22 November 2012
I. Mount Herman Redwood Conference Center, California
II. The Santa Cruz Inlet, California
III. Stills from the Canopy Tour were possible, because we wore helmets with video cameras:
Let me know which is your favorite and why.
This tribute is not to turkeys who gave up their existence to celebrate this family-centered national holiday on my calendar. Today festivities honor the founding of our country, and the communities built upon its early and later ideals and philosophy. So my mind was roaming to post an exemplary event that symbolizes the essence and heart of this all-American day.
I garden. I hike. I walk. I travel. I do not push my physical limits, but I am actively engaged with a certain level of adventure. Still, it was with personal amazement that I found myself training for a two-hour ziplining tour at Mount Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours in June. The back story is stacked with encouragement from family and friends–the kind of push that spells love and moves beyond the edges of the proverbial box.
As my teenage grandchildren (grandson at 14 and granddaughter at 12) and I planned our holiday in San Francisco, it was clear that we had to build lists. Then after weeks of filling columns with ideas, we needed to whittle with precision our priorities. Of course, we left room for the serendipitous and the unexpected.
Here are the players that gently coerced me into my first ever daring feat that included hanging from my clinched hands 150 feet up, and moving with record velocity through the California redwoods. The top player was my granddaughter and the following (not in any particular order) gave their prodding: my grandson; my longtime friend who lives in Nevada City, California; and, my cousin who lives in San Francisco.
One spring day I was discussing with my granddaughter our travels to California. While my grandson was vocal about his top choice–Alcatraz, my granddaughter needed to be questioned. It only took a few minutes for her answer to somersault through the air, “I want to go hand gliding or some adventure like it.”
Okay. I thought to myself: Will her wish be a shared experience or will I sit on the sidelines watching? But let’s go back to a memory of my fearless second grandchild. At six months she was placed upon an old fashion rocking horse. The determination on her face was only topped by her physical movement that ensued and told me: this child will push her limits, will dare herself and others.
While this part of her character is not always available, her years of gymnastics and diving are part of this quality. One of her last big adventures was para sailing at eleven.
She wanted my grandson, my friend and I to join her. But we ruled our her first suggestion and other ideas were totally out of my league. I’ve climbed mountains and toured foreign countries, but the über outdoor event has never been one of my life goals. But I am in awe of those that push their inner sports-minded selves.
Now enter my friend of more than thirty years who lives in a tiny town near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She has always been the push-the-physical-envelope kind of woman. And she was ready for anything that we decided. So this day-long event would be the four of us. My friend would pick us up and we’d head to our destination.
My cousin has been taking residents and tourists throughout the San Francisco area for years. His company is known for jaunts to wine country and the hot spots or not of the most fantastic city on the West Coast. We spent a few telephone conversations batting ideas. (Honestly, it must be such a pleasure to introduce people to the jewels and other destinations around this golden city. Here’s his website: http://www.blueherontours.com/)
After discussing the possibilities we landed on hot air ballooning. But after the facts emerged, we decided the cost was prohibitive. Then my granddaughter pronounced another one of her wishes: to go ziplining. I called my friend and she was pumped. She knew the perfect place in Santa Cruz. It was April and a larger-than-my-life adventure was in the works. My grandchildren and my friend did not hesitate to sign on. I still needed to decide.
Would I regret the rest of my sixty-something life that I did not join them. My grandchildren worked their magic on me, and my friend did her own campaigning. My children made the case for me to “just do it.” Finally, my decision rested with these thoughts: 1. this unusual opportunity to share such a moment in nature with three of my favorite people in the world, and 2. the knowledge that the cables, platforms, and bridges were interwoven into the redwoods, and no tree was razed in the creation of this eco-adventure.
The day that I made the reservation was a memorable one for me. I pledged to myself to go outside of how I see myself and forge a new family-and-friend collectible. I would be introducing for the first time my grandchildren to my dear friend, and they would forever know her through the eyes of that day trip.
As it turned out that Sunday in June was overwhelmingly packed with such heart-throbbing memories that it’s hard to separate every turn of joy and laughter from the evolution of ourselves. There was the inevitable personal growth of such an adventure, but there was also the bond and camaraderie of the hours moving from scene to scene and exhilaration to exhilaration.
Anxiety and trepidation swept through me as we headed south on the central western coastline toward Santa Cruz. The day could not have cooperated in any better way: perfect weather to support our individual reaction to an eco-adventure. One of the high points of the day was realizing how effortless the four of us blended our personalities and enthusiasms. Conversations flowed, even detours for lunch and dinner were top-tier moments. The discovery of a small town market with gourmet cuisine added surprises to our travels. We had hilarious roll-in-your-seat memories about returning to that destination for take-out dinner.
Here’s a summation about one of California’s sustainable hot spots where six ziplines and two suspensions bridges gave enough heart-pumping seconds to our tour.
The cheers of my fan club were a dose of adrenaline that helped me vault my way into unchartered territory. To embrace and explore nature via the acceleration of the ziplines was the highlight for my grandson. The true adventurers were told to tuck their legs in close and that would propel them faster and faster on the run, my granddaughter loved it. For all of us the majesty of the redwoods as frontispiece and backdrop for this forest exploration was part of its sensation. We all wore helmets with videos to record the experience.
The guides paced themselves watching our every move and spouting facts about the redwoods, and serious efforts to maintain and sustain these giant ancient trees. One of the most surprising bits of information is how the trees act as a family: their interdependence is demonstrated in times when their spreading roots reach out to other trees to borrow much-needed nutrients.
As I stepped onto terra firma, all I could say was, “I’m alive.” Strangely, even the diehards were relieved. We all sang in unison, “We did it.” We talked about our individual responses to the 150-feet excursion. Words tossed back and forth. We agreed that even in secure harnesses, we felt airborne. We felt a surreal kind of letting go. We felt scared, energetic, thrilled.
I’m proud of myself, humbled by the chance to see from a totally new vantage point, and not alone. Some of the best experiences are solo, but some of the most momentous are shared. That instantaneous production of energy that mounts as you soar through a primitive forest of giant soldiers is stilling and revelatory.
To touch a thousand-year-old tree is formidable; it makes the mind swell and the tears surface. The redwood family of trees are examples of how to nurture and work together to sustain heritage. It seems an appropriate analogy for today’s holiday that honors communities of individual and the lives of family members who celebrate togetherness.
As I walked away with spirits high, the redwoods became symbols of coexistence. They narrate a story that combines family and sustainability–a story that should be read across our land and others.
Lastly, I want to pay tribute to my companions on that dare-devil eco-excursion. My grandchildren were prime ages to absorb, observe, compare and transcend the obvious and not-so-obvious differences between East and West Coast. Both my friend and I have traveled together in the past, and now we have this priceless-fulfilled challenge as part of our repertoire.
And so today echoes of past family gathering reverberate. But my gratitude never falters and continues to expand. Happy thanksgiving, even to those who do not live here. This holiday does not own gratitude for the people in our lives.
Thanksgiving = giving thanks.
Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. For additional information about Mount Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours see YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpv4Z-_oX8I/ or their Website at http://mounthermonadventures.com/redwood-canopy-tours/