Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Since I was too much of a puss to join the boys on their zipline adventure, I asked Josh to write about it. Below are his thoughts on the adventure.


When I was younger, I was what you would call "the opposite of a risk taker." I was timid and painfully shy and afraid of pretty much everything. My mom's leg--to which I spent much of my youth attached--would back me up on this, but of course we all know legs can't talk so you'll just have to believe me.

Anyway, when I became a parent back in ought-six, I was determined to encourage my child to always be curious, try new things, and leave Mommy's legs alone (since we all know she has a hard enough time staying on her feet!). While up to this point he has definitely been more adventurous than I ever was (or maybe even am), every now and again genetics rear their ugly head and he gets sheepish and tries to climb back into the womb (which is really awkward when Liz isn't around). So when we got on the bus in Ketchikan to go to the Bear Creek Zipline Adventure, I had no idea how he was going to react. 

At the top of the rainforest canopy, a group of about 20 of us were taken into a small room lined with helmets, harnesses, ropes and various other pieces of equipment we had never seen before. We were shown a brief video on how to hold the zipline trolley, how to position our legs while ziplining and what to do if we got stuck. During the 3-minute video, about every 6 seconds I'd say, "Did you get that? Did you understand it?" to Dash. Knowing that he's 7 and usually can't remember what he had for lunch on any given day, I wanted to make sure he was paying attention. After the video, they started strapping us into our gear. I could tell Dash was nervous, so I kept trying to pump him up--mostly so he wouldn't notice that I was just as nervous.

But there wasn't much time for nerves, as we were quickly led out of the equipment room and up a small set of stairs to the first “practice” zipline, which was maybe 50 feet long. I knew once we got onto that next platform, there was no turning back. 

When we got there, Dash announced that he wanted to go before me. As Missy (one of our guides) was hooking him up to the line, she said, "Are you good at standing on your tippy toes? We usually don't have people as small as you out here so you'll have to stretch to get your line hooked onto the trolley." My heart leapt into my throat as I started to wonder if we'd made a huge mistake. After all, Dash was the youngest person out here by at least 12 years and he had barely met the height requirement.  

The next thing I knew, this happened:

When I reached the platform a minute later, Dash was grinning from ear to ear and said his screams were just "for effect." 

By the time we got to the third line, everyone was relaxed and having a good time. I went down first and readied the camera to catch Dash coming in. And then my worst nightmare came true (OK, not my WORST nightmare, but still):

You could probably hear it in my voice (unless that's how I always sound, for which I apologize), but I was--how should I say--fairly concerned that when Dash first started sliding backwards he was going to lose his shit. But you probably figured out from his playful banter, the kid was having the time of his life. In that brief two-minute span while he was dangling high above the Alaskan rain forest, he exhibited traits I've strived for my whole life: he was calm, poised, and confident. In the 7+ years I've known him, I've never been more proud. 

And it wasn't a one-time event. He got stuck again on a longer line and once again was able to pull himself (almost) completely back to the platform, needing help from Palmer (our other guide) only at the very end.

We got medals!

I knew this was going to be a fun bonding experience for my son and me, but it turned out to be much bigger. Something rose to the surface inside Dash on this day, and it wasn't just "cruise courage" (I just made that up, trademark pending). Ever since that moment on Zipline #3, Dash has found a new confidence that I hope will serve as a reminder to him that he can do anything as long as he believes in himself, 150-foot drop into the rain forest be damned!

As we were getting off the bus back at the Grand Princess, one of our fellow zipliners gave Dash a friendly nod and then turned to me and said, "He was a giant today."

And he was.

If you want to see the entire experience in less than 5 minutes, I posted a video here.

P.S. I didn’t even mention the 300-foot suspension bridge we had to cross, the rappelling down from the last platform or the 250-foot mountain slide. It was a big day for the Engel boys!

P.P.S. In case you’re interested, this life-changing experience was made possible by Alaska Canopy Adventures.  And if you go, ask for Palmer and Missy and tell ‘em Dash sent you!

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