showing me how to zip through the trees, Ziptrek Ecotours, you helped this Boomer woman impress my 16-year-old daughter. Not an easy feat – and reason enough for me to sign up for another of your amazing tours again. Great FUN all the way around, just as you promised!
For more information on how you, too, can soar through the forests at Whistler while dazzling your own children and grandchildren on a ziplining adventure, visit Ziptrek Ecotours.
Thanks to host Ziptrek Ecotours for sharing this FUN adventure and to our most amazing guides, Keir, Admir and Kiah, for putting up with the likes of us!
What about you, wanderboomers? Have you gone ziplining? What are your travel fears? How have you overcome them?