The one main thing I wanted to do on my birthday this year was to do the Zip Line Eco Tour at Catalina Island. So the night before my special day I booked my adventure, which had dropped in price from the week before, $109 to $89. I was so excited! I didn’t even care if anyone came with me or what. I was going and that was that!
The following morning my friend and I headed to Catalina Island. We arrived on the island around 7:30 am and had some hours to kill before my tour was ready. At 12pm we were at the Descanso Beach Club and I was ready to go. I gave them my information, got weighed, signed the paper work, and was given my gear. This was it and I couldn’t wait!
Justin and Jake did a quick demonstration of how to zip, making sure we stepped away from the edge, leaned back into our gear, kept one hand on the line, and lifted our feet at the end. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared at all. Maybe that would change once we got to the heights.
We took a jeep up to the top zip line. Along the way Jake told us a little history about the island and it’s eco system. He spoke about how the island appeared from under the water popping up due to plates scraping against each other, how it is just 22 miles long, and how it remained uninhabited until animals took accidental trips on logs and such and got stranded here. He also spoke about how the island has the smallest foxes in the world. The Catalina Island fox came about because the smaller foxes lived and the bigger ones died off. The bigger ones were unable to find enough food to sustain their body weights while the conditions were ideal for the smaller ones. Many generations of this has caused their adult foxes to currently weigh just 4-6lbs, 25% smaller than those found on the California mainland.
We reached the top of the zip line and paused for a moment to take in the view. We all read the sign that showed us how to speed up, slow down, and different maneuvers we could try along the way. Jake jumped off the ledge head first and glided across the cable to the other end. It was getting real! Our first member of the group, an elderly lady stepped right up, was attached and took off. I thought to myself, ‘Well, if she can do it I can do it.’ Her friend was right behind her and had no problems as well.
The first girl of the large group was up and she was absolutely terrified. She was holding back tears. Justin was so sweet trying to console her, letting her know that it would be ok. All she had to do was step off and lean back. The longer she stood there looking at it the worse it got. She couldn’t do it so he had her sit into the harness, lift her feet and slowly glide out of the tower. Away she went and so did any anxiety.
The rest of the group went except for one of the guys. “Ladies first,” he said and it was my turn. I stepped up, Justin strapped me in and did his 10 count checklist. “Ready to zip!” he said into his walkie. “Zip away!” replied Jake on the other end. I stepped up to the edge, reminding myself to look straight ahead. I felt my hesitation and then I took my step, leaned back and I was off! It took me to about half way down the line before I finally realized that everything was ok. I took a hand off and coasted through the breeze. I approached the end, lifted my knees and was just within foot reach of Jake. I made it! I was so happy. Our last group member and Justin came across the line and we were on to the next.
The next one was the longest and I had enough time to actually look at the view of the ocean over the trees. One hand, switch, try to turn around, pause to look at the view. It was both breathtaking and exhilarating all at the same time. We stopped at this tower to learn more about the island, take some pictures, and get some water.
Jake told us about the bison herd that lives on the island. A small number of bison were brought to the island for filming in a Western movie. Apparently, the film makers under estimated how difficult bison are to keep in a confined area and they accidentally escaped. Rather than trying to round them all up and take them back to the mainland, they spoke with the island owner and asked if he would like to keep them. He agreed and the film company bought a couple more to round out the herd. They were left to their own devices until the herd grew to about 600 animals, over 400 more than the island can sustain, and the Catalina Island Conservancy decided that they would need to start to control the population. They shipped a number of them to North Dakota, where due to the fact that they were not used to living in cold weather and did not have the proper winter coat anymore the Standing Rock Indian Reservation had to make heated barns for them. The Indian Reservation told the Conservancy that they did not want anymore so they needed to come up with another plan. Every year the conservancy goes out and shoots the female bison with a birth control dose. The few that slip through the cracks keep the population at a total of 150 and the dose only lasts several months so if they ever want to let the bison increase their population they can by just skipping a year of shots.
We moved onto the fastest of the zip lines and the closest to base camp where other zip liners are gearing up. We were encouraged to scream yells of terror or dinosaur roars to the newbies below. We watched Jake jump head first off another platform, with a giant bloodcurdling scream and come to safety on the other side. Our fearful member was up again, but this time she didn’t take the step. She decided to leave the tour to meet up with us again later. We all jumped and screamed, or woo-hooed to defy Jake.
Again safe on the other side with only two zips left, this one was through the trees to show you how fast you were going and to prepare for your picture pose on the last line. I was so focused on my pose that I forgot to take in the view of the trees. I zipped through them so fast I almost missed them. Ok, I did miss them. Gonna have to do another zip line, but through more trees.
The last zip our terrified friend joined us again. She made the jump and we all followed her. Unfortantly my picture didn’t come out that great, but who needs a picture to remember such an amazing adventure? Beautiful views, exhilarating jumps, flying through the air at speeds of 45mph, it was just magnificent! What a great way to spend my birthday!