Last week I had been to Smoky Mountains in the Tennessee State in the US with my husband and friends. The trip was divided into 2 major parts – the fall color sight seeing and the adventurous zipline. This article predominantly covers my nerve wrecking zipline story!
A little Background
Those who know me are aware how timid I am and how I run away from anything that is even a little daring. You also know that I have fear of heights. Now imagine me doing a Zipline course which had 2 very wobbly bridges and 7 ziplines, the fastest moving at 55 mph and longest being 1500 feet and at a height of almost 200 feet. Not being able to digest this, right? Me too.
The First Step
Ever since we decided to do zipline at the Smoky Mountains, I have been practicing it in my mind till the point we actually went there. We had chosen Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park as our wings provider who promised to make us fly with their renowned ziplines. The zipline course makes sure you do not set your foot on the ground and till the 7 zipline course is done you are either on a zipline, a bridge or on a platform high from the ground level. We were introduced to our guides who were Chasse and Luke. They helped us with the harness and gave us the basic information and we started walking towards our first bridge. At every step forwards I was feeling like going back. The first obstacle was a wobbly bridge which was hardly any long. And guess what?? I started cringing there itself. I just could not take a step ahead and Luke came up to me from the other end and gave me his hand till I completed the first obstacle.
The Real Zipline Adventure
From the second point onwards started the ziplines. The first one was a very short one. I was 5th in the queue and as everyone was jumping off, my mind was racing and my feet started trembling. Until it was my turn. I got up on the elevated platform with Chasse checking all the adjustments on my harness. And I just could not go ahead. It was scary and my mind was fogged with all images of me falling off. Every time I took one step, I took 2 back. My husband Sujoy was calm and motivating me from behind, my friends who had crossed the zip were shouting from the other end and yet I just could not do it. Tears started rolling from my eyes and I was pleading Sujoy to let me not do it and go back. Sujoy did not budge by that, as you know he is accustomed to my tears and crying and panic attacks during such occasions. I was there for almost 10 minutes with the heavy feeling of me being a big inconvenience for all the other people around, delaying unnecessarily. And yet I could not go ahead. Finally I decided that I will go last and let others go before me.
When the time came again to go. I was still very nervous. After spending 10 minutes again amidst uncertainty of taking the plunge or not, I asked Chasse if he can come with me. Chasse agreed, but he said I can just hold your arm. I very innocently asked, “Can I hold you instead?” He agreed and there I was flying for exactly 10 seconds holding tightly to Chasse with my eyes shut completely.
It was the turn of the second zip. I was last. I could not do it again. Chasse was trying to explain it to me scientifically stating the weights of all the harness components saying this rope weighs 200 tonnes, this piece weighs 22 tonnes and many other parts which will hold me tightly. But my brain was too cloudy and it refused to take any scientific data and process it logically. The height was making me dizzy and I could not go beyond the safety of the stable spot we were currently. So yet again, I came with Chasse holding him tightly but this time keeping my eyes open.
The third zip was the last one in this series and after this we had to go up the mountain in an ATV and start the longer and faster ziplines. I spent 20 minutes at this spot saying I can’t go alone. But this time Chasse said, “If you cannot do it alone on this zipline then I am afraid you won’t be able to go ahead. As the next ziplines are longer and considering safety constraints you cannot tag along with me from this point. You have to do it alone”. There was a point when I had decided that I am going back and not doing it. Chasse explained it to me that I cannot go back via the zipline course as the ziplines work in just one direction. The only other way is to get a vehicle and put a rope on the platform where we were right now and get me down to ground via that rope. I started thinking then which one was scarier, the rope act going down or the zipline going across. Trust me, it was one of the most difficult decisions to make!
The Moment of Truth
As I was pondering over my options, I saw Luke coming from the other side of the zipline. He was coming in the opposite direction and he literally pulled himself with his hands over the zipline to come to the point where I had stranded Chasse along with me. He came up to me and said. “I am going back now and you have to start after 5 seconds once I go back”. I did not understand the logic behind this but the fact that he came up the opposite side on a zipline just to talk to me and convince me made me feel that I should atleast give it a try. Sujoy and my friends on the other side had given up on me and they were sure even if I come, this time also I will come with Chasse.
But you know what? I looked at Chasse, then on the other side and let myself off in the air! I did my first zipline alone which was the longest till now and also deeper than the earlier two. After the first 5 seconds, I was free in the sky looking around at the beautiful fall colors. It was a liberating experience as if I let go off all my fears and apprehensions. As I was approaching the other end, everybody down there were pleasantly surprised. I could see Sujoy’s smiling face and my friends cheering for me. Even the ones who were not with us were saying “She did it!”. A very homely couple who was also a part of our zipline group hugged me and said “Well done”. It was a moment of triumph for me and more so for everyone around as they wouldn’t have to wait at every point for me to come from now on.
From that point on, it was an easy task and I completed the zipline course successfully without falling off or halting between zips. The fastest one was 55 mph and I could feel the speed in the air lashing my face. The longest one had a beautiful view with streaming water, fall colors and magnificent landscape. Once I did the first zip on my own the next zipline course finished in a jiffy.
I owe it to Chasse and Luke for making me atleast try and attempt to do the zipline all by myself. I had 2 super heroes in my life that day – Chasse being Tarzan and carrying me safely from one tree to another with him and Luke being the spiderman trailing on the zipline in the opposite direction just to come up to me and talk me into taking the plunge. If it hadn’t been for Foxfire Mountain’s encouraging staff, I really doubt if I would have dived off into the air. They had nothing to lose, the money was already paid and they didn’t have to do so much for someone who was not even ready to try! Can’t thank them enough! 🙂
Not to forget my friends and especially Sujoy for being calm as always and encouraging me till the end. I am really lucky to have him in my life, he is my support system. I had to get on my knees yet again at the Prosperity Bridge which is the longest hanging bridge in the US and propose.
I laugh at all the drama I did that day. All of us had a hearty laugh remembering the small small incidents. I was told that at one of the points they were waiting 20 minutes for me and my friends discussed about what to eat for lunch and dinner later as I gave them a lot of time to plan the remaining day. One of my friends said that it was all scripted – how could she just write on her blog that I went to do zipline and did it in the first go. The blog should have some spice and hence all the melodrama. Sujoy said Monty who was our ATV driver who was supposed to take us from the third zipline to the higher point for the longer ziplines was bored waiting for us to come and he could not understand why is it taking so long today. Sorry Monty! I feel stupid right now for being such a meek person, but I am proud that I at least tried it.
Bottom line is – Take the plunge in life 🙂