Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The most terrifying experience of my life.

If you know me you know that I sometimes exaggerate to extremes. I'll say, for example, "there were a million billion people in line" if a line-up is only kind of long, or I'll say "I had to sit in the waiting room for a hundred years" even though the wait time was no more than an hour. Knowing this, you might think that when I say "the most terrifying experience of my life" I really mean "something I was kind of nervous about". I assure you that is not the case. This experience has no need for hyperbole. When I use the word "terrified" I mean the actual definition which is to be filled with terror, deeply afraid (terror being intense, over-powering fear).

I have always been squeamish around heights (note I said "squeamish" when normally I would say "for me heights is the most frightening thing in the history of time", but I promised no to use hyperbole). Normally when I'm near a high cliff or something, my knees shake a little bit (what a stupid way for my body to react to heights! duh!) .

The magasine my Mom edits for is doing a story on "Family Adventures" so for the last two days me, Mom, and my brother Craig, have been trying out different activities. We did some fun but very tame white water rafting in Barry's Bay near Algonquin Park then drove all the way to Collingwood to the Blue Mountain Lodge to do something called "Treetop Walking". I thought that if you can take your family on the trip it can't possibly be THAT scary. Wrong. Knowing how high a treetop is I should have run for the hills!

First they suit us up in these harnesses. Attached to the harness was a water bottle and, more importantly, a rope with two (what are those clippy things called again Adam?) carbeeners attached to them. I didn't have a lot of time to make friends with my carbeeners before my life depended on them. First, we walked across a nice wide suspension bridge (I say nice and wide because I've come to appreciate the wideness of most bridges) and the guides were chatting about the history of the area and how they made the suspension bridge (with a crossbow, cool!). Then we all (I think there were 11 of us all together plus 2 guides) piled into a tractor (it had a thing attached to it so it could fit 11 people) and were driven to the treetop place.

After learning to use our carbeeners we climbing a staircase two at a time (Craig was my partner) up. We had to attach our carbeeners to cables running above our heads (there are two carbeeners and two cables so if one breaks, supposedly you don't fall to your death). We had to walk along a thin plank (I say "thin" meaning "normal sized for a plank" which is far too thin for this activity). The plank was suspended from ropes which were tied to cables that we could and did use as hand railings. According to the website, we were 50 feet above the ground. I'm not sure of the exact conversion into meters but let me assure you, that is very high. The plank swayed back and forth when people were walking or when the wind blew (so always) and in between the ropes was plenty of room for a person, even one larger than me, to fall through. Being squeamish about heights, I was very scared. My knees were shaky in the extreme and I was close to tears most of the time. We walked the plank until we got to a tree. Then we had to let go of the railing (ah!) unclip our carbeeners (ah!) and reclip them to another set of cables on the other side of the tree. Then we walked the plank to over to another tree and did the same thing again. In total we walked sixteen planks (they were numbered so I know) and came to a platform large enough to comfortably fit thirteen people without terror. Now we had to get down. Another staircase? HELL NO! A zip glide. I watched a bunch of people go first (including Mom and Craig). They had to go down this short flight of steps which ended in mid air, then they had to ease themselves off the stairs while one of the guides (Graham) held them in place with a rope. When they were ready, the guide would yell RELEASING and the person would go zippity do dahing down to the ground from 50 feet in the air. On the ground the other guide(Jen) had this wheely staircase (the kind department stores use) so the person could climb up and their carbeeners could easily be unhooked. Some of you are probably thinking: COOL! which would make you exactly like the guys who were so cocky they swung upside down on the way down. I did not think this was cool. I was extremely squeamish just watching other people do this.

My turn. The guide attached my carbeeners to the rolly thing that was attached to the cable. I climbed down to the bottom step. Being on the steps was scary, but no scarier than walking the plank. The most terrifying experience of my life was actually letting go. I was whimpering so people could tell I was scared. This truck driver who came with his fearless forteen-year-old daughter was cheering me on. I don't know how long I was on the staircase but I felt like I was making everyone wait a long time (I would normally say a hundred years, but no hyperbole today). I couldn't let go. The truck driver told me to step one foot at a time so I stepped one foot off then quickly put that foot back on and stepped off with the other foot. Finally I somehow got both feet off and was gripping the railing of the staircase super tightly. Someone (the guide maybe?) told me to let go of the railing and I did, and put my feet back on the stairs. This went on for a while until I somehow managed to let go with both my feet and hands more-or-less at the same time. I held on to the rope that was attached to my carbeeners that was attached to the rolly thing that was attached to the cable. The guide was holding my rope with another rope. Now that I was in the scary place (I had let go of the thing I had been holding onto for dear life and was amazingly still alive) I just wanted to get down. The guide probably thought I needed time and was all like "Are you okay? Are you ready?" I yelled "Just GO!" and he let go and I went Zippity do dahing down to the ground. I couldn't really enjoy the ride because I was still in shock from the terrifying experience (in fact, I'm still a little shaken from it). By the time I was on the ground I was crying a little bit (not full out bawling because Mr. Spock taught me that it's not proper to show your emotions). Everyone was asking me "are you okay?" but I was on the ground so I was EXTREMELY OKAY. Then we got granola bars and went to look in some caves. I went through this really thin cave called "Fatman's misery" and the fearless forteen-year-old didn't. She was scared and I wasn't. HA!

I don't have any pictures of my terrifying experience yet because we brought a disposable (we were afraid the digi would fall to it's death). But here is a photo of crazy people who actually paid to do this fool thing (click on it to go to the website).


Anonymous said...

Poor Jen, I Think You needed to be warmed up a little doing things like indoor rock climbing where you go a ltittle higher and come back down befoe you get terrified like crazy and before you got stuck in an outdoor adventure trusting yourself to strangers. It's not cool to jump right in.

Eventually I'm sure you can Lick your fear of hights... But maybe not right now.. Just let your nerves settle. Then wee'l start you jumping from a kitchen stool ;)

StoneFlower said...

I'd read about the tree-top walking...granted I love heights and it sounds sooo cool! hope you get over that fear, it can make life a lot easier :-D

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