“And I’m Free….Free Falling…”

*Note – I do apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. We were warned to leave our phones in the car in case of damage or the fact that they may have dropped out of our pockets and into the depths of a New Hampshire forest.

I’ve always had a fear of heights. As a child, I could never work up the courage to jump off the diving board at my grandma’s pool. I would watch my older cousins effortlessly and boldly do flips in the air off of it, yet I didn’t even have the bravery to pencil dive in. At the time, it seemed frighteningly high up from the water. As I got older, the fear was still there. In middle school, I road the Ferris Wheel at Canobie Lake and cried the entire time. And when we got stuck at the top to let people on at the bottom? Forget about it, there went my sanity. In high school, I was forced to climb to great heights thanks to a crazy gym teacher who had us do a ropes course. This involved working our way up tall ladders in the gym and completing ceiling-high obstacles, held by ropes and carabiners and spotted by another novice teenager. The ultimate end-of-unit challenge was a course set up in the trees of a park near the school. I somehow completed it, and I’m still not sure how. I must have been out-of-body at the time. The last part of the course was to zipline across the trees. This was optional, and after watching a few fellow students on the wild ride, I said “no way”, and the thought of ziplining never crossed my mind again…until now.

I never imagined that this adventurous activity would be something I would willingly undertake years later, especially in the woods of the White Mountains area. When I recently opened my birthday card from Nick to see “Your surprise is that we’re going ziplining!”, I will admit I felt a twinge of fear. The flashbacks to all the times I just confessed about popped into my head. My nerves were calmed somewhat when Nick told me he had chosen the less scary course for us, as he didn’t think I could woman-up and start with the hardest route. I didn’t blame him for his lack of faith in me! But some foreign feeling inside of me also stirred excitedly at the thought of doing something entirely out of my comfort zone and breaking the my normal Saturday routine. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

Last weekend, after a lovely drive up north observing the fall foliage that has been popping up, Nick and I arrived at Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, NH. There was a check-in area, an area for putting on the gear and an obstacle course that people were making their way through. This featured bridges, ladders and an inflatable tubing area. We were a bit confused – it seemed small. Where do we zipline?, we asked ourselves. Little did we know, but we would soon find out.

Smiling but nervous inside!

Smiling but nervous inside!

We signed in inside the cozy, rustic arrival cabin. It was warm and featured wooden, North Country style wooden beams and classic decor like a moosehead on the wall. There were boards on another wall with descriptions of each of the ziplining options. We were here for the “Treetop Canopy Tour”, featuring six ziplines up to 80′ high, with the last line being a 45mph free-fall. It may not sound fast for all you hardcore adventure enthusiasts out there, but I could just feel the pit of my stomach drop!

Soon enough, our group was called. We headed over to the gear area where we strapped on harnesses, a chain of carabiners and helmets. I think at one point one of the guides tried to talk to me but I was too far into my own head, trying to psych myself up. I don’t even think I answered with words. Putting on the gear was making it real! Oh no, the harness isn’t tight enough! I thought. What if these carabiners don’t lock? I panicked. I then had a remembrance of a book I read, where it states that the universe conspires to make your thoughts a reality. I started to think positively, and became happy that Nick was on this Saturday journey through the trees with me.

Our confusion about where the ziplines were was cleared up when our whole group along with our guides got in a van and traveled down the highway to a random spot in the woods. After getting out of the van, we were loaded up into a military style vehicle to trek through the terrain that would get us to the course. That part alone was a source of entertainment! Everyone was falling on top of each other, but it was like a ride in itself.

Once at the first stop on the course we got out and the guides explained exactly how we should handle the ziplining adventure – how we should “sit” in the harness, how to set yourself straight if you start to spin on the line, and how to land depending on if there is a ramp at the next spot on the course or not. Then once the guides had checked to make sure all of gear was on properly, it was time to line up. Nick and I were 3rd and 4th in line. I wanted to just get this first one out of my system. I watched the two people in front of me zip away. One was a girl seemingly a little younger than me. After watching her, I knew I could do this. I walked to the end of the ramp trying not to give it a second thought and off I went! I was zooming through the treetops of northern New Hampshire, the wind in my hair, my eyes watering from the cold and I was ecstatic!! That is, until I was going too fast directly at a tree and kicked it full force – the shock went from my ankle up my body but I didn’t even care! Just that first “simple” zipline experience was a rush and I wanted more.

We continued from course to course, flying through the trees on a new adventure. Each time I felt more and more exhilarated from the feeling, and I learned to steer myself pretty well. I also learned to land much more gracefully as well, that’s for sure. All too soon, we reached the last stop on the course – the free-fall. I felt the nervous butterflies. As I waited for them to strap Nick in (he was going first), I felt like I was toppling over on the platform that connected to the tree. I realized they were going to make us start the free-fall backwards, so it wouldn’t be as panic-inducing. I watched Nick drop and ride what seemed like a seatless roller coaster – down he went, then up the other side, then back down, then up, then down until a guide moved a big ladder and climbed up to let Nick off. I was next.

I started speaking anxiously to the guide, trying to make sure I was strapped in correctly. He assured me that yes, he does do this regularly, it is his job after all. He told me to make sure I didn’t bend my legs as I dropped off the platform for a clean fall. “Now just step with your heels off the platform, look at me and drop”. Umm, that’s scary, I thought, but I complied. Before I knew it, WOOSH. I was falling, falling in what seemed like slow motion. I must have made the strangest face – I wanted to yell but no noise escaped me – until I flew up to the other side. “WOO-HOO!!!” I cried out as Nick watched from so many feet below. I was on the ride of my life and even though this was the smaller course, I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. I was going 45mph not in a car, not in any sort of vehicle or in the safety of a theme park ride, just my body and some ziplining gear. I didn’t want it to end, but all good things must. The guide pulled up the ladder and helped me down from the line. I ran over to Nick with the biggest grin. We then watched the others in our group conquer their fears, all with smiles on their faces. As one of the other women stated, “Well! That was a new feeling,” and I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve realized that discovering these “new feelings” is what life is really all about. When we begin to accept our fears, no matter how small, we shrink inside. We give life to these anxious thoughts. Do not let your soul shrink – we are bigger than that! Also, no matter how old we get, we should never stop seeking new experiences or ever think that we’ve “seen it all”. What I loved about our ziplining group was that it included people of all ages, from (my guess) 21-60 all learning from a fun adventure together. Now that I’ve completed step one, I can’t wait to venture to the highest heights of ziplining and feel the adrenaline rush that it provides. Hope to see you up there!

 

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