Thursday, October 30, 2014

Flying Fast through Forest Trees

Two months ago Janice and I booked up for a zip lining trip and have been counting down the days since we each parted with our $84. We were going locally to Andy Guest State Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Virginia , and were very excited when we met there on Sunday.
It was a little chilly and a brisk breeze was blustering through the shelter as we signed waiver forms and while Janice got fitted for her GoPro camera. She'd had to shell out $35 and would get the card to take home. I had my trusty G15 with me and because it has a neck strap I was allowed to use it. Cell phones weren't allowed although the others in our group used theirs, so I guess that rule went out the window.
Our harnesses and straps with hooks and clips that would keep us safe were laid out on the floor, and it took surprisingly little time to get the gear on.
A helmet and gloves, (we couldn't use our own leather ones), were donned and we were off! After a couple of pose shots as we thought we looked pretty natty.
Our small group of 8 was driven up into the forest in a couple of UTV vehicles and the ride was great fun. We were bounced and thrown about as we careered along narrow, dusty, rocky tracks, suddenly veering round sharp corners. I'm sure our guides did this on purpose but I loved it!
We had a little training class where were were taught to use our brakes, (our gloved hands), and how to sit. This took very little time and then we were off on to our adventure proper. We walked, our harnesses jingling and jangling through the trees and came across our first platform. I was rather intrigued as to why there were doors across the steps leading up to the platform, and was told it was to stop the bears zooming down the lines. I loved that mental picture!
Our first line didn't look too scary and all our clips secured safely to the tree was reassuring. Nobody balked at their turn and I actually thought it was a lot easier than I had imagined. We were expected to use our hand to slow ourselves down but it was apparent that there was also a safety brake in use too.
Janice and I soon got the hang of it, and I took a couple of videos but quickly thought that I'd really rather enjoy the experience than concentrate on videoing it and I was glad I made that decision as I found a YouTube clip later that the company had posted which covered everything pretty well. It's at the end of this blog.
The lines looked a little longer and higher up as we progressed but it was fun. I loved the noise that the harness made zinging down the line, and it really was a wonderful and unique way to enjoy the fall foliage.
Our guide, Matt, showing off. Matt and Tabby were superb guides. They were in a relationship together and made a great team, balancing comedy and safety perfectly. Matt led for 3 of the lines and then Tabby took the lead, explaining that Matt's arms got tired quickly so he wanted to rest them longer by going last. He never knew that Tabby was telling us this!
On one of the longer lines we were told we could pose towards the end as a photographer was on the ground capturing us as we sped past. Because of this we all paid little attention to our braking needs and were all very grateful for the emergency brake and padding on the tree as we slammed onto the platform.The emergency brake for some reason had a big frayed rope knot on it which to me kept looking like a stuffed monkey. Janice told me later that, "On one landing I made I got that frayed rope that helps them brake us before landing on the platform in my mouth and was spitting that out as I landed, Matt laughed & said ah we have no dog toys up here! I laughed afterwards."
This was one of the bridges we had to cross. The video at the end shows this bridge but the crossing featured was very lame. Matt led our crossing and I was right behind him. no sooner had I got both feet on the logs than he started jumping heavily up and down and then slamming himself against each side so that we all had a very hard time trying just to stay upright, let alone cross the bridge. It was hilarious, and one of the highlights of the adventure for me.
We all made it safely across and one of our group took this awesome shot of Janice and I.
This bridge was easy to cross and we tried to rock it and jump up and down but it wasn't as pliable as the previous one.
The last zip line was 1039ft long and one where Matt said if we tucked up we could travel at 40mph. No need to say more, I was the first to go and I scrunched myself up as small as possible, barreled down the line, slamming into the tree and then bouncing back out onto the line again. Awesome! I had to pull myself back in to the platform and so finished my last zip literally going out with a bang!
The others started down the line and I looked over the platform down to the ground where we would rappel down to the ground.
I was the first to go down again and looked up to see lots of supportive smiles.
 We all watched each other come down and then it was a small hike back to base. We had had a superb group, everyone had been so friendly and our guides had been wonderful. The whole time we had felt safe, secure and free to enjoy the experience without the slightest worry. Janice and I loved it so much that we're already looking at other zip line operators in the area. We'll be raring to go again in the spring.
This link goes to a video showing the zip lines and the bridges, but I have to say our adventure was a little wilder than shown here!
Janice purchased the group photo on line and was very sweet in sending me a copy so I could post it here. A fun time!

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