Rem and I donned harnesses and helmets for another high-adventure experience. We started vacation on Friday, February 27, our 16th anniversary. We decided to celebrate with a few hours ziplining up in the redwoods.
I’m not particularly fond of heights but I thought I could manage this and also have fun. It was fun, exciting and scary for me and Rem agreed it was fun and exciting but he wasn’t scared. There were frightening moments leaving the platforms for each zip, but the part that made my knees wobbly was standing on the small platforms, high in the treetops of often-swaying trees.
Here’s Rem getting geared up. Helmets and gloves, plus a leather “brake” for the right hand that goes over the glove, complete the ensemble. We were at Sonoma Canopy Tours near Occidental which is part of Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds. Though it is a Christian facility, you wouldn’t have known that from our experience.
Each tour group has 8 guests and two guides. Alina clipped us safely to the line and started us on each zip, and Joey received us on the platform at the end of each run. Both provided training, safety information and guidance along the way and both used humor, encouragement and a balance of what TO do and what NOT to do. They also told us about the trees and plants we were moving through and reminded us to enjoy the beautiful views.
Our group included a young couple who work at a ski lift in Mammoth and four women, part of a group of eight members of the board of directors of a nonprofit (the others followed in the next tour 20 minutes later) doing team building together.
The first training is done between two trees at the base of the hill. Joey demonstrated his simple hand signals for slow down or start braking – move your braking hand off the trolley (the metal part that slides along the cable) and put it flat on the cable behind the trolley and above your head, and for stop braking, so you didn’t lose too much momentum and stop before you got to the platform. Parking brake means to grab the cable with each hand so when you do stop, you don’t start sliding backwards.
One by one we each stepped up on a small wooden step (it looks kind of like a miniature picnic table) and Alina hooked the trolley, which was attached with straps to our harness, onto the cable, then clipped our lines to the trolley, directed us to put first the left than right hands on top of the trolley, and sit down in the harness. She taught us how to straighten out if we started to turn (“steer with your wrists”) and if we did have to pull ourselves in, how to do that. We each experienced turning, braking, parking brake and pulling ourselves back as well as a short zip down the training line which was just a few feet off the the ground.
We loaded up onto benches in the back of a pickup and rode way up the hill to the first platform for our junior zip (or “bunny hill” as Joey described it). This platform has railings and because it is on a hill, you just step out onto it. So far, so good. We get clipped onto a line circling the tree (as we did at each platform along the course) and our guides tell and demonstrate the procedure again. One by one, we each take our first zip – that’s Rem leaving the first platform and heading to the second.
Looking out to the second platform, it looked kind of far away! Even this junior zip felt quite fast and high up from the ground.
Rem was breezily looking down over the edge and completely at ease on each platform (none of the rest had railings) while I would cling to the rope overhead that our lines were clipped to around each tree. I didn’t mind if other people were near the edge but every time Rem would crouch or lean to take a photo, I felt a little woozy and weak-in-the-knees. My arms and shoulders were sore and tired last night and I realize that at least in part, that was because I was hanging on for dear life!
Looking down from the second platform. It is about 80 feet up and the distance is longer from platform 2 to platform 3. The ride is faster too. Platform 3-4 goes over a 300-foot ravine and is about 300 feet long (as I recall). It’s 500 feet to the next one. The order of who went first for each zip changed. I went first once – from platform 2 to platform 3.
I kicked the small landing step three times as I arrived, not slowing down quite as efficiently as I should have. Rem had to pull himself in once, as did some of the other lighter-weight guests or those who nervously braked too soon. Not an issue with me. I watched Joey and only slowed when he indicated to. One of the women in the non-profit group was quite anxious and did one tandem run (she was small and for this zip could have been stuck part way out on the line), but she made it the whole way through the course with all of us cheering her along.
Here is Rem departing on a zip. That platform looks really far away! When Alina would ask if I was ready I’d think “if I waited until I was ready, I would be here for hours” and just take a deep breath and go.
The next, and longest zip is 800 feet long. You can’t even see the next platform! This is Rem coming towards the platform that I’m on.
Getting a little closer…
There are cameras mounted in one area, so we could buy a picture (Rem didn’t want his) taken on a fairly short zip. I got brave enough to actually lift my hand and wave!
Of course when we had a chance to look at Rem’s pictures, he’d caught almost the same thing:
The next section from platform 7 to 8 was a spiral staircase climbing 30 feet up. Joey went up with the first four people and Alina took the our group. She’s the one with the yellow helmet.
From there we crossed a 175′ long sky bridge, feeling every sway and swing as we walked. I didn’t much like crossing this and the next bridge. We were over a ravine. I didn’t look down.
You’re still attached the the line but the undulations of the bridge and the uphill climb at the end were a bit stomach-dropping.
Our guides described the new Extreme course they are building with much longer runs, higher elevations and sky bridges that will be without railings and will have gaps in the planking. No. Thank you, but no. I’m so not interested! Night time ziplining will also open with lights in the trees along the way. I think not.
Others were walking without holding on to the railings. Rem was blithely taking pictures but I was holding tight to the cable. Well, I did pose once when our guide offered to take a picture of the two of us.
The perspective is a little tricky in this picture – believe me, the ground looks much closer in the picture than it was in reality.
This is just before the last zip. From there, we had one more adventure to experience.
From the final platform we rappelled 80 feet down to the forest floor. Hanging on to the rope and stepping off the platform was looking like no fun at all. You have to go to the edge of the platform and do this little maneuver so you end up with both feet on the edge, facing inwards. Luckily, Alina had a nice trick that involved crossing my feet and swiveling around and I managed it without too much embarrassment. Once you’re off the platform it’s fine and I was glad to be back on the ground.
Here is Rem coming down.
We celebrated our successful completion of the zipline course with a feast at Negri’s.
You can have the whole dinner or just an entree and we decided to do the whole enchilada, so to speak. Or maybe that should be the whole plate of ravioli. With Rem’s fried prawns and my chicken Marsala we got minestrone, French bread, salami, green salad, bean salad, pickled vegetables, delicious homemade ravioli and then the entree! I had veggies on the side and Rem had french fries.
The door handles are giant utensils – appropriate for the generous meal. We didn’t finish it all and will have leftover minestrone for a lunch or dinner at Sea Ranch.
Ziplining wasn’t as scary (or uncomfortable) as skydiving. It wasn’t the huge adrenalin rush either, but for me, it was more fun. I’m glad I did both. Here is a necklace I got after skydiving and had in my bag yesterday.
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