Written by the Warrior
Recently, I read a book by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson, called “A Walk in the Woods“. What I meant by “one of my favourite authors”, is that I have read 2 of his books.
I became a fan while reading his book on Australia called “In a Sunburned Country“, while backpacking across Australia in 2003.
As a travel writer, Bill Bryson projects in his books a very self-deprecating humour and a view of the world from someone who is not super human. As someone who struggles mighty to the demands of travel, I related perfectly to his point of view.
This is not a review of his book, but rather, I wanted to use his much more brilliant words to describe a recent experience of mine.
“A Walk in the Woods” is a narrative recount of Bill Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. According to his book “Running more than 2,100 miles along America’s eastern seaboard, through the serene and beckoning Appalachian mountains, the Appalachian Trail is the granddaddy of long hikes.”
About a year ago, my friend and colleague Julie mentioned to me that she was planning on going zip lining.
The first time I went zip lining, was in 10th grade, during a weeklong wilderness field trip in Strathcona Provincial Park in Canada’s province of British Columbia.
I was not much of a fan of high school, but the field trip to Strathcona was one of my favourite memories and likely played a key factor in shaping my nature loving paths the last few decades.
The zip lining itself, I remembered to be super awesome, the experience of flying across treetops, the wind in my hair, the rush of adrenaline… I thought to myself, what a great idea! – I’m going zip lining too.
I called up my friend Jill, my go-to-gal-pal-in-adventure to see if she would want to come with me. She tells me “yes.” (Of course!). Then she mentioned that it is very physically demanding.
Jill is among the 3 people that I have ever met that are in the league of the super humans. She can bike across Canada and then run a full marathon – in the same day and not even break a sweat. So right there and then, I should have known better.
But, I didn’t.
A few days later, we found ourselves at the Aerial Park of Camp Fortune, about 30 minutes northwest of Ottawa, located in a beautiful wooded area.
Zip lining at Camp Fortune is not just zip lining. One must navigate a series of increasing difficult obstacles courses at 10m in the air in order to get to a zip line.
“The precise length of the Appalachian Trail is a matter of interesting uncertainty… What is certain is that it is a long way, and from either end it is not easy.” [Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods]. That is how I would describe the 3 to 4 obstacle courses to get to a zip line. At 10 m in the air, walking along a tight rope with nothing but a Tarzan rope swing to hold onto, a few meters seems like a long way away.
“Every year between early March and late April, about 2000 hikers set off from Springer… no more than 10 percent actually make it.” [Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods]. While that statistic is higher for zip lining, a fair number of people quit partially through.
Why did they quite?
“It was hell. First days on hiking trips always are. I was hopelessly out of shape – hopelessly. The pack weight way too much. Way too much. I had never encountered anything so hard, for which I was so ill prepared. Ever step was a struggle” [Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods]. That was precisely how I felt. Everything was harder at 10 m in the air. I remember my entire body was shaking with fear – fear of heights, fear of falling and fear of having to get back on course should I fall. At some point, someone yelled, “when am I going to start having fun?!?!”
“The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant despairing discovery that there is always more hill… Every time you haul yourself up to what you think must surely be the crest, you find that there is in fact, more hill beyond… until it seems impossible that any hill could run on this long.” [Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods]. And every time you are done with the hardest zip lining obstacle route ever, the one that pushed you beyond your physical and mental limit, you turn the corner and encounter one that is even harder than the last one.
If your are wondering whether zip lining is worth a try.
“When, after ages and ages, you finally reach the tell-tale world of truly high ground… you are, alas, past caring. You sprawl face down on a sloping pavement of gneiss, pressed to the rock by the weight of your pack… reflecting in a distant, out-of-body way that you have never before looked this closely at lichen, not in fact looked this closely at anything in the natural world since you were four years old… Finally, with a weary puff, you roll over, unhook yourself from your pack, struggle to your feet, and realize – again in a remote, light-headed, curiously not-there way- that the view is sensational… ” [Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods]
Once you get to the zip line after pushing yourself beyond your physical and mental comfort zones, the sheer exhilaration of flying cross the air is sensational!
1 hour and 50 minutes later, I landed on the last zip line platform. I was utterly exhausted and totally exhilarated. So much so that I even introduced the sport to the Dragon and the Tiger Princess.
We went to the kids Aerial Park at Arbraska, about 30 minutes north of Ottawa.
How did they do? They did great, one went all the way and one quite part way through.
How did they feel, the same way as Bill Bryson.
Some of us, are not super human, but that doesn’t stop us from hiking the Appalachian Trail.