If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII and Part XIV. Where did we leave off last? I was frozen to the core – overwhelmed, overstimulated, scared, and experiencing a marital big chill. We left Seward for Anchorage, stayed for an hour or so, and then we wandered into Talkeetna and had a great dinner at the brewery. We prepared for some sort of adventure.
We woke up to another overcast day, but it’s really about conditions around Denali. Talkeetna is about 100 miles from Denali and DOES have mountain views.. on a clear day, of course. In fact, we heard about a couple who went to Denali for seven years in a row, and only actually SAW the mountain on the seventh year. On the seventh year, they rested, because six years of fog or clouds or Mordor or whatever else might ruin your visibility was present. We did not see the mountain even once!
After we got dressed, we had a hot breakfast at our Inn – Swiss Alaska Inn. Cassidy called the two biggest flight companies to get flight tours to Denali. No one was flying! It was so sad. Here I was WILLING to confront my small plane phobia.. like five times now.. (?) and the weather wasn’t allowing for it. I was not backing down once. I actually wanted to circle a giant, snowy mountain by small plane. I wanted to dip and soar. I didn’t even care. It’s Denali. In my mind’s eye, you could see moose roaming around and around, two by two, circling up a mountain. I don’t care that it wasn’t based on reality, mostly, but I was WILLING. Let it be said. The record states. I was ALL IN and ready to rock that small plane. Or NOT rock it! Yikes.
I was still very much stuck inside my head. Cassidy was too. We were like abandoned satellites in an empty station – both calling out to nothing? Message not received? Message not going out. Does this analogy make any sense at all? It might soon.
So I did what any broken satellite would do. I walked into Denali Zipline Tours and decided to see if they were going out on this wettish, overcast day. (I was secretly hoping not) What’s that? They WERE! And there’s a three hour canopy tour over a boreal forest leaving in just 30 minutes? Well, ok. Here’s my credit card and my life insurance policy. I’ll sign a waiver, have a snack, go to the bathroom before I can’t anymore (that’s for you, Kenya – no bathrooms on the tops of forests), and there’s no turning back. Do not even pass GO! and collect your $300 back. This is happening. I don’t even care if you feel sick!
I was wearing LulaRoe leggings I had gotten for my sister, but hadn’t given her yet. They made me feel brave. She’s a ziplining kind of gal. We were in a group with eight people and two guides. One of the women (lovely) on our tour had been a zipline INSTRUCTOR in another country, and she was nervous! I guess it’s the whole boreal forest thing? We were promised a three hour canopy tour with nine exciting zips, panoramic Denali views, and woodland aerial walkways. I will say they delivered, and it’s not their fault we couldn’t see Denali. We could at least see where it should have been on a clear day.
So we got a few lessons on the ground, and made our way up, up, and up. Everyone was nervous, and that was sobering and humbling and connecting. We knew we were safe at all times, and I’m not afraid of heights even a little, but the sights of the parking lot swirling lower and lower, made me a little light-headed. I was nervous but also not nervous, because I just wanted to FEEL, and not like a broken radio or satellite, so it both repelled and propelled me. There was some rappelling too!
For all of us, the ones over concrete or parking lots seemed a lot worse than the ones over.. just forest.. or water. Even though these weren’t the highest or fastest zips, I think they freaked us out more. Also, we were still newbies then.
I think we were thawing towards each other? I know I was internally. (burning up, baby) There was something about the relief and vulnerability. I’m not saying that the great chills can’t lead to scarring, but I was really happy to be with him.
I liked the zips better than the aerial walkways (which were still scary) and definitely better than the rappels, although I obviously survived all that. I think each step was another step outside my comfort zone. I can’t complain there!
I paid for the photo package, which was just phone photos, but it’s SO WORTH IT. I get to see the looks of fear and relief on my face! And relive all the magic – like this little place which surely looks to NEED moose by it, right?
“The final and longest zip of the tour will span close to 600 feet – with most of the ride suspended over “Reflection Pond” – landing on the final platform six feet off the ground with an easy stair exit and a short drive back to downtown Talkeetna.”
You had to take the time to look down at the water. In some of the zips, you don’t have that time. This one is long and not even the fastest – it’s so peaceful. I think the photo of me was too blurry, but we have lots to look at.
What we didn’t know, because the zip was so long that you couldn’t see the end, was that there was an employee at the end waiting to drive us the three miles back to town. He also held up scorecards on our landings. I got an 8.5! Cassidy got a 10.
My final advice? Do it. Pay for the photos – it’s only a bit more money – but you’re paying for the memories, the chance of a life (or death)time, and the deep feelings of accomplishment and relief when you finally get on the ground again.
Next up – well the magic is never over. Think of funny waitresses accidentally swearing in front of patrons. Dessert at the ritziest part of town. Abandoned satellites, moose heads in the streets, Hatcher Pass, magic, and more magic!