Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 69 - Swinging From a Rope Swing Into Water

I have never swung from a rope swing into water. Upon discovering this was the case, I was very surprised this was an event I had never experienced up to this point in my life. As someone that grew up on a body of water and spent the majority of my youth on the lakes and rivers around my hometown, it seemed I would have had more than enough exposure to such an event; however, it simply never occurred. Realizing this is probably something everyone should experience in their lives, I asked Ryan if we could make the experience possible during my trip to visit him in the north woods. Indicating he too had never had such an experience, Ryan stated it was definitely possible and set to work locating some of the best rope swings around the town of Luck. Following a little research and planning, Ryan tracked down one of the highest rope swings in the area, which set our plans for Saturday afternoon and gave me a chance to finally experience the thrill of swinging from a rope swing into water.

Clam Lake
After a late start to the day, Ryan and I hitched up his boat and made a trip to Clam Falls, a lake just east of Luck. Once on the lake, we took a quick spin around the horseshoe shaped pocket of water resting in the midst of dense forest. As we drove I was taken aback by the absence of human activity on the water. With the exception of the park containing the boat launch we used earlier, there were nearly no structures on the lakeshore. Additionally, we only encountered one other boat as we drove around the lake. In response, I pointed out the absence of activity and shot Ryan a skeptical comment about the rope swing. In return, Ryan confidently assured me it would be worth the trip.

The rope swing
Continuing, we wrapped around the central bend in the lake and skirted along the shoreline. Moments later a towering pine tree cocked at a 45 degree angle over the water came into view. “There it is!” Ryan said as we approached the tree. Confused at first, I looked along the shoreline for some indication of a rope swing buried in the tree line. I searched to no avail until my eyes finally caught a glimpse of s skinny purple line dangling from a position nearly three quarters of the way up the large, angled pine tree. At nearly 20 feet off of the water’s surface, the heavily secured rope dangled fell in a straight line toward the water, resting motionless just above the reflective surface of the lake. As I looked over the sight of the rope swing I noticed three knots tied down the length of the rope that appeared to correspond with three locations along the top side of the tree’s trunk. Realizing these locations along the tree provided suitable launch pads for swinging into the water, I immediately focused on the higher points on the rope. With the middle of the three knots corresponding to a location about 12 feet above the water’s surface, it was clear we were in for a ride, and I was ready to go.

Getting the rope
After Ryan pulled the boat to the shore, I was quick to disembark and start my ascent up the tree trunk. I found the climb surprisingly easy given the rough bark surface and routine placement of trimmed tree limbs. Excited by the prospect of my first swing into the water, I scurried up the tree until I reached the location of the purple rope. After taking a quick look at the water below me to gauge my height, I slowly reached around the tree and grabbed the rope swing. Once secured, I pulled the rope toward the top of the tree and started a coordinated movement back down to the tree’s midpoint. With Ryan watching on from the docked boat, I ran my hands to the rope’s second knot and glanced back toward the shore. “Alright, here goes nothing!” I said looking at Ryan. “You going?” he said with a hint of hesitation in his voice. “Yeah, it’s now or never...” I said pulling the rope closer to my body and checking my grip. Confident I was positioned correctly to take the leap, I took one last look at the water and took a deep breath. Then, in one fluid movement I kicked off of the side of the tree and let the rope carry me outward.

A split second after leaving the tree I felt my speed increasing under the weight of gravity. The arc of the rope led me through a trough before I could recognize what was happening, which introduced a noticeable feeling of lift into the air. The rush was undeniable, and I had yet to free my grip. Still accelerating, I held onto the rope a moment longer until I noticed the water’s distance increasing steadily. In turn, I eased my grip on the rope and let the momentum of the swing carry me outward. The rope quickly fell away from my body, leaving me airborne over the water for a brief moment. With my body suddenly descending at the speed of gravity, I tucked me legs and burst through the surface of the water. Completely submerged, I quickly found my way to the surface and let out a loud celebratory call. In a matter of seconds I had encountered one of the most simple, yet most entertaining activities I had done in some time.

As I swam back I found myself laughing in excitement from the experience. “How was it?” Ryan asked in anticipation. I withheld my answer for a short while as I pulled myself up along the side of the boat. “You want an honest answer?” I asked with a grin on my face. “Yeah…” Ryan said wondering where I was going with my statement. “It was freaking amazing!” I said before letting out another laugh. On cue, Ryan looked up at the tree and said, “Alright, I’m up.” Over the next few minutes he followed my course up the tree, located the rope, and made his descent back to a suitable jumping position. He took a brief moment to think about his takeoff position before lining up and launching off the center of the massive tree. I watched on smiling as he swooped through the air and launched outward over the lake. As he flew, Ryan bellowed a celebratory call over the quiet lake. I listened to the sound echo briefly before the splash of Ryan’s body against the water consumed the air. “Incredible!” Ryan yelled as he surfaced from below the water. Centering himself after taking the swing, he swam back to the rope, gripped it, and dangled in the water for a few minutes. Eventually swimming back to the boat, Ryan let out an excited remark. “Totally worth it!” he yelled as he toweled off. I immediately replied, “You bet it is... Now it’s time to do it again.”

Over the next few hours Ryan and I swung several more times and spent some time in the water. We shared stories and cracked jokes as the day carried on, leading only to a quickly approaching evening. With the sky growing dark, we finally decided it was time to head back to Ryan’s house. As we rode back to the boat launch on the opposite side of the lake I took one last look at the rope swing that had occupied the bulk of our afternoon. I briefly thought about why it had taken me 30 years to give swinging from a rope swing into water a try before correcting my thought process. In that moment I realized that although it took me a long time to make it happen, there was probably no better way to experience swinging from a rope swing than to be with a lifelong best friend on a beautiful summer day in the north woods. From this day forward it is something we will always carry with us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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