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I was peacefully sailing in the middle of the crystal blue Pacific Ocean when I decided to go zip lining. This past summer I was on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary. During the cruise we stopped at four different ports along the Alaskan border. On the sixth day our ship stopped in Ketchikan. While we were in the ports for about 10 hours, we could get off the ship and walk around. There are also different shore excursions to go on. I had already gone to a dog sled camp, and wanted to do something more exotic! After looking at many options for shore excursions, we decided we wanted to try a more exhilarating activity for our final trip to shore. We chose zip lining! I was extremely excited! Little did I know then, there was many trust and fear issues behind the zip lining expedition!
My family walked off the ship and waited for the tour bus to take us to our destination. I was hoping for excellent weather. On our cruise we learned that Ketchikan is the rainiest city in Alaska and it rains more than 300 days a year. Finally the tour bus came and we hopped on. We only had to travel about five miles, but straight up the side a mountain. Our bus driver had to radio ahead before we could climb the steep and winding road up the mountain. It was a one lane road and if another bus came down from the top of the mountain, we would have to back the super long tour bus all the down the steep road.
After we made it to our destination near the top of the mountain we hopped off the bus. The tour guide was waiting for us. We had to board a monster jeep. To get inside the jeep, we had to climb up a ladder! The monster jeep was designed to travel over the rough and rocky terrain and bring us to the top of the mountain. Five minutes later, we had arrived at the top. We climbed out of the monster jeep and quickly down the ladder. By this time, I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into! I could tell this was going to be one interesting adventure!
At once the tour guide took us into a building where we had to drop all of our personal belongings into a plastic tub. My dad, brother, and I were each given a harness and instructed on how to use it. We were also fitted for a helmet to protect our head. Our instructors showed us how to fasten our cameras to our harnesses. Then they put us into groups. My dad and brother Charlie were in my group, along with two middle-aged couples who were friends and traveling together, a dad with his teenage son, and another middle-aged couple who were traveling alone.
Next, it was time to get the drill from our instructors. One of instructors, Molly, had been doing this for a long time. She was training in our other instructor, Jake, who was brand new to the job. They led us out to our first post, which was right next to the building. We huddled on a small wooden platform about 70 feet off the ground. Our instructor Molly told us the most important information we needed to know: Put your left hand on top of the metal piece that ran on top of the rope/zip line. This would help keep us upright. The metal piece was attached to our harness and rope. Our right hand was to hold the rope that we were dangling from. This would help keep us facing forward. We were told it was dangerous to be going sideways. If we put our left hand before the metal piece, the metal piece which glides along the rope, would run over our hand. They told us this would hurt more then we could imagine because we were going to be going at speeds of more than 60 mph!
Our task was to be zip lining from one post to another, one at a time. Our instructor Molly would go first, then we would go in any order. Once we were close, within 10 feet, of the next post, we would have to stop ourselves! This is going to be tricky! I thought to myself. We had to put our hand behind the metal piece on the rope, NOT BEFORE! When we put our hand behind, it would slow us down, and make us able to come to a somewhat stop before hitting the tree that the posts were built around. We had gloves on our hands to protect us from rope burn. Molly told us once we reached the post, she would help us move our carabineers and metal piece from one rope to another, around the tree. We had to stay at that tree until everyone arrived, then we would start another line.
Soon, Molly was the first one to go. Once she reached to the next post, 100 feet away, she radioed back to Jake, telling him it was safe to proceed. Lucky me, I was the first one to glide off the platform! They chose me because I was the youngest! Immediately I thought, Let someone else go, and show me how to do it! I had to climb up onto two wooden blocks that would help Jake hook me into the line that was going to take me to Molly. These blocks would also help me to glide off from the post, and not have to jump. I stepped up onto the wooden blocks, and before I knew it, I was soaring through the trees, and the open sky! I literally felt like I was flying! I could hear faint voices trailing behind me, "There she goes."
I felt the wind in my face and felt I had no weight! Soon though, it was time to put on the brake. I thought quickly in my head the steps they taught us. For a split second I panicked, but then began to swiftly brake. For those of you wondering, I didn't hit the tree, not that time anyway.
I stopped and Molly asked, "How was it?"
I'm sure she could already tell by the huge grin on my face. "That was an amazing experience, one of the best!" I shouted.
Next was my dad and brother, followed along with the other people in our group. Soon there was only one person left, Sheri. Sheri had come with her husband and another couple they were friends with. Her husband had barely came across and then immediately told us Sheri was scared. He said he came across to 'show her how to do it!' I am thinking, there is no way this woman is going to face her fear and come across! Immediately Molly told us we needed to cheer her on. I felt kind of weird at first cheering for a middle-aged woman to face her fear of heights and flying, Sheri, who was obviously scared out of her mind gave no reply. Finally after minutes of convincing, we saw her come closer to the tree we were on. She made it to the tree and was shaking. She immediately grabbed hold of the tree in the middle of the platform, and told us she was crying, but the wind blew away her tears.
After Molly, I took my next turn, and along with the others (with our help of course, to convince Sheri!) Although that ride was even better then the first, the next one was going to be more exciting! This was the third zip line, and it was also the longest. Molly went first and started screaming halfway through. This made me frightened along with the others. Although, she radioed back: "OK, next!" I was still afraid. I went and found that where she screamed there was a clearing. I looked down and saw a gigantic brown creature standing by a creek. I was going extremely fast, and I was over 130 feet up in the air. Things were blurry, but there was no mistaking that what I saw was a fat, furry brown bear looking up at me. Let me tell you, this creature was an enormous BEAR! It was eating a fish straight out of the creek. I could feel a breeze of wind in my eyes because I'm sure they went wide! WOW, that's a bear, that's a bear, wow, uh....that's a bear! Is what I kept thinking!
I could not stare too long, because I would have to start braking soon. Once I reached the tree, I exclaimed, "Did you see that?"
"Yes, it was the first time I ever saw one while zip lining!" Molly replied.
Before she radioed back, I told her to tell my dad, who had the camera, to take a video. When she radioed back, she gave my dad instructions, but she didn't tell him what to look for! When my dad came across, I saw the look on his face that told me he had seen the bear! Plus, he managed to get it on video. When we radioed we obviously made sure Sheri didn't hear because she would not have come across if she knew a bear was below us, even if it was way far down.
After a while, we finished the next 10 zip lines. Sheri was actually relaxing and having a great time, along with the rest of us. As we were going on the last zip line, our picture was taken! Once we reached our final post, I was sad because I wanted to do more, but I was happy to have the experience. Once everyone was at the last post, we had to walk down 60 stairs. There was a line that ran down, to keep us attached with our rope. We still had to go in order, otherwise we would get in a huge tangle. Once we reached the ground, Sheri kissed it!
Finally, everyone went into a building to see our pictures and look at souvenirs. They told us that we could sign up to receive free medals. Just last week I received mail from Alaska, it was the medals. We each looked at the funny pictures that were taken, and talked about our experience. As we waited for our tour bus, we shopped in the gift shop and talked to Molly and Jake about the bear.
At the beginning I was scared and excited, but throughout the experience I calmed down and had a wonderful, thrilling time. I now look at adventures as activities I can do to add excitement to my life. I will also remember how encouragement to someone can help them overcome their fears. I feel proud of myself because I had an excellent time! I learned I can try new experiences and face challenges 130 feet above the ground, going 60 mph!