« Universal Orlando's new Spider-Man is indeed amazing | Main | Road trip attraction: Legoland's new water park opens »

Road trip attractions: Zip lines at Florida EcoSafaris

IMG_5433“I don’t think I can do this,” I told the fellow adjusting my harness. My stomach was knotted with fear.

“You don’t have to do anything,” he said. “Just pick up your feet and you’ll go without doing another thing.”

We were standing on a platform 70 feet above the ground at Forever Florida, about 45 miles south of Orlando. I wore a helmet that would do me absolutely no good if I fell those 70 feet, and a harness that wrapped around my legs, my waist and my chest and linked to a cable above me. A zipline, 1,300 feet long. My first.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I repeated. He reached up and tugged on the cable. “This cable will hold 5,000 pounds,” he said, trying to encourage me.

“This isn’t a rational fear,” I told him.

It was a tandem zip line. Another woman I had just met, strapped into her harness, stood calmly waiting for me to get past my fear so we could launch together and ride side by side. There were people waiting behind us. I thought of a woman I knew who had ridden her first zip line at the age of 75. Surely I could do as well as she had. Everyone said the first step was the hardest, and I’d be fine after that.

“OK,” I said.

“OK,” he replied. “Just pick up your feet and make like you’re sitting down in your harness.” I did as he said and was out over thin air in a flash. I leaned back in my harness. Not so bad after all. Woo-hoo! We zipped along, not too fast, turning from side to side a little. “Grab the yellow rope,” the guide on the far platform called to me, too soon. I grabbed it as I passed, and as I slowed, he hauled me in the rest of the way.

Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida, a cattle ranch-turned-adventure park in a rural part of Central Florida, now offers four very different zip lines, a sort of swing 55 feet high, and a recumbent bicycle hung from a cable that winds through the trees 25 feet above the ground and powered by the rider.

The first zip line I rode, Peregrine Plunge, is a long but simple straightaway. Emboldened, I then rode the Rattlesnake, a zip line with a rigid spine instead of a flexible cable that twists and turns and dips like a roller coaster (That's me in the photo above, coming out of a dip on the Rattlesnake). I love roller coasters. But the Rattlesnake had a bit much action for me. I might have bitten off too much with that second zip. But I landed safely and told my host I was finished with zip lines for the day. I retreated to the recumbent bicycle, which moves only as fast as the rider wants it to and is only 25 feet high. It is more my speed.

For  those of us with a fear of heights or edges, this park-in-the-wild could be a source of terror. But it is also a great adventure. I won’t say I conquered my fear. But at least I held it at bay.