When we got to Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Ohio early that Saturday morning, the only thing I had in my pockets when I left the car was my ID. I left everything else, including my phone and camera. I didn’t want to be distracted, or angling for that perfect shot, when what lay ahead would require my full attention. We had come to Ohio just to zip line and I didn’t want to be distracted.
I was of two minds about not bringing my phone; on the one hand, I was free to completely immerse myself in the experience without the pressure of instant documentation. On the other hand, I don’t usually zip line and I wanted to instantly share it with my friends and twitter followers. The former won out. I got to fully experience this zip line course, and not just take pictures to show that I experienced it.
Before we left, our guide held out a small bucket for people to deposit keys or smartphones for safe keeping. I sensed the reluctance. Even after he told tales of previous adventurers’ lost cell phones on the course, or those whose keys had fallen out of pockets, some of my tour mates still hesitated to part with their smartphones, but they had to. I related to their hesitation and recently seemed to have this ongoing debate “capture the experience” or “experience the experience”. Do I want to fully experience something or fumble around with camera settings while that thing is happening and miss it?
I actually did intend to document my day. I rented a GoPro thinking it would be easy. It is attached to a band that is strapped to my helmet. The operation seemed straightforward. Push the button to turn it on and it beeps. Push the button again to turn it off. I would get some awesome footage of the tree canopies and a few aerial shots as I zipped high above the ground from tower to tower. This seemed like a nice compromise; pushing a button wouldn’t distract me too much from the experience.
We did the “X Tour”, an X-Treme Zipline Tour, which boasts 11 zip lines, including a fastest, a highest, and a longest. Our guides made me feel comfortable with the equipment almost immediately. I didn’t feel like I was hanging on for dear life, hanging from a cable with only a harness, a pulley, and a series of sturdy hooks keeping me from falling to the ground. One of our guides, Jeremy, performed a safety check at each tower, releasing us with an easy, “Good to go. Enjoy the ride.” That was the signal to push off from the platform, hold on tight and fly through the air.
There was some GoPro footage I specifically wanted to capture, like the sweeping aerial view of the valley that I saw right before I pushed off to zip down the longest line. I also couldn’t wait to record the view from the fastest zip, whose maximum speed was 40 MPH, only reached for a second and immediately followed by deceleration. At that moment I wanted more, more speed for longer. It was an exhilarating feeling of freedom with the wind blowing straight into my face. I couldn’t stop looking around, or smiling after reaching that 40 MPH. It was so beautiful up there.
One of the zips ended in a cave. It was cool, dim and mossy, a welcome change from the heat and adrenaline from the previous zips. I definitely wanted that for posterity. I reveled in and recorded the stunning views from the penultimate line of the course which started at the highest tower. This was also the first zip to cross the Hocking Hills River. All of this footage would be beautiful for my blog.
As we progressed through the course, my guide started telling me if the device was on or off, because sometimes I didn’t know. A few times he reminded me to turn it on. After a while I couldn’t tell if it was on or off and honestly, stopped paying attention.
Our final zip traversed the Hocking Hills River for the second time. Before our safety checks, our guide announced the professional photo op. Part of me was relieved; I wanted the proof. Jeremy told us where and when to look.
I’m glad that photo turned out well. When I reviewed the recorded footage later, I realized that it was backwards! The beautiful views of the tree canopy were replaced with video of strangers anxiously stepping onto the tower platforms. The footage of me sailing gracefully into the cave? That recording captured a mildly chaotic crash landing. Whenever I thought I was turning the thing on, I was turning it off! Or maybe after a while I was just pushing buttons, which is what I’m wont to do when technology frustrates me. Or maybe I just wanted to enjoy the ride, which is just what I did.