Zipping In Haleakala
By Katina Pontikes
The brochure seemed wholesome enough.An older man pumps his fist high in the air and sports a gleeful expression as he swings through a forest-like background. The descriptions of the eco-adventure were all delightful in tone, promising fun, originality, and safety. The mention of my safety was the tipoff and should have caused me to reconsider the sport. My husband calls to make our appointment to fly through the trees. He provides our names and contact information, then casually puts his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “How much do you weigh?” he asks, as though this is a routine question.
This may sound incredible, but I had no idea what I weighed. I got rid of my scale years ago. I pause and consider whether this is a life or death question. “Well”, I say with trepidation, “I am one hundred twenty something, give or take 10 pounds.” My husband is horrified. He met me when I weighed less than one hundred ten pounds. His hand still over the handset, his mouth drops open. “You must be kidding me!” I already hate that I’ve been roped into this misadventure.
I think about the weight question all night long. The next morning, very early, we are the first adventurers to arrive at the ranch facility, high in the mountains of Haleakala, Hawaii. The staff is a group of young, rough types, with ruddy skin. I’m betting none of them ever wear sunscreen. We fill out all the insurance paperwork. Basically, it seems like there will be a good chance we will fall from the sky and end up unable to function as human beings or, in an unlikely but possible event, dead. And our heirs will not be able to get a nickel if this happens. We both sign dutifully that maiming and death are perfectly fine options for us on this bright and sunny morning.
As soon as my husband is out of earshot I run up to a female worker. “Will I be weighing in this morning?” She looks me over quickly and answers that it won’t be necessary. I guess if I had said I weighed one hundred pounds, and then waddled in at two or three hundred pounds, this would have been an issue.
Now it is time to review our harnesses. There are straps and buckles galore and a contraption on the webbing above our heads where clicking hooks will attach to the skyline. I wonder what the weight limits are, but I am somewhat consoled when we all use the same size harness. We have to wear helmets. I wonder what good this will do if we are plummeting hundreds of feet to the ground. I think I’d rather have a swift, head-injury death.
After we cover safety procedures we go for our first jump. I watch as the guide attaches me, the fake daredevil soul, onto the thick metal cable. The cable is mounted between two towering, thick trees. He explains that I will run down a ramp, and jump off the cliff. I can see that we are many stories high above a canyon. My palms are perspiring and fear chokes me as I pause and look back at my fellow humans. I hold my breath and run, taking the final leap. I have never felt lonelier than this moment as my feet cut through air and I zip forward to the zinging sound of metal on metal, all alone and high above the earth.