In an earlier post, I made passing reference to ziplining in the rain, and a few friends asked me to flesh that out a little bit. Ziplining in the rain, you will recall, is the reason why my driver’s license was in the back pocket of my jeans instead of comfortably nestled in its little windowed office in my wallet where it was supposed to be when I went to the Supreme Court.
My family and I met a friend of mine and her daughter at the Treetop Quest at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. When the appointed day and time came, it was lousy weather, hot-ish, and clearly about to rain buckets. We were told that rain was no problem, so long as there was no lightning, and, in fact, it was more fun in the rain because the ziplines were a whole lot zippier when they were wet.
If you want an actual picture of what I am talking about you can go to www.treetopquest.com . However, I will try my best to describe it, since there is only so much accuracy a two dimensional picture can give you.
There are, as you’d expect, a lot of trees at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Strung between the trees are lots of ropes, boards, logs, and nets. After a brief training session entitled, “How Not to Kill Yourself”, and after you are able to demonstrate that odds are good you won’t maim yourself either, you are given free reign of the five different levels of courses spread around five acres.
The courses are progressively more difficult and scary. The idea is that you climb up the beginning tree and either navigate across the ropes or wiggly logs or boards or zip from tree to tree until you get to the end. You are at all times connected to not one but two safety ropes, and sometimes a roller-pulley thing for zipping. The safety ropes are attached to nylon straps that go around your legs and waist in some kind of complicated way. You wear thick gloves with rubber coating on them to avoid some serious rope burn.
I decided to start on level one, right behind my daughter. Level one is made for relatively small children to be able to navigate it without help. Marin didn’t need help once she figured out the safety latch system. Me, well, this course was not designed for middle aged women. Every time you get to a new tree/platform, you have to unhook and rehook your safety ropes (one at a time) to the new ‘obstacle’. This requires acrobatics, as you have to get around all the ropes and boards and logs that are holding everything in place. On level one, if you are taller than, say, 4’10”, you regularly have to curl yourself in a little ball just to get underneath it all. I’m 5’6”. It was not pretty. My belly and thighs are a little, shall we say, mature, and don’t really allow me room to lay my chest on my legs and make myself (relatively) small. There were some netted obstacles, where there would be a giant net strung between the trees, and you had to climb between it. It was not made for wide people. I’m sure from the ground up I looked like the Catch of the Day.
Levels two and three were a lot more fun for me. I only had one hairy moment, on this obstacle where I had to walk about twenty feet between two trees about twenty feet up in the air across a ‘bridge’ made of the short side of some wiggly four inch diameter logs strung together with what felt like Silly Bandz™. Lots of people were shouting advice. My eight year old daughter who had skipped across, not having enough body mass to trip off the shaking of the ‘bridge’; my ten year old son, who was zipping over my head and somehow still had the wherewithal to recognize how embarrassing and incompetent his mother was; and the two 19 year old guys whose job it was to sit on a log and laugh at the fat old people, occasionally shouting out helpful suggestions like, “step in the middle, hand, hand, THEN your other foot.” Don’t forget now, it was raining, so occasionally I used my muddy glove to wipe my dripping bangs out of my eyes.
Ziplining in the rain was fun. The wires were zippety quick and it really did feel like flying. You’d hook up your pulley thing, sit your weight down on your thigh straps, and take off at approximately Mach Three. In a theoretical world, you were supposed to put your feet down, and stop yourself with your feet before reaching the padded tree trunk. This presumes that you are capable of ziplining in a straight line and thinking rational thoughts while 40 feet or so in the air. I regularly turned backwards, resulting in an inability to see what was coming, and I’d plow BLAM into the padded thing and then put my legs down or, sometimes, depending upon my angle, my rear end.
By the end, every muscle in my body ached like I’d been beaten with a hammer. I was soaked with rainwater and sweat, and perfectly happy. Everybody needs something from time to time that makes them go “WHEEEEEEEEEE” involuntarily.
And that right there is what is so wonderful about my life. One day I am scraping big chunks of mud off my blue jeans, screaming with joy with the people I love best, and, eighteen hours later, I am wearing pantyhose and pearls and making an intellectual and difficult argument to the highest court in the State.
There’s a pearls and swine joke in there. I just haven’t come up with it yet.