I’m panting so hard and hugging the tree so tightly that my cheek is pressed to the bark and my breath is flicking the strands peeling from this birch tree. I am as afraid as I’ve been in my long life because I am more than 60 feet in the air.
But everything is fine.
I have two wires to get me from my current perch across open air to the tree that’s another 60 feet away: one for my hands to pull me across and one for my feet to tightrope in sync.
Ziplines and aerial games (yeah, they call this ‘aerial games’) have never been in my interest. Not even my bucket list! I’m so afraid of heights I won’t even climb a ladder taller than my forehead. And if you haven’t done one of these courses, there is a point at which once you’re up the tallest tree and cross over to another, your only way down is to complete the course – there’s no turning back.
We actually happened upon this course as an activity available to us once we drove up to Mont Tremblant in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains for a weekend family getaway. Walking some trails, shopping in the touristy village, and watching football while having lunch at the pub were all on the agenda. This was not. But once we saw it, the kids were ‘in’ and for some reason I felt this was a rare and fleeting opportunity I needed to take advantage of.
In hindsight, I know what drew me to climb up and cross over from treetop to treetop for two and a half hours. It wasn’t the security clips attached to my harness and to safety wires every step of the way. It was my family.
If I were with friends, college buddies, or workmates I’m just not sure the bond would have been strong enough to draw me to the next tree. And even though I tuned out their cheers of encouragement so I could focus on putting one foot in front of the other, they were my goal. I kept stepping, pulling, and zipping forward because they were at the next treetop to greet me.
Watching my wife demonstrate how it’s done, watching our 13-year-old son take each challenge with grace, and watching our 11-year-old daughter who was quickly three trees in front almost leaving us in her dust was exactly what I needed.
“Did you conquer your fear, dad?” my daughter asked after one of the highest crossings. “Conquer, no. Realize it? Face it? Yes,” I said delivering each word in its own short breath – again, while hugging tightly. We shared a quick laugh and then we were off to the next ‘game’.
It’s an experience and accomplishment I would not have realized if not for my family. Probably one of many when I stop to think about it.