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I’m just dangling in the air right now, literally stuck in the very middle of a zipline run on Maui. To my left, I can see the beautiful waves off the coast of Kaanapali and even Molokai and Lanai because it’s such a clear day. But right now, I’m more focused on what’s underneath me: a potential drop of more than 100 feet, with only some sparse vegetation to break my fall, should the line somehow break — much to my dismay. My hands are clasped in a death grip on the strap connecting me to the zipline cable and I’m starting to panic, desperately trying to propel myself toward the end of the line and onto the platform.
How did I get here? Well, it all started earlier that morning when I left my hotel, the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, and walked toward the retail storefront of Skyline Eco-Adventures. I was excited to be ziplining, having done it twice before — once in Jamaica and once in Costa Rica — and couldn’t wait to get started. After checking in, we were each outfitted with complimentary reusable water bottles (already filled with some water) and headed out to the zipline location. The dirt road on the way to Skyline’s outpost on Mount Kahalawai, the mountains just east of Kaanapali and Lahaina, was a bit bumpy. For that reason, we were instructed to don our helmets in the vehicle as a precaution while we made the 10-minute climb up some 1,800 feet in elevation. (In retrospect, I suppose that was a precursor to the wild adventure I’d later have.) When we arrived, I felt like I was in an old Western. The landscape took on a rich red hue, and beautiful terra cotta-colored horses were gathered near a little wooden house, while a sleepy black Labrador resided on the porch. Before I even stepped off the first platform, I had placed an enormous amount of faith in my guides and in Skyline Eco-Adventures. Skyline was the first outfitter to run a zipline in the U.S. (right here on Maui in 2002) and, according to its website, it has “safely conducted well over one million customer zipline crossings, more than any other U.S.-based zipline company.” Skyline also operates ziplines near Maui’s Haleakala National Park and even in Tennessee’s Dollywood. Not to mention, I’d heard rave reviews from friends who’d gone on the same tour before. Looking back on my experience, I would definitely agree with them, although I was entirely unprepared for what took place on the sixth zipline.The Kaanapali zipline tour consists of eight ziplines. For the majority of the runs, clients need only step off of a platform to take flight. There’s no need to control the speed of the run, either, so clients can just hold on tight to their equipment. More adventuresome clients might be bummed that you can’t go upside down on any of the lines but that wasn’t a drawback for me, anyway. After the first four runs were completed, it was time for lunch and I was starving. Luckily, we were treated to a spread of delicious sandwiches, chips and salsa and homemade brownies. My favorite part of the meal was drenching my sandwich in a delicious pesto aioli sauce. I also loved the fact that Skyline was committed to having us use only biodegradable cutlery.After lunch and an optional pit stop, we headed for the rest of our four runs. Making our way down the mountain required a bit of light hiking, so you should advise clients to wear their best athletic and/or hiking shoes on the tour. Everything seemed to be going well for me until that sixth run, which brings us back to my feeling utterly panicked and mortified as I dangled from the zipline.“Don’t worry,” Leo, our guide, yelled out. “I’ll come over to get you!”That he did, making his way out on the line to get me and grab hold of me so I could finally, finally, set my feet on some sort of terra firma. Once he did, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and told him, “That’s never happened to me before — ever. I’m so sorry; I feel so embarrassed.”“Don’t worry,” he said. “It was my fault — I stopped your run a little too soon. We wouldn’t let you fall, though!”Most of the members of my tour group assumed that I was just too vertically challenged to touch the platform on my own — a valid assumption that I will not counter. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that my zipline rescue was staged. Call it a hunch, but I’m sticking to it. Nevertheless, it was definitely a memorable experience. Though it certainly got my adrenaline pumping, it was, without a doubt, one of the best parts of my Maui trip experience — I’d gladly go through with it again, I think. And I can’t wait to hang tight once again.