Zip-A-Dee? Doo-Dah!

Flying on a zipline at Mountain Creek proves fear is in the thinking, not the doing.

An adventurer soars solo at Zoom Ziplines at Mountain Creek.
Courtesy of Zoom Zipline

Even as I approach a landmark birthday, I continue to refuse the cliché of a bucket list. Instead, I am committed to saying yes to new opportunities. So despite a lifelong fear of heights, when the folks at Mountain Creek invite me to try the resort’s Zoom Ziplines, I think: fat chance, but agree to give it a shot.

To prepare for my excursion, I have devised a can-do mantra: DON’T. THINK. ABOUT. IT. As I make the hour-long drive to the northeast corner of Sussex County on a slightly gray October day, the fall foliage proves to be the perfect distraction.

Arriving at Zoom, I am introduced to five other 30- to 40-something men and women with whom I will share this adventure. Each of us will be pinned to a steel clothesline that will carry us 1,040 feet up and 2,000 feet across forest and lake.

The crew at Zoom is great. Two female guides school us in safety. A few in my group have zip-lined before. One couple zipped through a Belize rainforest—a tour that included a fast-paced trek through woods and a rock climb up a mountain to the launch point. They assure me that today’s zip will be a breeze.

Fifth in line for the practice run, a mere 10 feet off the ground, I chant my mantra and take deep breaths. At the front of the line now, I fasten my helmet and plop into the seat, placing my hands on the grab bar. A guide clamps the huge C-shaped hooks of my gear to the cable. From this height, a fall would embarrass, but not maim. I whiz off, and before I have time to panic, it’s over—about 15 seconds. I feel exhilarated.

Next comes the real thing. We ride the rickety ski lift—an open cable car that itself triggers fear—up to the 12-foot octagonal platform. The car creaks and clacks upward, like it is going to die. My exhilaration fades. A new mantra rings in my head: I’M SO NOT DOING THIS.

On the launch pad, my heart is hammering. The guides, having seen it all, offer reassurance. The group queues up, pushing me forward. “You’re going first,” I am told. Au contraire. But I let the guide hitch the cables. The group chants my name and cheers. Oh, the pressure! I step gingerly to the edge, refusing to look down. “When you’re ready,” one guide says. Excuses run through my head. I left the stove on. I promised my ailing mother I would never do anything this foolish. I forgot to feed the cat.

But there’s no turning back.

Off I go, eyes closed. After a moment, I notice that I feel strangely secure—and relieved. I’m doing it! There is a pleasant rush of wind against my face and limbs. I open one eye, then the other, peering down at the trees. I am gliding above a beautiful blur of burnished autumn leaves. At this height, the once expansive lake is diminished to a placid little pond. I feel alive. My anxiety has disappeared.

Too soon it is over and I’m back on solid ground. I’ve faced down a fear—without landing face down. I feel the urge to pat myself on the back, or somehow register this adventure in the log of my life—a win for me.

Perhaps I’ll make that bucket list after all:

1. Go zip lining—again.

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