Go Zip-Lining? Check.

So last week, before the paragliding fiasco, I went zip-lining. Melissa and I were supposed to go in Puerto Rico, but then one of you mentioned in comments that there was a newish operation nearby in Santa Cruz. I decided I’d rather zipline through Redwoods, so we signed up with Mount Hermon.


I called Evany to see if she wanted to come along.

– Do you want to go zip-lining with me?
– What?
– Wanna go zip-lining in Santa Cruz?
– Is this a life list thing?
– Yes.
– What does zip-lining entail?
– I do not know.
– Hmm. I don’t know if I can be away from Desi for the day, I’m nursing.
– Bring the baby. We’ll strap him to you.
– OK.

Then the folks at Mount Hermon were all, “You cannot strap a newborn baby to you while you’re zip-lining six stories above the ground.” And we were all over Twitter like, “MT. HERMON HATES BABIES!”

Oh, but I kid. Evany’s husband Marco came along for baby support, so Evany could feed Desi and still live life on her own terms. Boo-yah.


She fed the baby, and then Max and Jon (our instructors) strapped us into our harnesses. That may be the kinkiest sentence I’ve ever typed.


I was impressed by Evany’s willingness to do something so daring right after going through labor. New moms tend to be mortality aware, and Desi was very concerned for our well being.


Speaking of mortality, let’s revisit the six-stories-up concept. Once again, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I pictured some roadside operation with a little cable strung between two trees, and people zooping back and forth ten feet off the ground. Zoop. Zoop! Sort of like the training course, but slightly higher.


I realize my ignorance has become a running theme with these sportier adventures, and my reasoning is thus: If I were to research these things beforehand, I would not go. I’d simply spend a few weeks obsessing over what could go wrong, and I’d eventually decide adventures were for stupid people. Then I’d snuggle up with a down comforter to read back issues of The New Yorker until I grew old and withered — which sounds rather pleasant, actually.


At any rate, that’s how I found myself on a platform contemplating the surprising chasm below. Surprise!


Actually, it doesn’t look as threatening in the photo, but that’s only because you can’t see the giant teeth lining the edges. In real life, it looks more like this:


Intellectually I knew I was safe. They let ten-year-olds zip-line, because it’s difficult to seriously damage yourself. At every point, you’re double-hooked to cables so strong that they’d shear an old-growth redwood in half before they snapped. I was safe, but my spine begged to differ. My spine thought we should go find a nice glass of warm milk and see what was on the History Channel.

I peeked over the edge of the platform.


If I hadn’t signed a contract with Intel saying I wanted to do this (for fun! for kicks!), if Evany had not been equally terrified but holding her ground, it’s possible I would have walked away.

Instead, my medulla was throbbing like a dental drill. I tried to fight the vertigo with Zenlike thoughts. I am well. I am healthy. I am whole. I am plummeting to my death.

Evany went first, and I couldn’t watch. When Max told me the line was clear, I closed my eyes, let out a low whine, and stepped off the edge.


I could feel the wind on my face and hear the cord humming, so I peeked to see my feet dangling above the abyss. Bad idea. I closed my eyes.

About half way across I started to relax. I felt strangely light, like I was flying. It was exceptional. I opened my eyes again and my keening turned into laughter.

Then the next platform was heading at me like a bullet, so I grabbed the cable with my hand and stopped a few feet shy. I had to do what they call a self rescue, which involves dangling with your back to a chasm while you pull yourself hand over hand to the next platform. It’s a treat.


There were six or seven lines on the course, plus an air bridge, and after that first zip, both Evany and I relaxed considerably. I felt the most vertigo and distress on the platforms, perhaps because my brain kept trying to balance so I wouldn’t “fall.”


Every time I left the platform, I had to disregard my terror. I felt my heart in my mouth, swallowed it, and stepped off the edge. Once I was moving, my body understood the physics involved, and I could fly. Evany said, “Next time, we should bring capes.”

The day made me braver, and more secure in my ability to tell the difference between actual risk and perceived risk. I have never been so afraid of something — with the possible exception of labor — and done it anyway. If you’re anywhere near a zip-line, I hope you’ll try it. It will change your subconscious.

Here’s to fewer falling nightmares, and more flying dreams.

I’m profoundly grateful to the team at Intel for sponsoring my Mighty Life List. They paid for this zip-lining tour, and now all of them have to go.

33 thoughts on “Go Zip-Lining? Check.

  1. I ziplined for the first time in July — is “zipline” a verb? I zipline, you zipline, he/she/it ziplines — and I’ve got to agree with you about the platforms being the worst. Every fiber in my body was saying “uh, it’s a bad idea to jump off of this, NO DON’T DO IT” but you just do it anyway. It’s very strange; it goes against everything you’ve always told your body to do. Suddenly you’re flinging it off a wooden platform into an echoing chasm and, as you say, even though you know INTELLECTUALLY that you’re safe, your body is all bitch, you crazy, ain’t no way I’m doing this. Mine was, anyway. But I still jumped.


  2. You’ve articulated what I’m trying to explain to my friends about why I’ve started doing similar things for which I am in no way prepared. Sure, I broke my thumb whitewater tubing. But it was fun! And no one thought I could do it.

    Next up: zip-lining!


  3. It really is the most surreal experience. I went on my first zip line in the Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica and as I stood on this wobbling platform high above the jungle floor strapped to a cable I just kept thinking, “This is either going to be the thing that kills me, or something that I remember for the rest of my life.”

    Congrats on taking the plunge!


  4. Next time (if there is a next time), you should try a trust fall off – turn around backwards and lean off. I will admit this is IMPOSSIBLE for me, but I’ve had some friends do it!


  5. Do you have to walk on that bridge thing? I’m deathly afraid of rope bridges (anything that sways) or anything even remotely gangplank-esque, so *THAT* would be my fear.

    Ziplining? BRING IT. Just don’t make me walk on that bridge o’ certain disaster.


  6. lol, I went in Costa Rica and it was a blast! Except for one of the lines where they’re pretending to just switch you onto a new line and then they push you off as usual, but instead of going ziplining (across) you plummet straight down to the ground. I almost peed my pant! πŸ˜‰


  7. Whee! I’ve gone ziplining (Holly, my spell check does NOT think “ziplining” is a verb) a few times in Mexico and thought it was a blast. I was very concerned at first, remembering a highly embarrassing moment from a junior high class trip involving me, a ropes course, the requisite cute guy and *someone* sobbing hysterically. However, it was fantastic! At one point one of the guides asked if I wanted to zip the next line upside down (with his assistance) and I said hellsya! Now that was a trip…


  8. I had people waiting for me, cheering me on, and one guy even broke out a VIDEOCAMERA, when I was scared stiff for a full 30 minutes on a zipline platform.
    Unlike you I didn’t expect to be afraid. But I most certainly was. and everyone was so nice to me, even though there must have been people seething with irritation, waiting for their turn.
    You did something really brave! It inspires me to go again and do it in Santa Cruz!
    Yay Maggie.


  9. Thank you for such an awesome idea! We just moved to Massachusetts and are finally coming down from the stress of hauling two kids from Los Altos to Mass. We need some fun now, so I read your post and then went looking for something similar out here. Found it! I’m surprising my husband with a day date in three weeks. I hope I don’t wet my pants. πŸ™‚


  10. You coulda called! Mt Hermon is not exactly downtown Santa Cruz, glad you had a thrill, and I don’t think it was cheap. Love


  11. One of the coolest things I’ve done in my life is zipline in the cloud forest in Costa Rica. I too was rather ignorant before we went, but I don’t have a fear or heights (I have a rather stupid affection for them, actually) and I loved it from the start. Now I want to come up to Santa Cruz and go ziplining in the redwoods!


  12. My 13 year old convinced me to do a zipline with him in Calgary this summer. I was so busy being a mom and looking at safety procedures that I neglected to verify *where* we were ziplining from and to. So when they took us to the top of the ski jump tower, I had the teensiest bit of a panic attack. I completely froze.

    But I did it. And I had an adrenaline hangover for two days. We brought home a magnet from the place and when I open the freezer for ice cream, I see the photo of the tower and have palpitations. I’m hoping that subsides soon.

    I’m also very glad I did it, that I faced the fear. I feel like I could handle any *other* zipline now. But I’m never doing that particular zipline again. The Santa Cruz ziplines sound like just my style.


  13. Does this mean that MightyGoods, my favorite method of procrastination, will be back up now? =( It’s preposterous how much work I’ve been getting done over here and I think it needs to stop.


  14. Awesome! I just ziplined for the first time a couple of weeks ago in Calaveras County a the Moaning Caverns. It was amazing, but I don’t think it was as high up as yours. I’ll have to check out Mount Hermon — I’m hooked!


  15. > Holly, my spell check does NOT think β€œziplining”
    > is a verb)

    And for this there is Spell Check Anywhere (SpellCheckAnywhere.Com). It adds spell check to all programs, and comes with an optional grammar check.


  16. I have ziplined before and it’s freaky, capital F. However, the reason I did it, and the reason I do lots of things, is exactly what you said – to tell the difference between actual risk and perceived risk. Thank you for saying that! I’m still trying to teach my mind and body there is a difference πŸ™‚


  17. A friend of mine used to have a zipline in the backyard. We didn’t have helmets or harnesses. Probably better that way. πŸ™‚ Ziplines are great fun. So much better when you are actually connected to something (unlike the guys in the flying squirrel suits that jump off of tall rocks).


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