Looking into the canopy of trees at the Pi’iholo Ranch, I had my answer. It wasn’t the rush or speed. It was the chance to swoop between branches like a bird. Even with my moderate fear of heights, I knew I had to do it.
After a quiet night in Maui’s beach town of Kihei we ventured upcountry, navigating part of the road that winds up slope to the crater of Haleakala. We followed our GPS instructions and still had time for lunch in the cowboy town of Makawao. A hitching post from ranch days still stands in front of the town store and our waitress at the Casanova restaurant and deli said that ‘Paniolos,’ the Hawaiian-ized word for cowboy, occasionally ride through town.
Fortified we drove to the Ranch and met the crew that would help us ascend and zip. Jeff Baldwin, who manages the 800 acre property with his wife, Janet, once worked as a safety instructor with NHRA drag racers and loves a good challenge. It was his inspiration to develop the only zipline on Maui that’s strung across a private ranch. He’s worked hard with PVM, Professional Vendor Members of the Association for Challenge Course Technology, to install and maintain safety standards. As he spoke my altitude-challenged nerves started to relax.
Next we joined a family, two kids under 10 and their parents, visiting from Iowa. It wasn’t long before we were in harnesses and one of our trainers, Whitney, had us reviewing a litany of regulations. Trainer Dave went over technique and we stepped up a set of stairs to a treetop platform.
For the next hour and a half Dave and Whitney escorted us, shared stories and myths, pointed out rainbows and checked, rechecked, fastened, hooked, cajoled and applauded our progress.
I learned immediately that the best technique was to not look down but across to the landing platform. After checking harnesses, setting the gear, guide lines and hand bar, each stretch of our 6 lines, began by slinking into a chair position. Next we had to step off platforms 60 feet and more above the forest floor. What a forest it was! Wide-girthed Eucalyptus trees held our lines securely. Their smell and adrenalin cleared our heads.
At one point a light rain fell and as I waited for the last of our group to swing onto the platform, I spied a double rainbow through branches above a trio of horses. Dave told us that rodeo-bred steer and horses still graze on the ranch’s lower sloping fields.
We crossed bouncing, suspended bridges and zipped across ever widening gaps until we came to the ‘drop.’ This was the most frightening part of the adventure for me.
Basically a state-of-the-art pulley contraption lowered us, one by one, to a cushion below where we were treated to snacks before completing our final zips. It’s one thing to be tethered to a line that arcs horizontally. To step off a tall platform from a single vertical line is another challenge.
The kids did it without a hitch. I paused, seriously frightened, and then just stepped into the air. In mere seconds my feet gently caught the ground and all was good in the world once again. Soon we climbed another stair and traversed a broad canyon before stepping back onto the final landing platform. The nearly three hour tour ended as a van carried us past a pair of Nene birds (Hawaii’s State Bird) and back to our original rendezvous point.
Know what? I’d do it all again. If I ever get to Costa Rica it’s one of the first things I’ll try. I hear the trees are even taller and tropical parrots keep you company!
Thank you, Piiholo Ranch managers and all your kind, patient and very well trained staff for hosting us.
When you choose Zipline adventures at Pi’iholo Ranch:
- Book online to get a 10% discount.
- Kids go free but there are weight restrictions.
- Choose from a team-building, side by side series of ziplines, the canopy tour we took or reserve a combo tour with Maui Hike to visit waterfalls along with your zip.
- Transportation: It’s probably best to get there by renting a car but Maui Bus will get you to Makawao town. You’ll need to walk about a mile to the zipline check in. You can also check the website for car services that will bring you privately.
- More information: http://www.piiholozipline.com/
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