Monday, August 12, 2013

Adventures in #ZipLining - #HarpersFerry #WVA #Travel

I love being scared when the actual risk of danger is relatively small: riding roller coasters, visiting haunted houses, reading (and writing) ghost stories, watching scary movies, etc.  So when my best friend suggested we take our families on a 3-hour zip line “Canopy Tour” in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, I agreed enthusiastically. 
My two boys have inherited this adrenaline-rush-seeking gene from me, and my husband is usually game for anything athletic.  My friend’s husband and her two daughters were on board as well.  After all, the 8 of us had visited the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas together and all tackled the steepest, longest waterslide I’ve ever seen.  If we could do that, we could do this.

We did ask our 19-year-old lead guide if anyone had ever died on the course.  He assured us that had never happened; if it had, the park would no longer exist.  The safety measures they had in place were very impressive.  But once you started that course, you were up in the treetops for the duration—there is no way to get up or down.  So we were told that everyone needed to use the bathroom before hand, because if they have to rappel you down, you are done. 
He and our other guide went through all the possible scenarios and procedures with us, and he probably thought he’d covered any situation.  He said he’d seen it all…but we ended up proving him wrong in the first 15 minutes!
The view from the treetops - 3 states visible: MD on the left, VA in the middle, WVA on the right
Throughout the course, each group has 2 guides with them, one who goes first to help catch you and unclip you as you land, and one who is at the start platform before you go, hooking you onto the line.  In the meantime, you are ALWAYS hooked to a tether on the platform.  So you are always hooked to something, either the center of the platform or the line.  There are 8 tethers plus 2 for guides and that’s the max that can go together.

There I go!
Our group got through the first 2 stations, and then there was a wooden suspension bridge you have to cross, since you’re headed up to a higher platform and a zip line alone won’t work.  So it’s shaky footing but your zip lines are attached to a cable above.

They space you out as you cross.  My friend was well ahead of me when she lost her footing.  She started flying backwards because she was so far uphill at that point.  She could have grabbed any of the stationary ropes along the sides of the bridge, but instead she grabbed her zip line, which of course was moving backwards with her.  Not helpful.  So she was yelling, “I can’t stop” and dragging her heels across the boards to try.
BOTH her shoes came off in this process and fell about 50 feet to the ground.  I had to catch her with my legs to stop us both from continuing backwards.  When we managed to finally get over, the guide asked, “Where are your shoes?”  My friend, who now had only socks and torn up heels, was worried she would hold the group behind us up.  So she said, “Forget it, I don’t need shoes.  I’m fine.”
They never told us we weren't allowed to lose our shoes along the way
But the lead guide said he could not let her continue without shoes.  Since this had never happened, he had to figure out what to do.  In the end, he opened a trap door and rappelled down to the forest floor.  He found her shoes, then had to run back to the start of the course, since there’s no other way up.  He had to zip though (literally), going ahead of others to get back to us.

Meanwhile, we were stuck.  You need 2 guides to move forward (and shoes).  The second guide said the next group might pass us, but I pointed out there were only so many tethers on the platform.  No way could another group of 8 come onto our platform and fit, let alone be tied safely to the platform.  They were stuck too, as was anyone behind them.  So, we held up the entire course for nearly 30 minutes.  Slightly embarrassing.  
Let’s just say we had a lot of laughs, finished the course, and made sure we got out of there before the group behind us made it to the ground.  And our guide got a huge tip.


  1. You have a wonderful family who is so cool because they like trying out fun stuff too. I have encountered families who are always in contrast in terms of ideas or interests but yours is different. I'd like to hear more of your adventures soon. :)

  2. Thank you Rachel! It was a great bonding experience and we look forward to doing it again. Thanks for stopping by!