Zipping The Light Fantastic

Posted on October 2, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Jane Baker

I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. My parents were raised during the Great Depression and instilled a strong work ethic that, while good, doesn’t always jive with today’s goal of the work/life balance. However, it’s that same rush of accomplishment I thrive on in my work life that I seek for relaxation. It’s not that I’m an adrenaline junkie…well okay, maybe a little. I do love the thrill of anything that gives me butterflies in my stomach. You won’t find me bungee jumping or jumping out of a plane anytime soon, I recognize my physical limitations as I approach that senior discount. However, I will go for the gusto while I can.

Zipping The Light Fantastic by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

So, to find a bit of adrenaline in the form of a zip line tour just a few hours’ drive in the beautiful mountains of Montana was a perfect match of excitement and a quick break from the daily grind. Skiers and snowboarders already know Whitefish Mountain Resort for its great winter snow, but discovering the summer activities, including zip lines, was the perfect balance of fun and relaxation.

If you like the outdoors, Whitefish is the place to be. In the summer, there are so many pristine lakes and rivers great for boating and fishing. A little bear spray and a good pair of shoes and you have endless trails for hiking. Of course, as we’re heading into the winter months and many are thinking of winter activities on the slopes, the Montana mountains need no explanation to area skiers.

Zipping The Light Fantastic by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

Reservations are recommended for the zip line tours. There is a 5-zip tour and a 7-zip tour. I recommend the 7-zip, as the first two lines are more instruction and practice. The equipment needed is provided: a sling-type harness that I was strapped into, but could still walk around in, a pulley that each zip liner was required to carry their own between each line, and a helmet. Once suited-up with the equipment, each group of zip liners watched a short video of instructions and safety tips, followed by the same message from the guides before heading out to the lines.

Climbing up to the first platform, I wasn’t afraid. The guides are trained to put you at ease by presenting information in an entertaining manner, and spending a little time chatting with each person and learning names. Once on the platform, I handed the guide my pulley, she threw it over the line and hooked the giant carabiner to my harness. On cue, we (there are two lines, side-by-side) lifted our feet and took off. I remembered the instruction, legs together and arms at sides in the pencil position—this is the position of speed. As we approached the landing platform, the guides gave the signal for the starfish position, sit up and extend arms and legs to slow down (did I mention there are no brakes?) Finally, the guides motion for the landing position, where I lean back and bring my feet up to take the brunt of the impact into the large padded spring that absorbs and stops your flight down the line. Whew, what a rush. Let’s do it again!

Zipping The Light Fantastic by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

For the next two hours, we flew on six more zip lines. The first two were short. Then we headed to the ski lift to reach the starting platform of zip number three. Inspiration is the name of the third zip that was 1900 feet long and 200 feet above the ground. At times it was if my feet would brush the tops of the trees. The zip was certainly inspiring, but wait, there’s more! Zip number four soared 300 feet above the ground, was just as long, and lived up to its name, AdrenaLine!

I recognize zip lines aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, there are activities for all ages at the Resort. A wonderfully scenic hike can begin with a ski lift ride to the top and taking the Danny On Trail down. When we were there in late August, we saw many hikers descending the mountain with buckets of freshly picked huckleberries! If you’re not into hiking, you can ride the ski lift up to the mountaintop restaurant; enjoy lunch and the views before riding back down again. There’s also downhill and cross-county biking, again ride the lift up and bike down. If you’re not a bike rider, you can take a lift up and slide down an alpine slide. Or, check out the aerial adventure park suspended in the trees near the base lodge. The park has bridges cabled walkways, and small zip lines with levels designed for all abilities.

Zipping The Light Fantastic by Jane Baker | Spokane County Library District

For about the same amount of time it takes to drive to Seattle from Spokane, you can be at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and just minutes away from the entrance to Glacier National Park. With affordable lodging, Whitefish is a perfect family interlude from exploring the nearby national and state forests. At the base of the mountain, the town is a quaint little burg – friendly and relaxed. Several restaurants are in the area; we dined on the rooftop of Casey’s one evening and thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic view of the mountains.

Whether its butterflies in your stomach, or a relaxing getaway in the fresh mountain air, I’m always looking for someplace new. What are your favorite local places for a long weekend?

Jane Baker

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