I'm not sure I would have ever imagined that I would say yes to this question: Would you like to launch yourself off a slide that sits more than 20 feet in the air, relying only on engineering and metal to keep you alive?
But that's exactly what I did, right after I let my 11-year-old do the same thing. We were trying out the new Air Hike ropes course at the N.C. Zoo. And, I have to admit, I had a lot of fun.
I'm not a daredevil, by any means, but, I'd prefer my girls don't catch my anxieties about heights and fast things. So, I ride roller coasters and climb enormous heights for their benefit. Along the way, I found that I kind of enjoy them, too.
The course features about two dozen obstacles - from swinging logs and a plank walk to a spider web, tight rope and zip line. In the hour we had to try the course, my daughter and I completed about half of the obstacles, which was just fine with us.
This is kind of a choose-your-own adventure exhibit. From a central platform, you decide where you'll go and what you'll accomplish next. As you move from obstacle to platform to obstacle, you're in charge of moving the hooks that connect you to the cables, for your your safety. One hook will open only if another one is secured to a cable. It took my daughter and I a few tries with the hooks before we got it all in sync.
Air Hike is located in the Africa region and sits above the walkways and other exhibits. We couldn't see other animals, but plenty of zoo visitors could see us, sometimes giving a little cheer when we went down the zip line or made it across a bridge. The support was helpful, though it gave us a little stage front as we zoomed down the zip line for the first time.
At one point, I yelled out, "This actually is more fun than it looks!" to two women below. They responded, together, "No, thank you!" We all laughed.
A tip I learned from my daughter, who had done zip lines before: Sit down in your harness before you launch yourself off the platform of the zip line. Some of the obstacles look harder than they are (like that spider web) until you remember that you can just use the ropes to push yourself along the cable.
The zip line, however, is one place where there is room for improvement. For safety reasons, a sign that reminds users that the zip line is for one person at a time is placed on the cable that you attach your hooks to before you jump off the platform. For my daughter and I, it wasn't clear, at first, how to move the sign so that you could attach your hooks to the cable. All of the Air Hike workers were on the central platform, so we shouted to them for help and they shouted back that we needed to pull the sign in with another cord.
It was complicated and also tricky for both my daughter and I, who are on the shorter side. To attach our hooks to the cable, we had to stand on a stool, which wasn't attached to the platform, and really lean over the edge to hook up to the cables. We were always attached by at least one hook, so I wasn't fearful. It just was an uncomfortable process, especially as others watched from below. It would be helpful to have a worker stationed at that platform to help with this process and to move the sign elsewhere.
To try Air Hike, you must be 60 inches tall to participate alone or 48 inches tall and accompanied on the course at all times by someone who is at least 60 inches tall. The maximum weight is 250 lbs. They'll outfit you with a harness and helmet.
The ropes course opened in May and will continue from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily, through Oct. 31. Tickets are $12 per person (in addition to zoo admission).
I'd recommend the course for older grade schoolers and up. The zoo in Asheboro is about 90 minutes from the Triangle.