OCALA — When I was a little girl and my father was stationed at an Army base in Germany, I used to love going to the parks in the forests near my house. My favorite thing was to discover playground "flying foxes," where you could jump off 10- or 15-foot platforms and ride down ropes, hanging off little pulley cars with handlebars.
I was reminded of this recently when I heard about Canyons Zip Line tours, which use the same kind of contraption, except it's much scarier (though probably safer). And much longer. The $89-per-person tour is almost three hours long and has nine lines that cover a milelong course over tall trees, lakes and canyonlike cliffs.
The zip lines, built over a 94-acre abandoned limestone quarry not far off Interstate 75, opened in November, so I figured the lines were still new and strong enough to handle me. The two guides on my tour took great care to strap up the six folks in my group, and we never went anywhere treacherous along the tour without making sure our metal hooks were fastened tightly to cable.
The first leap, one of the shorter lines stretching from tree to tree, was the most terrifying. The guides show you how to slow yourself using a gloved hand, but the landings were all smooth.
It became less scary and more comfortable toward the end, which was good timing, because those are the longest and most scenic lines that have you zipping over lakes. We saw swooping hawks and a kingfisher, and the skull of a raccoon along the trail. Alligators, bobcats and turkeys are also known to make an appearance, the guides said.
The tour winds down with a long walk across a rope bridge and a 30-foot rappel to the ground.
I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but a lot of people who were on the tour with me said they were. This was different, though. Somehow, being strapped in and distracted by the unusual topography of the limestone quarry, you forget that you're dangling hundreds of feet in the air.
At the very least, it makes you feel like a kid again.