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Jennifer Linn: Unicoi State Park offers new ziplining levels for the not so faint of heart
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Georgia State Sen. Steve Gooch rides on a zip line April 26 at the Unicoi State Park in Helen. The new course opened that same day and provides stunning views of the park from eight new zip lines, ranging in length from 500 to 2,000 feet long and are 50 to 100 feet high. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Stations of the Cross on Green Street

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I heard the comment come from behind me while waiting between zip lines at Unicoi State Park in Helen.

“I feel like a bird!”

I didn’t say it, but it was true.

During the moments I was soaring high above Unicoi Lake or through wooded areas surrounding it, it felt like I was flying.

Admittedly, this was my first time zip lining, and I may have underestimated my fear of heights. While climbing the tower to the first zip line in level 1, I started getting a little uneasy. I considered turning around. But upon realizing about 15 or so people were behind me, I was locked into my position in line.

At the top of the tower, a guide from the park hooked my harness to the cable and told me when it was time to push off from the platform.

I took a deep breath and left the platform, soaring to the next one. There another guide told me when to slow down and helped unclip the pulley attaching my harness to the zip line.

For the remainder of level 1, the group inched through the course, crossing rope bridges and zipping to the platforms in the trees.

Climbing rope ladders and scooting along bridges made of cables made me nervous, even though my harness was clipped to a cable firmly attached to trees, stair rails and poles. Standing on platforms only a few feet wide at the top of the launch areas also tested my nerves.

But once I stepped off, the rush of the air in my face on the sunshiney day at Unicoi made me relax. Sometimes I couldn’t help but let out a “wee” as I skimmed through the tree canopy, many feet off the ground.

After about an hour or so, we took a short walk to start level 2, the newest course that opened earlier that month.

The new course offers breathtaking views from zip lines up to 100 feet above the ground and zigzaging over the lake.

Guides warned us it would include longer, higher and faster zip lines. They said if you weren’t comfortable with heights or braking, it may not be best to continue.

By this point, I had gotten more comfortable with the heights and decided to continue.

Close to me in line were State Sen. Steve Gooch and Helen Mayor Helen Wilkins. At one point, while heading up a particularly high platform, one of them said they weren’t skipping any of the runs. I wasn’t either.

I went up to the platform, was clipped in by guides and sent on my way. I crossed Lake Unicoi and looked down to ensure my uber-stylish fanny pack was still zipped. I didn’t want my notebook and phone inside to drop into the lake.

As we made our way through Unicoi’s zip line course, the guides were particularly helpful. They seemingly understood that maybe not everyone was at home in the treetops and flying through the air. They all joked with zip line participants, making them feel at ease.

Level 2 was more fun for me than level 1. The lake and the sights made the treks to the treetops much more tolerable. Since the zip lines were longer, I felt like I had more time to adjust to the idea of being up so high.

Jennifer Linn is feature writer for The Times. She can be reached at jlinn@gainesvilletimes.com.

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