Editor. Note: Artist Fitz Maurice has set out to paint live at all of the US National Parks. She will be submitting her stories from the road to StuNewsLaguna from time to time.
Highlining is happening at Joshua Tree National Park
By FITZ MAURICE
“Hanging out with friends” definitely takes on higher meaning when highlining! Still a very new and evolving outdoor sport, it’s what’s happening in Joshua Tree National Park these days.
I’ve been traveling to each national park in the West for many years now and I’ve seen rock climbers of many ages conquering their summits. What I was thrilled to see at Joshua Tree was so many 20 to 30 year olds interacting with each other and having a blast – outside in their national park.
I started my visit in this national park in my usual way; going immediately to the visitor center to check out what was happening this season. The “front door” appeal to this park is a little dusty but the deeper you delve into its many areas of intrigue, the more you discover the colorful facets of this diamond in the rough. There are vast views of open land you can meditate on, or there are gigantic rock piles from prehistoric time to be conquered.
As soon as I hit the parking lot of Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree, I was struck by the sight of a human being suspended in the sky. My eyes couldn’t see the nearly invisible rope that was supporting the figure nearly 150 yards away. I stood staring in awe – till suddenly he fell off! Fortunately he was retrieved by a climbing harness that held him like a leash, and he sprung back up to the main line. Thank God for this safety device because there was no net below.
“Highlining” at Joshua Tree
These quiet and intensely focused individuals are called Sky Walkers. They pull themselves up to a vertical standing position then proceed to tightrope from the tip of a huge boulder to the top of a giant pinnacle – on a one-inch rope. Personally, I’m not going to do it, but I did enjoy observing and photographing the human figure suspended in up in the air.
I asked John, at Nomad Ventures (the local mountain equipment store), “Why highlining over rock climbing?” He explained that there is a real special “oneness,” like there is in surfing; a relationship that takes place between the individual and the “source of all.” You must unite with being suspended. You have to remain in such total concentration while balancing that you can’t think about your problems – so it’s a release from daily tensions. You can come of it with a huge sense of wellbeing.
I was amazed that some of our national parks were cool enough to allow rock climbing and highlining. And here’s a happy 100th anniversary and a pat on the back to our National Park Service for having the mastery to set free new outdoor enthusiasts who have found new ways to enjoy their park.
I decided to ask Dan Messaros, of National Park Service Law Enforcement, “How do you feel about these activities and are there many accidents?”
Dan was glad to respond, “We haven’t had very many problems. There seem to be fewer injuries with highlining than rock climbing, really. We haven’t had many emergency calls in the last five years that I am aware of. We ask all highliners to wear their climbing harness leashed to the main line for their safety and that of our park.”
Do you want to hang out, literally? Do you want to try highlining? Before you buy the gear, I recommend you go check it out. Watch it live in Joshua Tree National Park.
FITZ Maurice has been on a quest to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America. Now totally committed to help promote and protect the Parks, the artist is traveling by truck and trailer to each park. Hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene, and finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, FITZ sets out to capture in paint the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.To see her National Park Paintings: www.nationalparkpaintings.com