Boyfriend and I left for Catalina at approximately 4:30AM. Our boat left at 6:15, which was the sole explanation for that barbaric waking time. We did, however, receive an unexpected gift for our bravery in facing such a dark morning: a scarlet sunrise rising beneath the deep and smoky lavender clouds. The harbor seemed transfixed by that burning sky.
Our zip appointment was for 11AM. I was nervous as all hell, but it’s really useless to indulge in mindless terror once you’re On Countdown. When we sat down to breakfast (yes, always hungry) the first thing I noticed was a sign on the wall: RELAX. Didn’t work.
If you ever want to do this, you sign up, get your tickets, etc. at Descanso Beach, a little behind the Casino. Everyone has to Weigh In. I was so deeply shocked at my poundage that for a few minutes, falling to a messy death in one of Catalina’s hidden ravines didn’t seem so bad.
You get fitted with a harness and a helmet. There is a 20 minute orientation, 90% of which is spent explaining what to do when something goes wrong. During the bus ride to the first station my hands were shaking. With my gear and fear I felt like a soldier being driven to the front line.
Line #1: 500 feet above sea level. 501 feet in length. I was one of the last to go, but I went before Boyfriend, so he could take my picture.
I took one step into nothingness and when I felt the harness and cable accept my (considerable) weight, I tucked into the ‘cannonball’ position – as instructed – and by God, away I went.
I assumed there were trees beneath me. An ocean was floating around somewhere over my shoulder. I was staring at my sneakers in front of me, and at the next station coming at me. You partially land/gallop to a halt, become unhitched and follow the others to the next line.
Line #2: The longest line – 1,045 feet. About half way through this run, to my horror, a stray breeze caught me and I started to spin. Thank you, balmy island weather, thank you so bloody much. Anyway, things steadied, and I continued on. When I was done here and still among the living I could have allowed myself a handful of confidence, but that would have been foolish.
Line #4: 892 feet long. The path shoots over a den of eucalyptus trees which had been trimmed so as not to slice off the ankles of those who prefer to do their hiking while airborne.
Line #5: 531 feet long. This was called an ‘easy’ one, so we were encouraged to do a little free-form zipping. Interpretive zipping? Don’t think so.
And we were finished. And we were successful. And we were alive. And we felt rather fabulous. And we’ll probably do this again.
That evening, we went to the New Year’s party at the Casino, sharing a table with a rather entertaining couple: the husband once broke open a champagne bottle with a samurai sword. I don’t think he said this to impress us, because, frankly, who would want to?
Next morning we had breakfast at a jolly little place which always has a New Year’s Day PJ Party. I wore my best jammies and to prove that I did this thing, had my photo taken in front of the restaurant.
The object I’m holding is a toy Catalina Buffalo which I bought on the island. We took it to the party, as we thought it was fitting. Neither of us ordered buffalo sausage or bacon, just to be polite.
So…Happy New Year. Face and embrace all that it dares to give you.