A Mixture of Awesome and Horrifying: Dispatch from Jamboree

By Tyler Barna ''17

A West Deptford teen straps on a harness and tries to banish his fears as he takes on a high, fast ride through the sky.

As someone who is unquestionably terrified of heights, spending a week and a half in a camp made up almost exclusively of mountains held a degree of trepidation for me. However, the call to adventure with over 40,000 of my scouting brothers overpowered my wont for level ground.

So, on a late Sunday night I headed out of the parking lot of the West Deptford Mall on a charter bus to West Virginia.

I had already chosen my curriculum for Jamboree: the Canopy Tour. The Canopy Tour was a set of four zip-lines that went through the dense forest of West Virginia. Even though I was afraid of heights, I felt that I could handle a trip through a canopy of trees thick enough to cover the ground.

I arrived at the National Scout Jamboree after a nine-and-a-half hour bus ride, ready to experience all that I could. My zip through the forest wasn’t scheduled until Saturday, a full five days of waiting. However, I found that the days zipped by, and it was soon Saturday.

A temporary reprieve

I awoke in my orange tent full of excitement, and I quickly prepared my pack to head across the camp. Soon I found myself in a line to enter the Canopy Tour. Fear began to fill my stomach with stones as I remembered how high the zip-lines would be.

While my mind was embroiled with thoughts of height, I heard a staff member call out that the Canopy Tours were rescheduled for the next day. I was mostly disappointed, but a small part of me, the part filled with fear, was relieved. I didn’t have to face my biggest fear for another day.

The day went by at a faster and faster pace as my worry quickly grew. After sleeping, however, my fear was forgotten, and I again prepared my pack for a new day. As I walked along the trail, I felt a drop of water on my hand, and then the sky opened up, raining torrentially. I rushed along, grabbing a pizza box to keep myself from getting completely soaked. I began to worry that my zip-lining would be canceled, but the fear part of me hoped for continued rain.

Arriving at the entrance to the zip-line, I saw that a line had already begun to form. The rain soon died away, and I waited for my trip on the zip. Several of my friends arrived, and we soon entered the training tent. As the instructor taught us how to properly ride the zip-line, fear crept back into my stomach; part of me hoped for lighting to strike, cancelling our activity. My hopes went unnoticed as I stood underneath a crystal-clear sky, waiting to put on my harness.

Confronting my worst nightmare

As I was fitted for my harness, I felt like I was being sealed in a coffin. I walked across the trail to the first zip-line. My fear was encapsulating my entire body as the strapped my harness onto the line that I would have to ride to the end. The instructor told me how to properly begin the zip-line. As I began to hyperventilate, I stepped off of the platform.

It was awesome. Feeling the wind hit my face as I sped along at 20 miles per hour, I was exhilarated. I began to slow the zip-line with my hand, and I landed on the next platform.

I looked back; I saw that the first zip-line was only about 15 feet long. I was excited to ride the next line, but then I saw it. At almost 40 feet long, it became my new worst nightmare.

I jumped off the platform, hoping to end the experience quickly. In my hurry to finish, I gripped the line when I began to slow down, breaking one of the cardinal rules of zip-lining. My arm was yanked back, and it was almost dislocated. I stumbled onto the platform, and I breathed deeply in an attempt to keep myself from completely hyperventilating.

I resolved myself to not look at the next zip-line, a promise I almost immediately broke. It was all I could do to prevent myself from fainting; an 80-foot zip-line that stretched over a forest floor that was 30 feet below.

I contemplated asking to leave, but then I remembered I couldn’t. I walked off the ledge with shaking feet, and I rushed by trees at 40 miles per hour. In my hurry to get to the other side, I slowed the line too early, and I found myself in a dead-halt three quarters of the way to the next platform.

Finding my strength

I looked down, and I found myself frozen in fear, perched 30 feet above the hard forest floor. I heard the instructor yelling for me to pull myself along the zip-line. I spent almost a minute in quiet fear, and then I cast off my fear into the forest below. I pulled myself onto the next platform, confident in the loss of my fear.

I allowed the instructor to hook me onto the next line, a zip-line slightly longer than the last line but higher above the forest floor. I strutted confidently off of the platform, and I allowed myself to enjoy the near-50-mile-per-hour ride. In fact, I spent so much time enjoying the sights, I didn’t notice the instructor motioning for me to brake for a moment, but a moment is all it takes. My feet slammed into the edge of the platform, and fear overtook my body once more as I began to fall backwards.

Suddenly, the instructor grabbed the front of my harness, and I was pulled onto the platform. The instructor asked me, “So how was the ride?” and I responded, “A mixture of awesome and horrifying.”

I may never cast off my fear of heights completely, but my experience on the canopy tour helped me conquer most of my fear, something I would have never been able to do without the help of the Boy Scout National Jamboree.

Note: This article was also posted to the West Deptford Patch on .