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For sheer pleasantness, there isn't much that beats looking up at October foliage in the forests of western North Carolina--unless maybe it's looking down at the autumn colors from strategic perches in the trees themselves. This was my privileged perspective on a recent outing with Navitat Canopy Adventures, located around twenty miles north of Asheville. (http://www.navitat.com) (1-855-628-4828)
Top billing at Navitat goes to the zip-lines. And fine zips they are: ten in all, the longest stretching for more than a thousand feet. A couple of the zips are screamingly fast; one crosses over a ravine more than 200 feet deep; another, nicknamed the Zen Zip, features a near-level section that tunnels right through a webwork of branches and leaves and is about as leisurely and contemplative as a zip-line can possibly be. All fun. But, speaking as someone who is decidedly not an adrenaline junkie (not anymore at least) and feels some measure of discomfort on the fourth rung of a ladder, I regarded the zipping as primarily a great excuse to savor the other aspects of the Navitat experience.
The first of these is simply the chance to spend several hours in some really gorgeous woods--over 200 acres of oaks, beeches, and hickory from which not a road or a single structure can be seen. The pleasure of being there was deepened by the expertise of our guides, Michael and Jen--fresh-faced, capable, good-humored and intrepid--who shared both knowledge and enthusiasm about the ecosystems that changed with every slight blip of altitude.
We learned about medicinal herbs, Cherokee trade routes, foolproof techniques for droving turkeys to a distant market. (Walk backwards, drop one kernel at a time for the tom, and the hens will follow.) And we kept warm by doing a decent amount of exercise--a few short but bracing walks, including two across delicate hanging bridges; some climbing up very cleverly designed stairways to the zipping platforms (my favorite reminded me of that perfect treehouse I never had as a kid); even some easy rappelling back to terra firma.
At the end of the circuit, I was invigorated enough to do the whole thing over...but with the pleasures of Asheville less than half an hour away, it was time to start thinking about cocktails and dinner.
(Navitat operates from April through November. Rates are $89 for adults and $79 for kids 10-17.)