I decided I wanted to zip first. I had made up my mind maybe a week or so before Do-Or-Die-Day that if I was the first person to zip, I could prove that I was more than just a Cowardly Lion holding my tail, and as an added bonus, I wouldn’t have to stand around biting my fingernails as I watched everyone else fearlessly depart for the other side.

I was fortunate enough to embark on this adventure with not only my husband, Greg, in tow, but alongside my good friends the Spidermen (aka Mitch and Kim), who also covered the event as press, for In Park magazine.

As we drove east along the 210 freeway, the last thing on my mind was how scared I was to zip – traffic was threatening to get us to our destination late. Fortunately, we were able to call Navitat Canopy Adventures and assure them that two-thirds of their 12:30 group was not, in fact, chickening out, and we’d be there as soon as possible.

The lunar landscape on the way to Wrightwood was incredible – giant white rocks protruded from the earth on either side of the 15 freeway. Gwen, the voice of our friends’ GPS, nearly took us off course, but soon we were heading into the cutest little mountain town I’d ever seen, with little general stores and a weekend festival we couldn’t wait to hit up after our zip.

Of course, as soon as we entered the Navitat office, we had to sign the liability waivers. Now, I was prepared to agree not to sue them for loss of personal items or (gulp) accidental death, but the laundry list of other things we had to sign that we were okay with included things such as: scrapes, bruises, injuries due to stings or bites from insects and snakes, broken bones, neurological damage, psychological trauma, breathing difficulties – wait, back it up—psychological trauma? Why am I doing this again??

A very serious Jenny gears up

But alas, refusing to sign meant the adventure would never happen, and I had to conquer my fear. Even worse than peeing my pants while ziplining was the thought that I’d be letting you all down by not going through with it. So one John Hancock later, I was standing in the back room waiting to “gear up”. This is when I realized it was actually happening. This whole ziplining thing was no longer just talk, and the denial phase of my emotional breakdown was now over.

There was no time for anger, bargaining or depression. I had to move straight to acceptance, because there was Sean, one of our canopy tour guides, tightening the 10-pound harness to my body. Oh hello, muffin top, there you are.

Along with Sean’s partner in crime, Caley, we met our ziplining companions, Janet and her grown daughter Karen. At a surprising 50 years old (I was sure she was 30), Janet had ziplined twice before but she seemed nearly as nervous as I was. “We got this, Jenny, we got this,” she kept reassuring me.

After we were all geared up, red helmets securely fastened to our heads, it was time to take the Swiss Army Unimog vehicle up the mountain to our zipline site. This 4WD behemoth contained two rows of seats that ran vertically across the open windows, reminding me of every movie I’d ever seen where military men parachute from an airplane. Breathe, Jenny. Just breathe.

The Unimog

We strapped seatbelts around the giant carabineers and prusik knots that hung from our chests, then set off on a bumpy, dusty ride up the mountain. If I closed my eyes, I could have been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.

Karen, Janet and Mitch inside the Unimog

The temperature was approximately 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Clouds of dirt were kicking up from the tires. I couldn’t help but feel like we were all first-time soldiers heading to battle, a mixture of equipment and uncertainty weighing us down as we all silently prayed we wouldn’t tumble over the side of the mountain. However, the sheer delight in Caley’s eyes gave me reassurance that I would be okay.

After our 20-minute Parkinson’s simulation and one brief hike through the Angeles National Forest later, we were standing on our first wooden platform in a tree and Sean was demonstrating body positioning on the line as well as how to brake. And before I could wrap my head around it, he’d sailed across maybe 30 or so feet to the other side.

At this point I was sure my panic attack would start. My heart would start pounding any minute. Nausea would take over. I’d break into a cold sweat. I’d start shaking. My legs would collapse. Cotton mouth would ensue.

I waited in nervous anticipation of all of these things. But none of them came. Caley hooked me up to the line and with my fellow adventurers cheering me on, I gripped the handle bars, took one deep breath, two deep breaths, and picked my feet off the platform. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip! My feet were on the platform on the other side and Sean was reeling me in. Oh my G-d! Oh my G-d! I did it! I DID IT!!!

There I go!

My legs only slightly wobbly, I pumped my arms up in the air in celebration. I was golden. I could totally handle the rest of the day.

But then Sean reminded me how very short, low to the ground, and slow that practice line was. We’d be rappelling from up to 60 feet, crossing lengthy rope ladders and zipping across 1500 feet of pure forest before the day was done.

Ah, there’s that psychological damage they were talking about.

 
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