Jeanette Valentine, Zipping Through Island Skies

Jeanette Valentine and Shirley McDonald on a long, dual-zipline in Maui; (c) Soul Of America

Zipping Through Island Skies

Jeanette Valentine, Soul Of America

The zipline guide, Nick, tightens my belts, double-checks my harness and flashes a smile of encouragement. On a platform 1,800 feet above sea level, I am suspended from a sturdy cable with one foot planted on each side of a wooden gate opening. On the count of three, I am to unplant my feet and rocket into the wild blue yonder. I hold my breath, pray and wonder how to tell Nick that I’ve changed my mind. Then, it’s too late.

“One. Two. Three.”

And I am flying. Technically, I am zipping, but it feels like flying. My heart rate slows, and, I smile. Grin, really. Chatter and nervous energy from the group back on the platform recedes, and the vivid emerald of a thickly wooded forest whizzes beneath my feet.

The morning began at the sleek, redwood lodge of Kapalua Adventures. Our group included honeymooners, a young married couple, a Mom with her pre-teen son, and Shirley, a 50-something go-getter who wanted to check zip lining off her bucket list. We signed release forms and stepped on a scale (its face cleverly concealed behind the check-in desk) to ensure we met the weight requirements of between 60 and 250 pounds.

Tanned, hunky Nick, wavy brown hair down his back and tattoos across firm biceps, led us outside to grab bright orange helmets and shrug into gear. The buckles and straps hung loosely and there’s no instruction on how to tighten them. Uh oh. I wanted the equipment that keeps me in the air strapped on taut enough to cut off circulation. I learned that tightening comes just before the countdown.

We piled into the back of a shiny, red all-terrain army truck. The sweeping views distracted me from the butterflies in my stomach, and I realized that getting to the first of four platforms was half the fun. Wisps of clouds drift across a powder blue sky. In the distance, the indigo of the Pacific Ocean curves against West Maui’s coastline.

No matter the vantage point from which you view Maui – treading water in snorkeling gear, hiking through a rain forest, strolling a sandy beach – the island is beautiful. But from on high, it is majestic.

For 20 minutes, our monster vehicle climbed up dusty bumpy roads. When we exited the truck, we followed Nick through dry brush and across the 360-foot Kapalua Suspension Bridge. I felt like a reality show star on “The Amazing Race,” tempting fate by sauntering across a swaying walkway 200 feet up. It is the highest suspension footbridge in Hawaii, a miniature look-a-like of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, but so narrow we can only cross single file.

The hike to the first zip line station lasts about 10 minutes and reminds me of traipsing through the rain forest. Lush vegetation and exotic plants line our path as we trudge up hill. By the time we reach the platform, the butterflies have returned to my stomach.

Kapalua Ziplines

But after my thrilling first zipline ride, the others were a cinch. And addictive. Even sailing across the longest line of 2,400-foot couldn’t quell my desire to stay airborne indefinitely – or at least for the rest of the afternoon.

Never mind the mechanics. After the first few seconds, I forgot about the line, the harness, the pulleys, and the all-important mountain climber’s carabiner doo-hickey that hooked me to the cable. I was soaring in the heavens.

And I wondered why I had been afraid.

A friend who’s terrified of heights told me she mustered the courage to go parasailing because she imagined herself in the sky sitting in God’s hands. That’s how zip lining made me feel – safe and secure in the care of the Almighty. It was another moment of grace. And no worries for those who don’t believe in a higher power; you couldn’t be in more capable hands than those of Kapalua Adventures’ zipline guides.

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