When we were kids (without Internet, iPhone, video games and able to get only two, grainy black and white TV channels accessed via rabbit ears or a huge antenna on the roof), one of my classmates with the help of an uncle built a swing among three giant fir trees standing in a convenient triangle in the back yard.
He strung a rope about 15-20 feet up between two of the trees to which he attached a rope with knot under a short board at the bottom. To the third tree he nailed a number other short boards to create a ladder. You climbed to the top of that ladder with the makeshift swing, stepped on the board and let go.
And no, you didn’t hit the ladder tree on the swing back. That much had been calculated and tested; however, any other ideas regarding safety or restraints were not even in the lexicon. What did we know about safety? In those pre-seatbelt days, if your baby was asleep you tucked the tyke on the shelf between back seat and the windshield while driving in the family car. A careless disregard was normal.
The first time, leaping away from the tree took some nerve. On your way down you had about 10 feet of free-fall before the rope caught and flung you back and forth. After the first time, you couldn’t wait for the next rush.
But that was 50 years ago and quite a different experience from an afternoon at AdrenaLINE Ziplines in Sooke, a small town about 40 minutes west of Victoria, B.C.
Stepping away from a platform 150 feet in the air and hurtling down hundreds of feet of cable in the forest canopy brought back a bit of that old feeling—minus the free-fall element. The limbic/reptilian brain (designed to ensure survival at all cost) screamed: Are you nuts? What are you thinking? No, no, NO! Once in flight, every other dopamine receptor shrieked: Yes, yes, YES!
During my AdrenaLINE experience the attention paid to safety was meticulous and constant. From the moment I boarded the company shuttle service from the Clipper terminal in Victoria, every detail of what the ten of us on board were to expect was explained.
On arrival at Guest Services we were registered, helmeted, harnessed, and instructed on procedures before taking a first run on a training cable. Then we made our way to the top of the course in an ex-military all-terrain vehicle. Every step of the way individual safety was top priority as one by one we soared down 8 ziplines and crossed over 2 suspension bridges. The longest line was about 305 meters (1000 feet) and the fastest hurled us down at 60 kilometers per hour (almost 40 mph).
Throughout, our guides kept up a humorous banter, pointed out landmarks, and demonstrated various “tricks” we might try on the line. When done, they collected our gear and we returned to the city via the shuttle.
The world looks quite different from an eagle’s vantage point, swaying in the wind high in the canopy and flying down the cable. After many weeks without rain the forest floor is warm and the air redolent with dry grasses, pitch and sea, a characteristic West Coast summer fragrance that never fails to pinch hard in my heart. Like the ride–Zip! Spin! Fly! Land!—summer’s moment is too brief. Sigh. At the end of the ride, I want to have it all over again.