For the 50+ Traveler

My husband and I enjoy zip-lining; at 72 and 59, we still get a thrill out of gliding through the treetops. We have zip-lined in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Alaska.

When we cruised to Alaska, we had the opportunity to go zip-lining on a cruise excursion in Ketchikan hosted by Rainforest Canopy Zipline.

A New Adventure

Since I don’t zip-line every day, I was excited to soar between the trees in a new location. I have no problem with climbing, heights, and zipping from tree to tree. I look at every zip line as a new adventure.

There were about 25 people on the cruise excursion. When we arrived, they divided us into four groups. Each group was assigned two guides.

The guides spent time helping us gear up, making sure our harnesses and helmets fit properly and were on correctly. Before we began, they provided important safety instructions.

Then we were off to the zip lines. Most of the lines were about 10 to 30 feet off the ground. That wasn’t unusual. Halfway through the zip-line course, however, we came to an unexpected surprise: an obstacle course in the middle of the forest.

The writer and her husband zip-lining.
Robin Smith

The Obstacle Course

The obstacle course was made up of several different challenges. What made it unique was the fact that all the obstacles were 10 to 20 feet off the ground.

While each of these challenges was high above the ground with no net underneath, your harness was attached to an overhead line, so if you made a mistake and lost your balance, you wouldn't fall to the ground. You would dangle from your harness until a guide came to help you.

The obstacle course had four parts. First was the swaying log balance beam. This was a beam made from a log hanging by ropes on each end. You had to keep your balance on the beam while it swayed back and forth from the ropes.

Next, you had to push off hard from the platform to make it to a building about 40 feet away, all while keeping yourself facing forward so that you could push back when you got to the building -- and do so hard enough to zip the whole way back to the starting platform.

Then there was a 25-foot rope bridge from one tree platform to another that was made up of only ropes spaced about 18 inches apart. This challenge required good balance, precise footing, bilateral coordination, strength, and good posture. You had to allow the ropes to spread, forcing you to do a split.

Finally, there was a swinging bridge with 3-inch board slats hanging approximately 24 inches apart. The slats swung back and forth and swayed from side to side.

The Big Decision

We were not forced to participate in the obstacle course challenges. We were given the choice to participate, skip the entire thing, or do parts of it and skip others. We had to stay with the group until everyone who wanted to try the course had completed the challenges, however.

I completed the balance beam portion with no problems, and I was able to complete the second challenge with a tiny bit of help at the end. I was a foot short of the platform.

I was afraid to attempt the rope bridge and the slat bridge, however -- afraid I would fall, afraid I would make a fool of myself, afraid they would have to come rescue me, and afraid I would embarrass my husband and myself.

One man in our group who worked for the cruise line opted not to try most of the obstacles, so I wouldn’t have been the only one passing them up.

I waited until the others had gone and almost passed on the opportunity, but then decided I would regret not trying to accomplish the goal. I have always heard that people regret the things they don’t do more than the things they do.

So in the end, I resolved to go for it.

A swinging log bridge on the obstacle course.
Robin Smith

How It Went

You can do this, I told myself over and over as I took each step on the ropes and swinging slats. I had to remain focused on each step, since any misstep could spell disaster. The spectators shouting from the finish line (even words of encouragement!) didn’t help.

I found the slat bridge to be the most difficult. It took the most focus, strategy, and bilateral coordination.

I knew my progress on the ropes and slats didn’t look at all graceful, but it wasn’t the time to compare myself to others. My goal was to get to the other side, to complete the challenge -- no matter how I looked.

The sense of accomplishment I felt after I succeeded is hard to describe. But it certainly made my day!

What I Learned

Completing the entire obstacle course was empowering, and that sense of achievement made me feel confident that I could take on other challenges and succeed.

Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and try something new, whatever it might be. You just might have the time of your life! And if you ever have the opportunity to try an obstacle course, go for it. You’ll be surprised what you are able to achieve when you put your mind to it.