Walking on a wire stretched high between two trees was not the best time to discover I’m afraid of tightropes. But trussed up in a harness and hanging from another wire by two carabiners and a pair of super-strength bungee cords, I had two choices: keep moving across the tightrope, or clamber down the tree in shame.
As usual, my mortal fear of embarrassment trumped every other phobia. I kept moving.
I found myself in this predicament because I’d signed up for the 3.5-hour Adventure Aerial Park tour at Laflèche Adventure Park in Val-des-Monts, Quebec, about a 35-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It’s a beautiful, wooded site, high in the Gatineau Hills.
For some reason (psychological self-protection, perhaps?), I didn’t read the information on the Laflèche website as closely as I could have. I knew there were Ziplines involved, and I was fine with that. I’d tackled that fear before, a few years ago in Whistler, B.C. But, somehow, I missed the very clearly stated information that I would need to navigate 36 suspended “obstacles” (rope bridges, tightropes, vertical nets) to reach the 14 Ziplines.
Hence my position on a tightrope that, by my rough estimate, was about 6m (20 feet) above the forest floor.
On the bright side, I’ve finally found a practical use for yoga. Pretending I was simply carrying out some extreme version of tree pose, I put one foot in front of the other, steadied my breath and focused on the tree ahead. Eventually, I made it to the end of the tightrope, heart pounding.
That was only the baby tightrope. Other more challenging obstacles followed, including a vertical net overlooking a lake. I hadn’t quite realized I’d be in a boot camp scene from Top Gun. The saving grace was that I wasn’t being hounded by some middle-aged sadist in fatigues and a buzz cut. Instead, our guide was a cheery young woman in braids nicknamed Hibou, the French word for “owl.” (All of the insanely healthy-looking guides at Laflèche are nicknamed for woodland creatures.)
By the end of the course, I had largely conquered my fear. I managed to stop in the middle of a subsequent tightrope and enjoy the view of the lake. And the Ziplines were a total blast But I don’t think I’ll be joining Cirque du Soleil anytime soon.