I Jumped off Poo Poo Point!
Running fingers through my sweat dampened hair, I tried to smooth the locks before Eileen and I climbed the final hundred yards of the trail. At last we ascended out of the trees and found ourselves on the paraglider’s launching pad on Tiger Mountain’s Poo Poo Point. The two mile, 1,700 foot elevation gain left me a little breathless but so did the view.
A few minutes earlier we’d seen Mt. Rainier off to our right, and now the Issaquah Valley loomed in front of us. Buff guys strode around prepping for the 20 yard run that would give them enough air to lift them into the expanse of nothingness.
I’d watched the landings from below but never seen anyone actually run and jump off the edge. Fascinated, I watched the gliders’ chutes (they call them wings) fill with air and the pilots take a final step of no return and float away.
“Hey, there’s Mike.” I gestured toward our friend who drives the guys to the top of the mountain who don’t want to hike up with all of their equipment.
Mike spotted us and waved us over.
“Hey, Marc needs a passenger for his tandem harness,” Mike said. “He’ll take you down at half price, Laura.”
I do like my bargains, and the wheels in my head were already turning. Was this the adventure for me? I began the pros and cons list in my head.
Injury is a distinct possibility. On the other hand, I don’t have kids who will resent me for the rest of their lives if I do something foolish and get myself killed. I do hate pain though, and if we crash on takeoff or landing, there’s bound to be pain. But when am I ever going to just happen to be on top of a mountain with a friend in the business to negotiate a good deal for me. Besides, I’m young; I’m independent; I’m single; and I should do this!
“Half price, Laura! How can you not do it?” Eileen was practically levitating she was so excited. “I did it once, and you just have to do it.”
“All right, I’ll do it,” I said.
“Really, you will?” her voice had risen to a squeal. “Yay! This is so exciting.” As she began to jump up and down, a niggling of doubt found its way into my head.
A guy tried to launch off to my right, and at the last minute something went wrong. Now he was stuck in a bunch of bushes trying to untangle himself before he could hike back up the side of the mountain.
In the meantime I’d been handed a form with a couple of pages of disclaimers. “This is safe isn’t it?” I nervously asked. The instructor pulled out his smart phone and showed me a leg with the tibia sticking at least four inches out of the skin. A little wave of nausea swept over me, But accidents happen when you’re walking down the street, right? This really isn’t that dangerous, I told myself. I really wanted to jump.
I watched more takeoffs, and the instructor told me for the fifth time that when he said, run, I had to keep running no matter what. “You have to keep your eyes on the lake in the far distance. Do not look down, and keep running when I say ‘run.’”
Then I was in the harness, and the instructor was yelling in my ear, “When I say run, you run with all you have and do not stop running. If we are in the bushes, you keep running. Do you understand? Don’t look down, and you cannot stop running.”
Then he was counting down, “Three, two, one…RUN!”
I ran; I ran so hard. I kept my eyes on the lake in the far distance and pushed. Wind in the wing tried to drag us back, but the instructor yelled, “Long strides, NOW!”
I kept running. I felt the bushes hit my legs, and for an instant I thought I hadn’t run hard enough, but then we were weightless. Every care I’d ever had was gone as we floated high above the world. The instructor was telling me something, but I wasn’t listening anymore. I gazed at the lakes, the trees, the sky, and the clouds starting to change color with the sinking sun.
I breathed deeply – happy and carefree. After awhile, I started to pay attention to the instructor again, and he showed me how to turn the glider in a circle before he handed the controls to me. I pulled the right brake toward me and leaned my left knee over my right leg. Slowly we turned in a full circle. As I loosened my pull and let my arm go up with the wing, we surged and then balanced out.
All too soon, I gave the controls back to Marc; and he guided us to the ground. As we hit the landing pad, I ran four huge steps, and then we were done – except it really wasn’t over for me. I had a memory for the rest of my life.I looked down and wiped blood from my left leg wondering how I’d managed to scrape myself. Then I realized my blood had little seeds in it. I’d swept some berries in the bushes in that last millisecond before taking off. Later, I’d learn that at the same time, the poor guy who’d been stuck in the bushes had finally untangled himself and had almost hiked back to the top when suddenly a 5’ 8” girl almost kicked him in the head as she hurled over the top of him. He hit the ground for the second time that evening.
“You did great running,” Marc told me. “I’ve had men look down, freak out at the last second, and then go into the fetal position. It’s bad news when someone does that. We both go down and you can get hurt pretty bad.”
Seemed to me that two things were key to a successful jump: 1) follow through – keep running; and 2) keep your eyes on the lake – don’t look down. I started thinking about perseverance. So many people are disappointed in their lives these days. They’re constantly looking at what everyone else has and wishing for it instead of keeping their focus on God and pushing forward to claim their own lives, to be satisfied in what God has given them.
I wanted to jump and have that feeling of freedom, but I had to run first. Even though the drag of the shoot pulled back at me, I pushed forward. When the bushes hit my legs, I kept running, and I stayed focused on the lake. My reward was totally worth the short run!
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2.