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That First Step off the Ledge

by Kevin Cooney

As the saying goes, “I’m not afraid of heights; I’m afraid of falling.”  This to me and other sane people is a very logical and sensible approach to life.  My apprehension when it comes to heights is a lifelong (and probably evolutionary) response to having seen a melon dropped from a tall tower.  This is something I should have spoken up about when the idea of doing an “Adventure Trail” first came across my desk at work.  But I love “Adventure” and I love “Trails” so I figured a combination of the two could only double my enjoyment.  Then I saw the high wire crossing the great gorge that is Ausable Chasm.  A torrid river rushing below and a single wire suspended between the cliffsides. The adept and confidence-inspiring guide assured me… “Just last week, we had an 80 year old do this.”  With a camera rolling, and that factoid ringing in my ears I decided to forget my phobias and just start putting one foot in front of the other.

It seemed in the moment an eternity, but upon crossing came the rush of relief with feet finally on terra firma…and then, I kind of wanted to do it again.  Who was this new “Adventure Kevin” I had just discovered after all these years.  Had I been missing adventure all this time?  Had I lived an adventure-less life? Had I made a mistake passing on sky diving, bungee jumping and paragliding? Ok… maybe those fearless feats of abandon are still beyond the limits of my bravery. But in some small way, crossing that wire had transported me to a new outlook.  We continued along, climbing cliffsides on small ledges by hand grips, always tethered at the waist for safety.  But I’m the sort of person who always thinks, illogically, mine will be the only one to ever untether.

We crossed more wire bridges, granting striking and unique views reserved for those who dare.  It was exhilarating; it was exciting, and despite my best attempts to chicken out, I felt pushed on.  That is the magic of knowing people will see the camera footage later.  At first I was just putting on a brave face for a future audience, soon I was happily trotting above a 30 foot drop.  I can’t say I left my fears completely behind on that first ledge, but was surprised how much stronger they were before I had actually tried the thing that left me so paralytic.

Ausable Chasm had more delights in store. Booked in advanced a pro-guide will harness you up and teach the daunting art of rappelling.  Walking backwards down a cliffside, then shooting across the canyon on a zip line… “Adventureless Kevin” had never conceived of such things.  “Adventureless Kevin” preferred his comfy (and very safe) sofa where the only realistic danger was brain freeze from Ben & Jerry.  But here I was… and this was what I was doing.  I wondered… “Will I have to buy a whole new ‘Adventure Kevin’ wardrobe?”

I would say my reward for all this was at last coasting gently down the Ausable River in a boat admiring the gorgeous striations and ancient cliffs, monuments to the persistence and power of water and time. A gorgeous day in summer, filled with new adventures, previously unknown courage and breathtaking beauty is what Ausable Chasm had given to me.  I was grateful for it, and can’t recommend it enough.  While I don’t know that my next step will be jumping from an airplane, I am very glad I took that first step off the ledge.

Ausable Chasm offers a variety of wonderful activities. Basic admission costs $17.95 for Adults and $9.95 for Children.  Local residents (Clinton, Essex & Franklin) get a bargain at $9.00.  For the more more adventuresome you can try the Adventure Trail for an additional $32.  The rafting tour is $12 for Adults and $10 for Children.  Rock climbing and rappelling require an advance reservation.  Packages, admission and other activities included, can be purchased at discounted rates.  General admission also gives you access to miles of self-guided walking trails and all the beauty the “Grand Canyon of the East” has to offer.  Learn more: http://ausablechasm.com/
Food and drink are available on site. Don’t miss the small Ausable Chasm Museum onsite or the wonderful North Star Underground Railroad Museum nearby: https://northcountryundergroundrailroad.com/museum.php