The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Dot Bardarson
For the LOG 

If Dot can get zipped, so can you


Dot Bardarson's grand adventure ziplining was captured on YouTube, everything from fear to freedom.

Its incongruous. Why would anyone ever want to do that? Well, there are the thrill seekers, and it certainly is thrilling. There are the sightseers, and the view from high up in the trees is certainly awesome. And there are curious, normal people who don't want to be left out of the loop.

I don't know where I fit into those reasons for doing something so insane, but this will remain on my list of my all time favorites as I review my life.

Gearing up is an adrenaline shot in itself as you imagine all the clippings having to go in the right places on the harness to ensure safety. Are they kidding? How on earth can this be safe? Did I say, "How on Earth?" This isn't even earth – its sky high, and believe me, you don't need drugs to get that way when you have a commercial zipline in your own back yard.

Its located at the end of Questa Woods, but you sign up at Terry's Fish House in the harbor, and they shuttle you out to the remote forest with a huge incline. That's where you suit up and get your first practice run on a short, low zip. That's where you learn how to brake and self-rescue.

"Self rescue?" you say. I think I'll go home, but you look around at your group with children, intelligent adults and me at 81, and you say, "Naw! I'm going to see this through. Surely these handsome guides have hooked me up right and besides, fear is all in the head. Right?

Right. And as you ride up what looks like a logging road, you realize you are committed. It's a short walk to the first platform, giving the cables just enough elevation to make it to the next one, way down the hill, but midway up a tall spruce.

Gulp! This is it. There is no turning back now. You are committed, and so you obediently follow instructions and try to grasp all the information available to you while dealing with emotions that you've maybe never had before. The first time you do something is always a mental challenge.

"Why do I always wind up going first?" I say, as clasps are being hooked up to cables and you are reminded once again to put your hand on top of the trolley and your braking hand on top of that for the ride.

"You can go anytime you're ready," she says with perfect confidence, and you look back at the group which is waiting for you to "go." The ride: I think stepping off the platform into thin air is daunting, certainly your decision as you think, "These people know what they are doing. Its all about trust." So you release your foot grip on the edge and away you go. And then you are zipping down a small cable with a buzzing sound, keeping your eye on the guide who is waiting to receive you at the next platform. She signals "brake" and you pull your gloved hand behind your head to press down gently on the cable to slow you down so you can land as gracefully as a butterfly. Well, maybe not that gracefully, but you are in good hands as she grabs you and pulls you in.

Now, you get to watch the next zipliner go through the same emotions, the awe, and the TRUST as they disembark from the beautiful first platform and make a nice landing where you are.

It gets easier as you go along until they throw in a span that is 1,044 feet long and you look at that incredulous distance and once again realize there is no turning back. But you do it, and it's FUN, and you want to share your enthusiasm with everybody, and you are alive, and high, and you have complete faith that you will arrive unscathed in the hands of your skilled guide.

But wait, despite the fact that you pulled your feet up to your knees in a fetal position to reduce friction and maintain the speed you will need to reach the platform, just like they told you to do, you almost make it but her arms are too short, and you slip back on the cable a hundred feet, realizing that gravity is not now your friend and you need to self-rescue.

If you can't remember how, she calmly tells you how, and you flip yourself around and pull yourself up the gently sloped cable to safely arrive backwards to the waiting hands of your patient guide.

You are not alone. This happens to several zippers, and to you again, so you now feel confident and did I say, comfortable, with this maneuver.

There are seven of these ziplines, each boasting a different perspective. Some are relatively short. These are followed by beautifully constructed suspension bridges of wood, cable and rope that wind around through the forest. The more people are on it the more it wiggles, so you find comfort in using some cables as handrails.

Then when you think you're coming to the end, but you have to get down from a platform. You look for a way down and see a cut-out on the edge of the platform with a cable hanging down. "Impossible" I say. "Insane." To me, taking that first step was the most mentally challenging. They tell you to swing your leg around in the open air to land on the other edge so you can position yourself for the ride down the cable. Once on the rappel, its FUN and you could go down another thousand feet, no problem, and there is your guide who has preceded you to help you land.

But there is yet another zip and another rappel. By this time you are confident in every maneuver, because, as I say, its all about trust. They use words like "Self-Rescue" but that's all part of the FUN. I'm glad I had to pull myself in a few times.

The charge for this adventure is not an expense. It is an investment! You will never be the same, and all the better for it.


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