Featured writer: Steph’s Best
It was a perfectly clear and mild day, about 80°. It seemed like a good day to launch myself out of a perfectly good tree, fly over some deep ravines and lakes, and finish it off by rappelling off a 30(ish)-foot high platform.
So I did that.
And it was full-on, giddy, stomach-butterflying, adrenaline-pumping, permagrin-producing FUN.
The Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours is located in Ocala, Florida. You might be thinking, “canyons?“ There aren’t any mountains in Florida so how are there canyons? Dynamite. That’s how.
The Canyons is built on an old limestone quarry. For some reason I never even realized that we had quarries in Florida and it was a bit shocking to see the width and depth of land that was blasted away years ago. But it actually formed something quite picturesque. The zip lines are a perfect reclamation of this space, you might even call them the “silver lining” to the destruction that occurred back in the day.
I have a terrible fear of heights, as anyone who read my post Sky Fail could attest to. I get shaky legs and vertigo (maybe produce a few fear tears) and all that not-so-good stuff. Despite that, I have wanted to try ziplining for as long as I can remember. I even made it an item on my “bucket list” for 2012. So I was nervous but very excited as we suited up in our safety gear and headed out for our first zip.
Our guides, Pat and José, were super-friendly, funny, and professional. We started with a quick ground-school where we learned proper zip techniques, such as where to put your hands and legs and how to brake (fairly important!) This trial run, in addition to our guides’ clear expertise, went a long way towards easing my anxiety.
But now it was time to try it way up high in the sky.
On the first platform I was slightly daunted by the handrail-lessness of the situation and wrapped my arms around the tree for comfort. At this my guide announced, “We’ve got a tree-hugger over here!” That made me laugh and eased my nerves a little. And once I slid off the platform and started flying through the air my fear vanished because I was totally consumed with how much fun I was having.
Ziplining allows for a bird’s-eye view of the cliffs, sheer rock faces and the beautiful deep blue-green lakes below. It is so exciting to fly through the trees and look around at the scenery as you glide by. The sound that the wire makes as the trolley slides over it is hard to describe. It’s kind of like the longest and LOUDEST continuous zipper ever—so I guess ziplining is aptly named! You can hear what it sounds like (and see me happily zipping) in the video clip below.
I was amazed by my lack of fear throughout the tour. I’d have to say that is a true testament to how safe and secure I felt on the tour. We were never unclipped for more than a few seconds as our guides transferred our carabiner clips from one wire to another.
The only time I experienced a glimmer of panic was on the rope bridge. It was about 200 feet long (but felt more like 2 miles to me) and was suspended between two high cliffs over a deep ravine. The bridge itself was sturdy but one of the jokers on my tour thought it was hilarious to vigorously bounce and shake the bridge as we crossed it.
Because of this, every time I picked my foot up the bridge was no longer in the place I expected it to be when I put my foot back down. I have to admit that I falsely accused Jeb of shaking the bridge because he was laughing.
Me: (Nervous laugh) “Stop babe.”
Me: (Not laughing at all now) “Seriously babe! Stop!”
Jeb: “I’m not doing it!”
Me: “Oh. Sorry.”
What can I say? Fear brings out the blamer in me.
I white-knuckled it across and got there not a second too soon before my legs froze up. My heart was beating wildly by the time I set foot back on solid ground. Our guides said that people either love the rope bridge or hate it. I think we know which camp I’m in.
But I shook it off quickly and was ready for the next zip line, which was a running start off a platform. (Note to couples: If you have ever wanted to tell your significant other to go jump off a cliff while you watch, this would the safest and most pleasant way of doing so.)
The only other moment that gave me pause was the rappel at the end. This required a step-of-faith off a platform while connected only to a rope. I felt a trickle of sweat roll down my back as I approached the edge of the platform. But once I got past that first step, it was literally a smooth and easy ride. I rappel now! Those are words that I never dreamed I would say in this lifetime.
Ziplining offers a perspective like none other in Florida and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever thought of giving it a whirl.
I especially recommend that you try it at The Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours in Ocala. The views were amazing and everyone on the staff went out of their way to make sure it was an enjoyable experience.
P.S. The Canyons has the new Super Zip opening in late November. This will be two wires side-by-side so riders can race each other. It is called the “Super” Zip because you will be harnessed at your back and will fly head-first, Superman style. I’m totally going! Who wants to come with me?