Never Too Old For The Circus

By Jane Cassie

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When I was seven, I had high hopes of joining the circus. My dad even installed a trapeze in our basement to pacify this childhood whim. But that was a number of decades and 100 or so pounds ago. Today, in my pre-golden years, as I teeter on the edge of Whistler's Zip Trek platform, I'm not as certain that I'll soar through the air with great ease.

"Just hang on and enjoy the ride," I'm told, nonchalantly, by my two fun and very fit young guides. Marcus and his counterpart, Marc, are as carefree as they come, and although I'll be careening high above a deep valley gorge that bisects Whistler and Blackcomb, they make it sound like a simple swing in the park.

As well as shelling out tips on aerodynamics, they've provided running commentaries about local ecology, wildlife and sustainability. Before taking this leap of faith, I've learned about pileated woodpeckers, inspected the bark of old growth hemlock and explored our eco-friendly surroundings. The canopied Treetrek Trail, linked by boardwalks and suspension bridges, is the perfect forest alternative for families with young children - or more mature folks who have second thoughts about swinging like Superwoman across Fitzsimmons Creek. And while my heart palpitates and the thunderous water tumbles 80 feet [24.4 m] below, I'm seriously considering staying on this side of the ravine with the scaredy-cat crowd. Then I remember why I'm taking this aerial flight.

I've come to this Olympic playground with my daughter for a little bonding and adventure time. Although I had had pre-conceptions of swinging a golf club or doing a little hiking, at the active age of 30-something, she was zeroing in on escapades that produced a tad more adrenaline.

"Let's try rap jumping," she had suggested, when we first arrived. Upon elaboration, I discovered that this face forward, free fall off the summit of Whistler involved a harness, ropes and a breaking device. My pulse rate immediately doubled and I quickly declined. Her next proposition, Via Ferrata, would take us on a climb to one of the pristine peaks, but not the traditional way. Instead of hoofing the hills, we'd be ascending on steep ladder rungs. I'm not sure why Italians gravitate to this "Iron way" of hiking, but it's sure not up my aging alley. Finally, she recommended Zip Trekking, a year-round air-obic adventure that's suited for both greenhorn and guru, young kid or old. The mention of this high-wire act conjured up an instant flashback of my youth: Both of my legs were tightly curled around my trapeze bar and while madly swinging face down, I was yelling out to my wide-eyed sister, "Me Jane, you Tarzan!" (A catchy statement that not many people can truthfully claim!)

"It can even be done in the dark with headlamps," my daughter added, taking me out of my daydream trance. "And there are two levels of intensity. While I'm on the more extreme Eagle, you can be trying the gentle Bear Tour."

How hard could it be, I wondered. If it's anything like re-learning to ride a bike, I'd be a pro. I had quickly agreed to this sensational soar before she could come up with any other hair-raising antics.

Now, while I'm guided on this tour "for the fainter of heart," my thrill-seeking daughter is soaring like a bird. Her scream extreme not only boasts a lengthy zip span of 2,000 feet [610 m] but also drops down 20 storeys. It rips and zips all the way from the heart of this coastal rain forest to Whistler Village and our Pan Pacific Mountainside retreat (where I'd rather be hot-tubbing!).

But instead, while wedgie-harnessed, wired up, and feeling oddly like Tinkerbell, I'm heading into no man's land. Like the revolutionary PEAK 2 PEAK gondola that bridges the gap between these two scenic summits, I'll be doing the same - just a lot closer to sea level. 

"Whenever you're ready," Marcus encourages, after clipping a final carabineer to my zip line. With both eyes shut tight, I step off the final stair and into big, big air. And before I have time to think, I'm rocketing through space and broadcasting my loudest rollercoaster roar. It's a thrilling, exhilarating experience, yet while cocooned by this section of untouched forested terrain I feel surprisingly calm. I reach the second platform and I'm anxious to fly again. On zip number three, I'm smiling for the camera. By the fourth, I'm going hands free. And shortly after my fifth and final take-off, I'm zipping flip side, trapeze style, and reliving my childhood dreams.   

Ziptrek Eco Tours Inc
Tel: 1-866-935-0001
Admin: 604-935-4102

Tourism Whistler


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