What does the word ‘local’ mean? Although it has an implied geographic component, the definition of the word is fairly flexible. For instance, you need not be a native, but can still feel like a local in a certain place. The term indigenous, on the other hand, is very specific; it implies exclusivity of location, defining native in the true sense. Tracking indigenous flora and fauna of a region over time directly reflects it’s changing ecosystem and microclimate.
Being a current California local, I am curious about the indigenous plant species unique to this region, such as coastal redwoods, giant sequoias, and Monterey cypress. So, when I heard of an ecoadventure tour that includes ziplining through the coastal redwoods while learning about them, I was keen to experience it.
Coastal redwoods are different from the giant sequoias, although they show many similar traits. The former, as the name suggests, are found commonly near the coast, where the fog keeps the soil moist. Coastal redwoods can grow as old as 1800 years, but heavy logging in the 20th century reduced the forest cover, making their conservation imperative. We chose the Redwood Canopy ziplining package at Mount Hermon Adventures in Santa Cruz.
“I have ziplined twice before, but the feeling of rushing adrenaline never gets old! The thrilling experience and the serenity of the redwoods lured me back for the third time,” said Hrishikesh Pendurkar.
Ziplining is what modern day Tarzan might have used to commute between trees instead of riskily swinging on dangling vines. In ziplining, you are not really hanging by your hands, but are clipped through a harness onto a wire connecting two trees.
This is how zipping through trees looks like. The black box-like object is the brake at the end of the line to ensure a smooth landing.
Ours was a large group of 11 people, and the maximum limit per line was 8, so we split into two groups. Once we signed the waivers in their office, it was time to train. There were 2 instructors per group, who helped us adorn our harness and cautioned us regarding the safety guidelines. After familiarizing ourselves with the equipment on a small zipline-course just 6-7 feet above the ground, everyone was pretty psyched for the actual action.
In total, there were 6 ziplines of different lengths and speeds and one skybridge in our adventure package (about 2 hours). As the redwoods are quite tall (up to 370 ft), the maximum height was about 180 ft above the ground, which was really cool, as we could see both the treetops and tree roots while standing on the small platforms constructed halfway up the tree.
Initially, the height was intimidating, but the feeling after stepping off the platform was amazing! The rush and anxiety were quickly replaced by awe of the surrounding view.
“The most satisfying part was overcoming my fear of heights. Once I zipped through the first couple of lines, I got comfortable and really enjoyed the experience!” said Meghana Prabhune.
While zipping between redwoods was spectacular, we also spent some time to get acquainted with the oldest tree on-site, Hubert, which was about 1000 yrs old! It has survived fires and logging, living on as a legend, while its unfortunate cousins were sacrificed for building houses in San Francisco. Our instructors coaxed us to attempt a dare-devil feat here: we leaned in backward from the platform, relying on the safety of our harness, for a great view of the root clump of Hubert and his family below us.
“It was a wonderful experience to enjoy an adventure amidst nature,” said Aditya Jaltade.
Of course, no trip is complete without goofy group photos, which we managed to click while crossing the swinging skybridge. Overall, everyone was happy with the ziplining experience and with our professional instructors. They were very patient, and did a commendable job of encouraging but not pushing people beyond their limits during the whole tour.
“It was an exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable experience!” said Amod Jaltade.
One caveat in the experience, according to me, was that although our instructors answered directed questions, they could have informed us more about the delicate ecosystem and the current measures for conserving the redwood forests. Their focus was biased towards the adventurous aspect, which although great by itself, did not do justice to an excellent opportunity of ecology outreach.