Orlando Bingles’ 2011 Summer Road Trip – Day 3

by Bingle on Aug.15, 2011, under Richard Bingle Family

A few years ago while on a cruise we had gone on a “canopy tour” on St. Maarten. It had been a mix of rope bridges, tightropes, ziplines, and other ropes course type activities. Since everyone (eventually) had fun doing that, Karen and I thought going ziplining in the Smokies would be a fun thing to do. Before the trip we had done some research and had decided to give CLIMB Works Zip Line Canopy Tours a visit.

Unlike St. Maarten, this time we would almost exclusively ziplines and our guide (instead of us) would be responsible for making sure we were clipped in at all times because we’d be much higher in the air! After getting geared up at the office, we headed up the mountain in an ATV, chasing a dog named Bear all the way up. Every time we’d fall behind, he would stop, turn around, bark at us, and take off running again.

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Once at the top, we walked into the trees via a swinging bridge and would spend the next couple of hours in the trees. For being somewhat afraid of heights, you’d think I would have been terrified, but our guides were very safety conscious and our harnesses were always clipped to something.

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At each zipline, our guide Brian would go down ahead of the group to act as the coach/cable-tugger/catcher. He’d give signals to tell you to “cannonball” if you were going too slow or “starfish” if you were going too fast. He’d also pull down or push up on the cable to speed you up or slow you down. And finally, if you were still going too fast when you got to the landing platform would attempt to stop you before you hit anything more solid. Back above, our other guide Christina would hook each person in turn onto the cable, check with Brian via radio and then send the person on their way.

For the first half dozen ziplines, I wore the GoPro camera mounted on my helmet and Ashley wore it for the last three, including the one where we were allowed to do “tricks” on (she went upside down and then did a twist at the end).

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The surprise at the end was a guide controlled 30′ free rapel from the out of the trees back down to the ground. This was actually the only time my fear of heights surfaced.

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There’s something different about hanging from a thin rope being held by a 100 lbs girl than being clipped onto a steel cable strung securely between two large trees. I got to go before the rest of the family and they couldn’t see where I was landing, so when I reached the decking below I stomped loudly on the wooden planks and yelled “Ow!” to make them think that I had been dropped. I think I had them going for a few minutes!

While a bit on the pricey side, we had a great time and it was definitely worth it! We ended up driving past several other ziplining places throughout our trip and decided that CLIMB Works looked much better than any of the others so we were pretty happy with the choice we had made.

We ended the day with a drive into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A quick stop at the visitor’s center steered us in the direction of Cades Cove, an isolated valley within the park that had a one-way loop road around it. The road was rumored to be one of the best places to see bears and other wildlife. On our first time around the loop we (and a whole lot of other people) saw a small mother bear and her cub near the road.

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She eventually had enough of all of the attention and took her cub up a hill and across the road and away into the tall grass.

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On the rest of the way around the loop we saw lots of deer (including one that leapt across the road right in front of us) and turkeys. Since it was still light out when we finished the first loop, we figured we’d go again to see if we could spot any more (or the same) bear. While we didn’t see any bears, we did see several large bucks in the woods.

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