I’ll admit it: Even after making the 90-minute drive up to Navitat Canopy Adventures in Wrightwood, and even when I was being strapped into the 12 pounds of harness gear, and eeeeeven when I stared down the length of that first zipline while breathing air so clean it hurt my lungs, there was a part of me that was ready to wuss out.
Fact is, I am pretty much terra firma’s bitch — exxxxtra-terrestrial, so to speak, in that my life-long crush on my physical, foot-planted connection to our earth is practically boundless. Suffice it to say the ground and me, we’re close. Really close. As such it is not often but always with trepidation whenever I intentionally leave its embrace – but certainly not to seek various thrills such as diving into the sky out of a perfectly good airplane, or bungee jumping off a perfectly good bridge. Ziplining though? Hmmmm, now that was something I didn’t immediately have so adamant an adverse reaction to and therefore might be open to consider doing. At least in theory. Some day.
Which turned out to be March 24 when, despite my doubts about turning that theory into action, I took Navitat up on its gracious invitation and went up into that wild forested yonder in the San Gabriel Mountains about 75-miles northeast of Los Angeles and about 7,000 or so feet above sea level. Upon my arrival I was warmly welcomed by Caley Bowman, Navitat’s marketing manager, and soon after signed the requisite waiver absolving her company of all responsibility should I break a nail or a neck.
Soon after, among an assembled group of five other fellow blogger invitees (Andrea, Christine, Debi, Nicole and Bob), we were all harnessed and helmeted and venturing via 4×4 van up a steep and winding and narrow old logging road to eventually stand before that first zipline, where I wasn’t surprised at all to find that earth-bound part of me still looking for the chicken exit. But did I make like a tree and leave? Did I “bough” out ungracefully? Oh hell no. Me and my inner adrenaline junkie clipped in and went up, up and away for the ziplining rides of my life.
Ten ziplines, in fact, ranging from 200 feet to more than a quarter mile in length. In addition, the roughly four-hour tour of the 7,500-foot-long course spread over an exquisitely scenic 300 acres includes a set of sky stairs, three sky bridges, and three rappels, along with all the amazing and gorgeous scenery and vistas your eyes could eat.
Here’s my helmetcam video of me on that aforementioned quarter-mile span starting at the Muir platform and ending with me having to pull myself in a few feet short of the Santa Ana platform, after which guide Lexie sails on in and shows us all how it’s done:
Navitat Canopy Adventures originated in the Blueridge Mountains north of Asheville, NC, opening in May 2010. The company’s second facility in Wrightwood is just shy of being brand spanking new. Situated on private property that borders Angeles National Forest, the site opened last July for a partial season. Its first full season literally opened yesterday and will continue seven days a week (rain or shine) into November. Groups (at a maximum of eight people) depart at approximately 20-minute intervals.
There are several commitments made by Navitat that made this experience so much the more enjoyable. First and foremost is the company’s absolute priority towards safety. Whether standing on a platform 50 feet up a tree or flying through the air at 50 mph 300 feet above the forest floor, there is not a single moment when you’re not redundantly secured to something. You couldn’t fall even if you wanted to. Complementing the obviously well-thought-out safety systems, is the personnel. I was at all times in the care and encouragement of two exceptional people — our guides Joe and Lexie. Not only is this dynamic duo highly skilled in handling all the equipment, but they’re damn good at dealing with slightly skittish people such as myself as well. Second is the company’s conscientious attention to details. Striving to limit its impact and be as minimally invasive as possible, the Navitat course not only leaves a small imprint on the pristine landscape, but utilizes installation methods and materials that are the least intrusive to the majestic trees involved. Last but not at all least is Navitat’s focus beyond the inherent thrills involved. The Navitat experience is about both physical and mental stimulation. Both guides, well-versed on the area’s environment, history and culture, dropped interpretive knowledge upon us regularly, whether it was about the species of tree we were standing in, the indigenous fauna, or the geology of the region. Let’s just say that Navitat strives to make you see the forest for the weeeeeeeeeeees!
From this total noob’s standpoint, the beginning of the course is set up entirely with me in mind. Rather than flinging me from zero to screaming 800-feet across a deep ravine to start, the first four lines grow gradually longer from the shortest length (200 feet), allowing me to build a confidence and familiarity that helped make launching myself into the void along the much faster fifth zipline — literally 30 stories up in the air — seem almost old hat.
In the end it was something I know I’ll want to do again, in large part because I didn’t quite entirely believe I’d actually done such an amazing and incredible thing.
Here I am as Lexie sends me out onto the final zipline of the day and Joe pulls me in at the other end:
And a few more pictures from throughout the glorious day:
Christine’s husband Bob comes in for a nice landing at the second zipline.
Joe at the base of the sky steps.
Dwarfed by the breathtaking scenery, Debi launches down the sixth zipline.
Debi (left) looks on as Lexie (right) preps a pensive Nicole for departure at the eighth zipline.
The two-section skybridge that’s traversed between the sixth and seventh ziplines.
Joe watches as Andrea brings it home like a pro.
Christine enjoying the moment.
Apres-zip, the badass bloggers are all here back at Navitat HQ: Back row (left to right) Bob, Debi (goexplorenature.com), Lexie, Andrea (savvysassymoms.com) and Joe. Front row: Will, Nicole (thetrendtribe.com) and Christine (examiner.com). Photo by Caley Bowman.
WHAT: Navitat Canopy Adventures
WHERE: 6047 Park Drive, Wrightwood, CA 92397
WHEN: Opened March 31 and continuing into November, seven days a week (rain or shine), 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
COST: Adult, $109; Youth, $99
CONTACTS: 855.628.4828; firstname.lastname@example.org (also on: Facebook and Twitter)