As a child, one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world was to climb trees and I would spend hours sitting up in them but after becoming paralyzed it seemed like my days in branches were over. I was wrong. On an early August morning, Steven and I headed 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon to a beautiful area in Washington by the Columbia River known as The Gorge or the Columbia Gorge to meet up with most of the zip-lining crew from the Skamania Lodge Zip Tour (SLZT).

Nine people were present, including a videographer/photographer, and all were ready to make this experience as enjoyable and safe as possible. More people were there than what was actually needed but that was because everyone wanted to be a part of making zip-lining accessible. The more the merrier is appropriate for this group as they were soul-to-the-earth kind of people.

Raised up into the air like royalty, we set course on the first trail to the first zip of seven. There would be a lot of man-handling today but Steven and I were easy-going. Plus everyone was 100% professional and considerate so we were literally in good hands. To get onto the platform we were hand-carried as well as hoisted up with a pulley system. The first couple of zips were short and basically led deeper into the forest where the longest and fastest zips are.

Between each zip the SLZT crew kept us suspended above the platform, no chair required, which was really impressive. Even when crossing bridges, there was a full-proof system in place to get us across safely and relatively easily. Steven and I had the crew bring seat cushions just in case we wanted to completely alleviate the pressure from the harnesses but actually found them unnecessary. Still, it was nice to know it was an option along with the crew zipping our actual wheelchair across.

The most challenging part of the whole course was getting from zip #5 to #6. This involved hiking a dirt trail that was often fairly steep and not very wide. The guys took a stronghold to each wheelchair, providing all the needed stability. After taking a shortcut across the golf course we were back on pavement for a brief moment but then up another short dirt trail to zip #6. After this short but intense hike, the guy’s shirts were drenched with sweat revealing how hard they had been working but you wouldn’t know it by talking to them.

Their positive attitudes continued to soar as they prepared for zip #6—the longest of all the zips and nicknamed the “large one” after their boss with the same last name. After connecting to zip #6 our wheelchairs were taken to the end of the course. Because zip #6 is the longest it is often everyone’s favorite of the bunch. After completion, it was obvious to me why. The feeling of flying for 800 feet between the towering Douglas Fir trees was like being super-human. I don’t think a zip-line could ever be long enough—I would always want to keep going, keep flying.

The finale zip #7 is nicknamed the “slingshot” because the cable’s layout resembles one but more importantly it is the fastest of the zips. The starting platform of zip #7 has a view of the Columbia River through the tree leaves. In the early morning, the water’s calm surface looked like a finely woven cloth made of silver. The zip itself also has glimpses of the river but at the speed I was traveling I didn’t see much. Zip #7 rivals #6 as the favorite since it is the fastest and perhaps even the prettiest run of them all. I would have enjoyed doing just these two zips a few times but was happy to experience the whole course to know what it takes.

Of course, I didn’t want it to end but it did with a golf cart ride back to the lodge along with our wheelchairs. Steven and I were naturally on a high but so were the SLZT crew. We all learned from each other and had a good time. For the SLZT crew, this course is as easy as a walk in the park, so it is the people that they look forward to shaping their day. Zip-lining someone with some kind of physical disability means the SLZT crew gets to use more equipment or “toys” as they put it which makes a repetitious job fun and interesting. After zip-lining with Steven and I, it was obvious that SLZT is ready to welcome more adventurous wheelchair travelers to the trees to fly. Ready to return to the trees?

Additional Information

The SLZT office is located inside the Skamania Lodge, which has a few wheelchair accessible parking spots at the main entrance but are popular in usage and on a slight hill. The office to the SLZT is just to the right of the doors and a wheelchair accessible bathroom is around the corner. Furthermore, the Skamania Lodge is an all-inclusive resort with three ADA room types all with roll-in showers. Being all-inclusive means of course a spa as well as casual and fine dining options.

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