When one is retired, one can leisurely drink coffee and review the newspaper and various sections that show things to do around the Great State of Alaska. I hardly ever do things here except ride my motorcycle. But this year seems to be the year of touristing in Alaska, doing things I've not done before or often. I've done a bear viewing and flight seeing trip with Hobbs, the musk ox farm (although we did go a long time ago) and volunteering to work with the young musk ox, a hike to Exit Glacier, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. Wow.
Then I read the newspaper Play section one day and there was an article on Alaska ziplines, two of which aren't far away … Talkeetna and the Matanuska Glacier area. Who knew. I immediately knew I wanted to do one or both. A few of us checked on the one near the Matanuska Glacier and made a decision to do it in early September. We also decided to book the ice trekking trip which can be bundled together with the zip. The ice trekking will take us up onto the glacier for a walk about and tour. Geez, I'll probably learn something.
The other zip is in Talkeetna, and while up on a ride, Uncle Glen, Jaz and I checked it out. Jaz and I booked it. It would be nine zips, two suspension bridges and a rapel. Cool. I didn't know for sure what it all would be but it didn't matter. It would be a new and exciting adventure.
The day of the trip, Aug. 28, Jaz and I left Anchorage about 8 a.m. It was cold riding, but a clear day and we knew it would be awesome and fun-filled
We arrived at Denali Zipline Tours and got all signed in, waivers galore, of course. We also had to be weighed and I liked their scale. It was a red for a no go, and green for a go. No nasty numbers on that one. It turned out friends of mine were there and the he-part of the couple was going on the zip along with his daughter and her friend.
|Claudia and Daryl, his daughter and her friend.|
A bus took us about 15 minutes away to the start of the zip. We were all geared up with harnesses, helmets and gloves, and off we went for ground school.
|Jaz and I all geared and helmetted up.|
|I'm showing proper braking with my right hand flat on the wire behind me, exerting pressure to slow myself |
(photo by Jaz).
|Jaz demonstrates the proper protocol for getting to a platform if you are no longer zipping along and need to pull yourself along the line.|
|Jaz zipping along.|
|One of the zipping platforms (photo by Jaz). I'm on the far left.|
Each of us had our harnesses attached to a line on the tree above the platform, and these would be attached at all times except when our guide would remove it to move us to the actual zip line. All precautions were being taken to make sure we didn't fall from a platform. Each of us was reminded to “not touch the shiny stuff”) which was the equipment that attached us.
And then we were off, with our lead guide going first, and our sweep guide positioning us, one at a time, to zip down or across to the next platform. The sweep would come across last.
The first zip was exhilerating, with the wind in my face, in a different manner than that when riding the motorcycle. The zips run through the trees, and it smelled different than running the road. You could see from the tops rather than the bottoms, giving a different perspective to the trip.
Some platforms are higher than others, so you zip along at different heights. For those with a fear of heights, it could be daunting. But it was so much fun. Then we reached the first suspension bridge, which is actually a two-piece bridge. Our lead guide would walk out half-way and then signal for the next person to follow. Again we were attached to a line running above us so there was no chance for someone to fall off the bridge. Shakey, but so much fun. We walked like drunken sailors, from side to side, up and down.
Only two people were allowed on the bridges at a time. This is to lessen the stress on the trees at either end. I asked some questions about the whole zip route. The people who started it (this year is the first year) had looked around the country at various zips. They wanted to use their property for something that would conserve the land and the zips were laid out with that in mind. The area was walked to find the best zip routes, the trees were tested for strength and health, and I was very impressed with the whole operation and the knowledge of the guides.
After a few more zips, we did a rapel from one platform down to a lower one. This involved being attached to a pulley then you had to step over and around so you were backwards, lean out and then at the right moment, “let loose” and be propelled downward to the next platform. The trick was to do it right so you didn't bang your shins on the platform. I do not have a fear of heights, and didn't have a problem trusting my guide to get me down. I did have a problem with doing it properly and ot banging my shins. I had enough of those when I was a kid. Much to my surprise, I did it just right and got down with no damage to my shins or my pride.
Then much too soon, we were at the last suspension bridge, and the last few zips. One is called the “spanker” because it goes through the trees and there had been a couple of branches that would graze people as they went through. I didn't feel a thing. And then the last one, a 600-foot zip across a pond. It was the best one, and we all did our version of a cannonball position to get enough speed to get us to the other side. I twisted my wrists, looking left and right at the view. It was wonderful, and then a perfect landing on the stump on the platform and then … it was over.
A short walk back to the tent where I was unharnessed from my gear, a short ride back into Talkeetna proper, and nothing but the memories.
|Zip, zipping away (photo by Jaz).|
|Safely arriving a a platform.|
|Jaz zipping through the trees.|
|Suspension bridges are not for the weak in the knees.|
|Rapelling from one platform to a lower one.|
|Jaz zipping across the pond, a 600-foot zip.|
|Me zipping across the pond, nearly to the middle (photo by Jaz).|
The adventure was well-worth the money ($149). It was about 3-1/2 hours from the time we signed in and did the waivers until we were delivered back to the office. It was fun, with lots of laughter and a feeling of camarderie with people you did not know before, as well as cementing a bond with people you do know. I'd do it again. In a heartbeat.
It also doesn't hurt that Talkeetna is a cute little town with lots of things to see and some good places to eat. And best of all … we got to ride there.
|Talkeetna, a community with character.|
What's next on the Alaska tourist menu? A trip and stay in Chitina, ice trekking on the Matanuska glacier and the Matanuska zip line and a visit to the reindeer farm, for starters.