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Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain

July 4, 2011 by · Comments Off on Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park

Flying High

 

Look out below; it’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s me– hang gliding at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Woo-hoo and a hoot-hoot! I feel like an owl soaring through the sky on unfurled wings. The cloudless day blesses me with gorgeous views, rather like looking out the window of a low flying airplane, but…without the plane.

 

I’ve always dreamed of flying; as a kid I longed to leap from the window and soar off to Never Never Land like Peter Pan and Wendy. A few years ago, although scared, I jumped at the opportunity to sky dive. The incredible experience left me empowered enough to try just about anything. So, when a chance to go tandem hang gliding appeared, I knew I would go.

 

The outing began at mountain top where I found the pro shop and offices of Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Waivers and releases were signed and temporary student registration cards handed out. I wasn’t just going along for a ride, I was taking a lesson.

 


I drove back down the mountain to the flight school which sits within a 44-acre grassy field.  Here I met Dan Zink, manager, who had me step into a flight jacket of sorts with lots of tabs, hooks and rings. Then, a group of first timers assembled to watch a video and complete a short written test.

Suiting Up

 

Soon my pilot, the charismatic Eric Grue, called my name. He had just landed an earlier flight. Eric strapped me in a harness, more like a sling, as I lay face down in a horizontal position. Space was tight so I needed to snuggle up next to him, with my right arm over his back– one of the benefits for sure. The glider has wheels on a frame which allows it to be tethered to an ultra-light plane for take-off. Therefore, I did not need to fling myself off a cliff.

Getting into the Gear

 

The plane rolled down the field and slowly took off; we followed behind lifting with ease. No fairy dust needed; I was Peter Pan. The flight was surprisingly quiet but I could feel the rush of the wind on my face. Whew, pure exhilaration. Eric answered my questions and I had total faith in him- especially after he told me he had earned a Ph.D.

 

When the pilot reached 2,000 feet, the tether was released and our free flight began. I had a rush of euphoria but simultaneous calm; I think that’s a state of enlightenment. I honestly felt sereneness and joy.

 

Amanda Jobe, another first- time glider said afterward, “It was amazing. All my problems went away up there. It was the best way ever to start a day.”

Eric instructed me on how to control flight, “Push your hips and legs toward the left and the glider turns left. Want to go right, do the opposite. Pull forward on the bar and we’ll go faster, push back and we slow down.”

 

The technique was simple and I thought to myself “totally radical.” In that instant of ecstasy I forgot I was a sixty year-old grandmother. Instead I felt like one of those super cool Olympic snowboarders.

I’m still flying high.

If you go:

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the largest hang gliding school and resort in the United States. Every year they teach, certify and solo five times as many pilots as any other school. Their 110-acre resort boasts cabins, bunkhouses and camping on site.

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park
7201 Scenic Highway
Rising Fawn, GA  30738
800/688-5637 (toll-free)

www.hanglide.com

For other fun activities in the Chattanooga area please visit www.chattanoogafun.com

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Zip Therapy

November 20, 2008 by · Comments Off on Zip Therapy 

The Benefits of Ziplining

Click to see video:
St Lucia Zipline

"If you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You'll Go

When presented with the chance to ride a zip line on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, I applied the above philosophy. How cool. Gliding through an emerald rainforest renewed my spirit and released giggles galore.

My friend and I arrived at Tree Top Adventure Park, near the village of Dennery, eager to try the challenge. Certainly wasn't expecting someone to flop a white bakery-style hairnet onto our heads; nor top that off with yellow helmets.

Next, we found ourselves draped in more harnesses and clinking chains than the ghost of Jacob Marley. Then, we donned extra heavy-duty leather gloves.

"Ready?" asked Daniel, a guide with an impish smile.

"Sure," replied Johanna, "but a little nervous."

"No problem," said Daniel, a hint of his Creole accent breaking through. "This is Simeon; he'll be helping out."

We climbed to a wooden platform built around a tree, making me feel akin to the Swiss Family Robinson. Daniel hitched three pulleys from his harness to a stainless steel wire strung across a ravine, then scooted off. Safety procedures require one guide to be on each end of the line.

"I'll go next," I shouted and lowered myself into a semi-sit, the harness cradling my body. Off I flew like Tarzan's Jane, suspended from a vine. The process was easy and the ride just scary enough to cause a rush.

Swoosh; I landed on my feet, laughing and raving about the wild ride. The rest of the group crossed over with equally happy faces and cheers. We were clipped into safety lines, and then our guides snapped us onto the next cable.

I found it hard to resist the urge to pound my chest like an ape and let out a deep yodeling cry. Trouble was I needed to grip the tether with my left hand and stabilize any rotation with my right.

During ten more rides, we frolicked as monkeys in the mist. We soared as colorful yellow-headed parrots; took flight over small gushing rivers, flew higher than treetops and danced in dense tropical foliage.

Helen, age 50, conquered her fear of heights and couldn't wait to tell her college-age daughters she won their challenge. Her husband David seemed to come alive, beaming with joy, as a child deep in an imaginary world.

I know it sounds dramatic to say a zipline escapade is therapeutic. But, for boomers fraught with creeping age, it just might be. The outing encouraged a return to carefree play, ignited laughter and an "I don't wanna grow up" attitude. Dr. Seuss is right: "These things are fun and fun is good."

Video: Riding the zipline St Lucia

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If you find yourself on St. Lucia, don't miss the chance to go ziplining:
www.adventuretourstlucia.com

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