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Kirby, with video: Zip-lining . . . did you ever see an elephant fly?

Published June 25, 2014 10:34 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo Canyon •

The view from the first platform at Max Zipline on Saturday afternoon wasn't picturesque. Or maybe it was. I don't remember. I had more pressing things on my mind.

I was thinking that in 1916, the town of Erwin, Tenn., hanged an elephant for murdering its trainer. The full-grown pachyderm was led to a nearby railroad derrick and strung up with a cable. It was undoubtedly a horrible sight.

A lynched elephant is the image I had of myself as I stepped off the edge of the platform and into thin air. I shot down the mountain in a harness attached to a cable.

I've spent considerable time in thin air. I've jumped out of airplanes and off cliffs but I was smaller and more limber back then.

Instantly my training took over. I screamed and tried to reel myself back to safety but it was too late. By then I was traveling 50 mph through trees and over rock-filled gulches.

I'm kidding. Having once tried to shinny my way back into a C-130, I knew every law of physics was against me. I hung in my harness and enjoyed the ride. I had the presence of mind to pull on the brake just before touching down onto the next platform.

This is about as dangerous as I'm allowed anymore. I wanted to jump out of an airplane for my birthday on Sunday but my wife said no. We just finished paying off my last idiot-related surgery.

We negotiated from opposite sides of the threat to my safety. I came down from sky diving and she came up from allowing me to hold onto a helium balloon. We met in the middle and went zip-lining.

Stacy Davis, from Boulder Town, and her children Cayanna, Annika, and Asa met us at Max Zipline. Our sizes ranged from circus elephant (me) all the way down to Asa, who weighs 3.5 grams, two of which are mischief.

I should point out here that Max Zipline is not a collection of loons with a rusty cable attached to the face of a cliff. After signing in, we were handed over to husband and wife adrenaline junkies. They got us into our harness and gave us a safety lecture.

Wearing helmets, harness and gloves, we climbed into an open-top vehicle and were driven to the top of the mountain. Provo was visible in one direction, Deer Creek Reservoir in the other.

Zip-lining is easy. You really only need to remember two things and both of them are related.

1. How to keep yourself facing forward

2. When to pull on the brake, preferably before you run out of cable and bash into the next tower

Body size has a lot to do with it. Stacy's kids wafted down the line. Stacy and my wife floated. I plummeted like a runaway ore car.

With almost zero body weight, Asa and his sisters sometimes came up short on the line and had to be pulled onto the next tower. Stacy and my wife touched down lightly on the landing pad. Only heroic effort kept me from hitting the tower with all the grace of a gorilla pushed out of a helicopter.

I blame the loss of fear. The more we zipped, the more inclined I was to start admiring the scenery. We were told to watch for deer, elk, horses, bear and even mountain lions.

Skimming through some trees, I saw what looked like Bigfoot lurking below but it turned out to be a Tribune photographer. It can be hard to tell them apart even when standing still.

Zipping lasted a little over an hour and briefly satisfied my urge for exhilaration. Best of all, nobody got hurt.

That's good. I need my health. Next week Sonny and I are hauling our cannons onto Tavaputs Plateau.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.