Vernon’s high flyers


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Photo by Bob Nesoff
Photo by Bob Nesoff

There are some things that give you more thrills and chills than jumping out of a plane…jumping off a wooden platform and flying over trees and lakes.

Any number of northern ski mountains seeking ways of bringing crowds in during the off-ski season have resorted to imaginative methods of luring paying customers and giving them their money’s worth.

Several ski resorts have opened water parks and then have gone to constructing zip lines…those famous tree skimming high wire acts that first saw the light of day in South American jungles taking people from tree top to tree top.

New Jersey’s Mountain Creek in Vernon, has opened a series of zip lines that is selling out day after day.

It’s location in Sussex County is an easy ride from most of Metropolitan New York, virtually all of New Jersey from the mid-section northward and from Pennsylvania. Throw in a bit of Connecticut too while you are at it.

While other zip lines may be higher and faster, the Zoom Ziplines complex at Mountain Creek is unique in what it has to offer. Tops amongst that is the cadre of competent, friendly and courteous coterie of young guides who accompany each and every group of “flyers,” as zip liners are called.

Group starting times are spaced well so that no group encroaches on the other. At the office you’ll be required to sign a waiver and then gear up in a harness that will later hook onto a “trolley” that will carry you along the zip cable.

One thing unique to Zoom at Mountain Creek is the first line. Both experienced and novice flyers are required to go here first. It is a short, 200-foot line that familiarizes the participant with a zip line and the scariest past of all…stepping off a wooden platform into an abyss and then flying down a cable at considerable speed.

The guides for our group, Lordy and Jess, were two totally patient young women, answering questions and suiting everyone up. Then comes the moment of reckoning: You are in the harness, the trolley is placed on the cable and you lean back. The release is pulled and you are literally flying down the line.

Flying? What’s going to stop you? How bad will the jolt be?

Those thoughts went through the minds of everyone as each stepped up to the edge of the platform. That feeling intensified as you realized you were coming in full tilt to the end of the line.

The stop, while abrupt, was surprisingly gentle. The trolley hit the springs and they compressed rapidly absorbing the shock of the sudden stop. That’s when the impatience sets in…impatience for the rest of your crew to finish so that you can hit the next stop.

OK, this was 200 feet. The next stop is at the top of the mountain. You’ll walk to the cabriolet ski lift and pile in, enjoying the view as you head up mountain. The view is amazing and on most days you can see three states: New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In the distance is the High Point Obelisk marking the highest point in New Jersey. It looks, from this distance like a giant toothpick pointing to the sky.

The next run is the highest, steepest and longest. It rises some 200 feet over the forest and a lake and runs for more than 1,500 feet. This is where a zip line gets its name because you are moving at quite a pace over the lake and the platform ahead, that looked like a speck when you started, is rapidly growing in size.

Relax, let go. Enjoy the ride. The only time you really have to hold on is when you are coming in to the platform. You don’t even have to take pictures. A photographer is on hand and will offer you amazing photos on a disk, better than any you could take. There is also the opportunity to rent a helmet camera and shoot your own videos of each run.

These options are surprisingly inexpensive. One New York ski area takes pictures and offers one 8×10 print that you must download yourself on your computer for $20. Zoom has a disk with a photographic showing of your entire journey for less than $20.

Walking from the second to the third and then the fourth zip line of the adventure is an exhilarating time. The last run comes in low over the lake and although it looks as though you could run your toes through the water, you’d have to be bigger than Michael Jordan.

The scariest part of the entire day is walking from the last run to the field where an old German military truck is waiting to take you back to the cabriolet. You’ve got to cross a rope-style bridge of sturdy wires and a metal plank walkway.

Looks easy? Don’t kid yourself. People who took the zip in stride were hanging on to the bridge supports for dear life as it swayed back and forth. Stepping off at the far end onto solid ground presented the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

Mountain Creek is easily reached from the George Washington Bridge with either Rt. 4 or Rt. 80. Rt. 4 to Rt. 208 South to Rt. 23 North. Take that to the Vernon cutoff. It is also marked for Mountain Creek and signs are quite visible. If you take Rt. 80, go right to Rt. 23 North and follow the above directions.

For more information, reservations and complete directions, check out www.zoomziplines.com.