July 18, 2009 by David Gillaspie
A rugged outdoorsman took a night at DG’s B&B. After a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir he asked if he could climb over the deck railing to the low branches of my soaring trees. He was a climber and wanted to show off. I poured him another glass of wine instead:
“You’ve seen those thick steel cables running off the top of telephone poles and radio towers? They protect the towers from the wrath of nature. The angle of decent from the tower to the ground is real steep. Imagine it’s a zip line with you hooked to it. You’re taking a ride of a lifetime. That’s how it felt at Thetford.
The brochure didn’t say we were going to Airborne School. It made it seem like a tidy afternoon of fun. Nothing about a web of rope through the woods thirty feet off the ground; nothing about crawling through suspended barrels and hoops. Turns out it was there if I had read it.
They did suggest wearing heavy clothes with long pants and sleeves. I didn’t see that until we got there.
I went with a family group. I can still hear their voices come up through the trees.
“Come down from there. What are you trying to prove?”
“No one said you have to do this. You’ll be hurt.”
“This is for the kids, not you.”
I proved I could climb up a tree without falling, at least this time. I did hurt myself, but it was part of the fun and a limp made it feel authentic.
From one platform to another I zipped through the forest. From the heights to the dirt landing they posted warnings about lifting your feet at the bottom. Or dragging your feet to stop. Or running it out. Older children and smaller people figured it out.
I reconsidered the landings while I gathered speed on the zip lines. They didn’t seem made for six foot two, two hundred and forty pound flyers. Everyone zipped slower than me. Everyone stopped faster. Feet down meant jammed knees and hips and a potential dirt enema since I was wearing shorts. Bad idea if I wanted to walk out of there.
Feet up meant a potential bun burner through my shorts. My only hope was to avoid a sharp root in the dirt.
If it wasn’t twenty miles an hour it felt like it. At the last second I changed from a sitting landing to a sliding landing. Picture a baseball player stealing second base.
I stuck a perfect landing even if it looked like a panicked barrel roll. Okay, it was a perfect panicked barrel roll. The next time I dropped my feet and jammed my landing gear. After that I got the burn and the dirt, but I was numb so it didn’t matter after a few.
Two and half hours later I dragged out of the zip course, stopping by the registration. I asked about the course record. It was under twenty minutes. I asked the people if they were commandos. They said they were.
I’ve been on U.S. Army obstacle courses easier than Thetford. The dangerous and difficult Army Confidence Course is easier training. Maybe the big difference is being nineteen for one and forty nine for the other?
To show my cultural sensitivity I bulldogged up and asked the staff where I could find a cup of tea. We all laughed. What I really wanted was a six pack of soccer hooligan beer and something to kick since I’d already been kicked pretty good.”
If you must zipline, and England is out of the picture, try a few of these:
Sixty miles an hour on the HeavenlyFlyer.
Miles of cable in The Treehouse.
Or build your own with the Sparmatic.
If you like fresh air and an element of fear, this is for you.