State officials, park employees and members of the media were offered the opportunity to preview Delaware's first zip line treetop adventure course today on the eve of its opening tomorrow morning at Lums Pond State Park in Bear.
As a member of the afore-mentioned media, I luckily drew the short straw to test out the course while getting a few photos and videos. It's a hard life but somebody has to do it, right? I'm an adventurous sort but that doesn't mean that my heart didn't drop a little when I saw the first narrow rope ladder leading to a platform about 40 feet high.
The course, operated jointly by Go Ape USA and DNREC'S Division of Parks and Recreation, spans seven acres and five zip lines, four of which fly participants over Lum's Pond. There's work involved to get to the zip lines, though. First you must navigate several treetop obstacle courses that include rope ladders, "Tarzan swings," suspended bridges and trapezes.
"We are so excited to come to Delaware and bring with us some of the longest zip lines Go Ape has anywhere in the U.S.," said USA Managing Director for Go Ape Dan D'Agostino. "Because of its water features, Lums Pond State Park is the perfect location to create the first zip lines to cross a body of water in a state park."
I don't think D'Agostino is alone in his excitement. My group included other reporters, photographers and park employees and everybody was itching to get into a harness for some high flying.
Here's how my first zip line experience panned out and what you should expect:
1. How much does it cost? It's $55 per adult and $35 for children 10 to 17 years old. Is it worth it, you ask? Well, the course itself takes several hours to complete and includes adrenaline rushes, bird's eye views of the park and a pretty decent workout. It might get pricey for a large family but it's hard to put a value on memories. But, remember to check into discounts. Go Ape offers several kinds, including reductions for military members, teachers, large groups and more.
2. How athletic do you have to be? I would say that most anybody can do it. At times, though, I regretted my laxidasical attitude about the gym. I don't think you'd look at me and pick me last for your team but you wouldn't pick me first either. The hardest obstacle was the second one (the first obstacle and zip line is really just a training exercise) as it involved this giant net that you have to swing into before climbing over to a platform. I have little upper body strength and not only was I made keenly aware of this but so were to poor suffering souls who had to wait behind me.
Page 2 of 3 - I also want to calm the nerves of anybody worried about the weight requirement. The weight limit for the course is listed as 285pounds. I'm nowhere near that but I've also never been described as lithe either, if you know what I mean. Since I'm a little "top heavy," I was given both a waist harness and a chest harness. Still, I was nervous that when I stepped out onto the first "tight rope," my diet choices would could back to haunt me when it snapped beneath me. It did not. It didn't even sag. The same went for the rest of the obstacles. So, don't let your weight keep you from trying it out.
3 What if you're scared of heights? I wouldn't say that I have a fear of heights but, like most people, my stomach lurches if I think about it. Here's the thing-you are so busy navigating your way through the obstacles, you don't really have time to look down. When I was on the ground, I kept thinking, "There's no way I'm going that high." But, once I was up there, the height never occurred to me again. At least until I got to the zip line. But, the zip line is the reward and by that point, I didn't care.
4 Do you get a lot of training? There's a 30 minute training session before you are turned loose into the trees. Pay attention. It's a lot of hooking and unhooking of the safety harnesses but by the second obstacle, you feel almost like a pro.
5 What will I do differently next time? That's right. I'm already plotting "the next time." Not only did I learn from my mistakes, I took in what other people were saying as well. First, shorts aren't necessarily the best option. The harness makes them ride up and I heard a couple of people say that the landing was a bit rougher with them as well. I wore knee-length leggings and they worked out perfectly. Don't wear anything that can't get dirty or stained. I came in backwards on almost every landing, which means that my whole backside was covered in the finely shredded mulch blend that cushions your landing at each zip line. Also, I would probably wear gloves of some kind to ward off some of the soreness (and baby blisters) on my hands. Finally, I will leave my camera and sunglasses behind. I almost lost my glasses on the fourth zip line. The camera just got in the way. For the first couple of obstacles, I had to concentrate on it as much as what I was doing. In my case, I needed pictures for work. However, next time, I will leave it behind and just make memories. That's the point anyway, right?
Page 3 of 3 - For more information about the course, including cost, hours of operation, parking and more, visit goape.com/zip-line/delaware-lums-pond-state-park.