bhargavkesavan

Travelogue, Nostalgic memories and more…


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TheBlindList – My blind date with Earth!


As a child I’ve dreamt of places which I don’t know if exists in this world or not. I’ve imagined me going to forests and spending more time in nature, thought about camping (which I was not aware such thing existed and the very name “camping”) but it was my imagination that I’ll spend time in forest & mountains.

Then twenty years later came a time when I visited Havelock Island in Anadman Islands. the most beautiful place on earth. I spent few days with my friends wandering in the woods which was our first hiking experience which turned more adventurous when we heard elephants trumpeting at a distance! We cancelled one of our days plan to enjoy snorkeling, it was like a blind date with earth! I jumped on to the reef with just the snorkeling kit  & I was floating for half a day enjoying the most colorful fishes in the crystal clear waters. It became more wonderful when I saw a family of Nemo fishes just that the little nemo was not lost! And my first bucket-list was complete when I did a scuba diving at Chidiya Tapu in Anadaman through Lacadives.

Without any expectations we went to Andaman like going on a blind date just that this is a date with our planet! And of course I was not disappointed and still cherish my Snorkeling & Scuba memories at Andaman!

Four years later, which was this year. My wife & I made plans to visit Grand Canyon. We booked our tickets to Vegas and booked ticket to Antelope Canyon. We were very excited to explore the places we were about to visit and we were openminded about this exploration.

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

 

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

The reason this route is so famous is that it’s a straight road for hundreds of miles with absolutely nothing on left & ride sides of the road. There will be signs marked on the way that there are no gas stations (petrol bunks) for next 100 miles or so. You can easily see 10 miles ahead of you on a clear morning or evening when sun is not at peak. Try to keep your AC full, haha it won’t workout! It’s so hot that you will feel you’re in Chennai on a peak summer day or in Hyderabad or Delhi during peak summer and yet it’s more hot than that. You can easily fit one or two of our Indian states in this road as you can see the entire state is just empty area with deserts and rocks and mountains.

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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

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Historic Rt 66, you can easily see 10 miles ahead of you! It’s a straight road for 100s of miles.

When we reached Grand Canyon we definitely didn’t think we are on earth, it was like diving in Mars. We went to Southern rim of Grand Canyon and we were on self exploration skipping the maps and finding our own trial to hike. To our surprise we saw four weathers on the same day at Grand Canyon. To our surprise we experienced Snow, never knew there is snowfall at GC, thought it’ll be just in December or January but a snowfall during April last week that too during our visit was unexpected! As we started to go back within just 3 miles, it was too sunny and hot! On coming cars looked at us so surprisingly and they had no clue they’re entering Snow land!

After a day we headed to Nevada back via Monument Valley, Utah. Every road is an exceptionally awesome and scary at the same time. Reason why it’s scary is that there is no town or mobile network for hundreds of miles. So you better keep your tank full or running for at least a few hundred miles or keep a hardcopy of maps. When you look from aerial view you will be in middle of no where! Scenes around me never changed as we drove! As we entered Zion national park after 250 miles from Antelope we saw few cars and trucks and felt like back to earth & that we got company or at least there are people to help if you honk! I was very glad when few cars stopped by to check if I’m good & need any help when we parked our car in shoulder.

This all lasted just a while, as we entered Death Valley national park which is called as the most hottest place on planet! It’s 155 degree Fahrenheit / 69 degree Celsius on a peak summer day & it never gets a drizzle any time in a year. And it’s called as the darkest place on earth as well, an excellent place for astro photography. So many people do camping and go on to self exploration.

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It’s called Devil’s golf course!

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This is the lowest point in USA. This is how the ground looks & it’s salt.

Death Vally National Park is an area of 3.3 millions acres, you can imagine Goa, Delhi, Pondicherry together and still you will have hundreds of acres left to cover, it’s so huge that you need to travel for hours from one spot to another spot within the park. it has sand dunes, artistic palette, the lowest point in USA it’s called Bad Water Basin, you can literally see the ground with salt. Ground here doesn’t have sand, it has salt & so the ground is white in color. I burnt my finger when I didn’t realize it’s salt & I was scratching it like beach sand!

Generally hot weather is my first enemy on any time of the year, but I’m amazed how I didn’t feel irritated at all when I visited DVNP & I still want to explore it more. This place is definitely a travel inspiration to thousands of people across the world. We got to interact with a couple from Spain and another couple from Italy. If there is a place on earth which is hot and yet people love to visit, it’s definitely this place.

Here is a video that I took in Death Valley.

We’d an enriching experience in exploring a place on earth & yet feels like we’re on mars. We visited without any expectations and with blindlist to this spot on earth like a blind date & we absolutely fall in love with earth yet again! And we’ll never hesitate to go on a blind date with anytime!

Do you like to go on a date with earth & like to say #SayYesToTheWorld without knowing where you’re headed? Do checkout this URL & video below.

#TheBlindList

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How I saved $400 on a 6 days stay in Vegas.


Recently my wife and I’ve travelled to Vegas. It was a week trip, we stayed in Las Vegas for five days with an additional day booking and in Grand Canyon for two days.

After booking flight and rental car the next point where majority of the budget is spent is for the stay. Since it’s one of the main tourist location and costs per night at hotels of all ranges were considerably high. Especially in Las Vegas, hotels near strip were approximately $85-$130 per night even in an average hotels.

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This is price as of today in other Hotels, It was more when I visited last month.

When it comes to hotel, we have very little control over the room that we’re going to stay and the reviews might not help sometimes as the review will be in general for the particular hotel in that location. For example Holiday Inn or Westin or Sheraton in a particular location has got 4.1 star review, there might be hundred rooms in that hotel and there are possibilities we might end up in a room that got one star.

When I made my flight ticket purchase through Expedia, I’ve also made hotel booking as Expedia listed a 15% discount or some discount. After I made my hotel reservation, I felt that we’ve spent more on the stay, that’s when I thought about Airbnb. I’ve already used Airbnb to stay in two different states. Once in Virginia and other time in New Hampshire. I’ve also promoted Airbnb in my blog when it was newly launched in India few years back.

I wondered why didn’t I thought about it at first and I went on to find a best home to stay in Vegas. It didn’t take me more than 15 mins to find a fantastic place which was very close to Vegas strip (the road with Casinos on both sides). And the best part was the price! I got a home for $25/night and the host had a great review and was a “super host”, a term in Airbnb for the hosts who has more 5 star reviews from the guests. I was super happy to see that and immediately made my booking with them for my day 1 and then again at the same home from day 4-day7.

I even booked an additional day with them as my flight back to New Jersey was very late at night. Since the checkout time was 11 AM and my flight was 11:50 PM, I didn’t want to keep my wife somewhere in vestibule the whole day till late night flight in that hot weather. So on whole I booked this home for 6 days (1+5) and my price was $177.77 with tax! It could have been even less if I’d a continues 6 days stay, as there was a break in my stay in Vegas, I’d to pay few breakage in both bills separately. This could have been easily $550-$580 with tax if I’d gone for even the lowest price hotel.

It was a villa with two rooms listed for guests. The host was at the ground floor and we’d our room upstairs. Quiet and cozy. Absolutely felt like Home away from Home! I went through the photos of the house before making the booking and went through the reviews, as the review here is particularly for the room that we’re going to stay. That’s the difference in reviews between hotel rooms and for the home listed in Airbnb.

And that’s how I saved $400 in my 6 days stay at Las Vegas! You can definitely save a good price if your destination is a prime spot or if you’re planning for different number of days. If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, get a $40 for your first booking when you make a trip for more than $75. Visit this link and create an account www.airbnb.com/c/bkesavan

Do send this link to your friend who is planning for a trip!


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Fun Snow Tubing at Camelback Mountains


Winter is here! So is the Snow and snow sports and games! My wife and I decided to visit Camelback mountains to enjoy the Snow Tubing. Since the weather was good over the weekend, we’d planned to go out. It takes about an hour from our home to Camelback mountains.

They’ve Snow Skiing, Snow Tubing, Mountain Roller Coaster, Zipline and other adventure sports. As soon as we reached the mountains, we’ve got a slot for 2 o clock. It was less than half an hour for our slot, so we have filled the contract forms – we need to acknowledge the form stating they’re in no way responsible if anything happens during the adventure sports.

We bought our tickets, it’s $35 per person, military personnel have $2 off. Each slot is for 3 hours, so our slot was from 2PM – 5PM. We stood in the line to enter the snow tube area. It was not crowded like our previous visit that was last year. There are two lines at the entrance of snow tubing – one is for single tube and the other one is for double tube. Single tubes can be attached to make it double, they allow up to four tubes to form a chain. So it’ll be fun if you go with friends or as group.

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There are 22 lanes in each of the two snow tube mountains. We collected our tube and climbed up the mountain – basically an escalator/lift that goes from down to the mountain top. There was a short line in each lanes, as each batch goes down, we get our turn. The fun part is to hold the tube until we’re allowed to slide down, their staffs ensures that until previous batch moves out from downhill, next batch doesn’t slide down, as there are high possibilities for accident.

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So we waited until we were asked to slide down. And our turn! We’d great time sliding for 9 times in three hours! It basically takes 20 mins for us to get one ride down, as it depends on the crowd! Last year we were able to go only for 5 times in three hours.

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Since the weather was not too cold, we wore ear muffs, gloves and normal jacket on us. The first two lanes are photography lanes, meaning their photographer staffs takes snaps of the people slides in first two lanes and gives a tag to collect the photo later from the store. It’s little expensive for the photos, $10 each photo and $40 if you want all pics of yours. It’s not guaranteed all your photos will be good, depends on the day weather lighting etc. It’s not mandatory to collect the photos, we can just see and say no if we don’t like it. Anyways we can always take selfie – but selfie stick is not allowed as it might fall during the slide and cause trouble to others. Just take it with hand and make sure you can balance the tube.

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My wife and I’ve spent a nice day and headed back home with fun memories. Here is the video I took during our Snow Tubing day before yesterday. 🙂 Do comment if you like it!

Do checkout more pics in my instagram page & my photography page in Facebook.

Grace-Ful ICE – Sea Life

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We all have been hearing “Winter is here” from Season 1 and finally in Season 7 winter arrived!!! That’s in series… so is in real! Winter is arrived in 2017! And so are the winter friendly events.

If you’re following my blog you may very well remember the Ice Sculpting event, I’ve been sharing the photos of this event for the past 3 years.

2016 – Grace-ful Ice: Safari
2015 – Dinosaurs – Graceful Ice 2015

2014 – Microcosmos – Ice Sculpture

After the past themes that are Microcosmos, Dinosaurs, Animal Safari… here is the Ice bergs that got the shape of Sea Life by the Okamoto Studio artists. If you are in NYC today, hurry up, you have another few hours to see these sculptures before it melts. If not don’t worry, check out Okamoto Studio in Facebook for their future schedules for this Winter.

Without further wait, here are the photos that I took during Sea Life – Grace-Ful ICE

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Checkout all the photos in this slideshow.

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Click on individual photo in the below thumbnail to see in full screen.

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My wife and I took a selfie with Thomas. He is a live performer at Okamoto Studio and they’ve been doing the Ice sculpting since past seven years.


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Watkins Glen State Park – Gorge Trail


My wife and I decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park. We decided to make it as a one day trip & started from Parsippany after having our favorite Bagel from Wawa for breakfast. We started around 9:30 AM and reached by 2:45 PM. It’s a 230 mile drive. We stopped twice in between, first stop to make call to our parents and next stop to have lunch.

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My wife had prepared lunch for our trip this way we can have lunch at our convenient location, we’d lunch in a beautiful spot, spent some time there and headed to the Watkins Glen, New York. Since it’s fall the trees and the mountains still had the majestic colors and it was very beautiful to witness the colors.

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My wife did research and identified the trail for our hiking. We reached our destination at 2:45 noon. We took a glimpse of the trail map & started hiking immediately. We entered from the southern entrance as the main entrance was closed for renovation. As we entered the bridge at the entrance to the trail, we could hear the sound of water gushing & a lot of people hiking the different trails. People looked very tiny as the bridge at the entrance was at the peak of the trail.

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We took the Gorge trail as the Indian trail almost covers the same path as the other trail. The gorge trail has 19 falls and several caves. As we moved on the we started exploring the beauty of the park. The fall color throughout trail & the slight drizzle made the place most beautiful. It was a great workout climbing the steps before entering the central cascade & later near the Jacob’s ladder. The rock steps were built in the year 1908!

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We enjoyed the rainbow falls and couldn’t move away from the pool at central cascade as it was so beautiful. We spent a lot of time near this spot and then proceeded with the trail. They even call a small water flowing rocks too as a water falls 😀

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One of the main agenda in this hiking is to take photos of the water falls. I’d ordered a 55mm ND filter in Amazon as a expedited delivery but amazon failed to deliver it in a day as promised even after charging a $6. I have called them on Friday night which is when it was supposed to get delivered but they didn’t had any info and told me that I might get it the next day. I was very disappointed and sad that I won’t be able to take the photos I’d imagined in my mind.

I’ve seen photos like these a lot & always wanted to take it by myself. Without having a ND filter I thought it’s not possible to take, I remembered reading a blog about taking long exposure at day time without filters and gave a try & yes, it worked out very well.

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We breathed heavily by the time we finished climbing Jacobs ladder a 180 stone steps which marked the end of the Gorge trail. Huff!!! It started raining heavily but we had the shuttle service luckily to head back to the southern entrance. It was 5:30 when we completed the trail and took the shuttle back to main entrance. The shuttle driver was very kind and explained a lot about Watkins Glen & the Finger Lakes. I was very surprised and amazed to know that the lake was 700 feet and extends to 38 miles. Wow!
He stopped near the Elk farm and we saw few Elks wandering in the park which is raised by Germans. He also said that the main entrance is being uplifted by a $6 million renovation.

By the time we reached the southern entrance the entire parking lot was almost empty! We had fun time playing swing & it was a relaxation after the hiking 😀

We sure will visit Watkins Glen State Park again to explore more.

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Islands of Adventures – An amazing experience! – The Beginning


Universal Studios – Islands of Adventures! I’d no idea I’ll ever visit this place. On June 2nd, I’d visited Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure park in Orlando, Florida with Anu and my friends (Prem, Priya). It’s high budget & extremely adventurous Ramoji Film City of USA.

Two days before our trip, My wife and I visited the official Universal’s website to get an idea and pick the rides. We checked the names of ride and watched the videos in Youtube. After watching close to 10 videos, we felt like completing a virtual tour!

Two days later we reached Orlando. On our day 1 we started to the Park in our rental car Dodge Grand Caravan from the villa we stayed with rest of our group. While the other group were getting ready to their Disney park, we started to Islands Of Adventure.

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Anu & Bhargav (me! me!)

Since the park opens at 9 AM, we left the villa at 8 AM, since its going to be an all day activity we took food for lunch with us. Before reaching the park, we’d our favorite bagel and hot chocolate drink for breakfast from Wawa. My friends had their wishlist for the day and we’d ours. On the way to the park we four decided from which activity to begin our day. Prem did ground work already by visiting undercover tourist website and took printout of the maps already. It made very easy to plan the activities. Anu made a list of todo rides & not to do (Dragon coaster) list as well 😀

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Getting ready to leave villa!

While I checked the parking for Islands of Adventure, its a common parking lot for both the parks Universal Studios and for Islands of Adventures. I read some blog about parking which helped in choosing the parking. Yes, there are two kind of parking, regular & prime parking. Prime parking is close to the park while the regular parking is slightly far. But there are lot of moving walkways to make our walk easy to enter the park.

We took the prime parking ticket for $30 and reached the parking lot. They made it easy to remember the parking lot number by prefixing the number to movies like E.T, Spider Man, Cat in the Hat etc… It took just 5 mins to walk through the walkways, there was a security check in between and it was a moving crowd. We entered the park at 10:15 AM!

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Few people were issuing American Express credit cards to by pass the regular queue and get to the Express Pass for free! So here is the thing, there are two lines for every ride, regular line & express line. Just like dharma darisanam and 30 Rupees queue in Thirupathi temple, except that there is no dharma rides in Universal Park!

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After scanning our tickets and thumb print (over hype!) we entered the Universal Studios – Islands Of Adventure Park!

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Our day just started for the excitement! (To be continued… The rides we experienced, interesting photos & a short video)

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Islands of Adventure


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Adventure Zipline at Shenandoah State Park


Zipline is one of the adventure sport that I was planning to do from past two years. Finally the time came to make it happen! My wife Anu and I went to Virginia to meet our friend Praveen; who gave an idea to do Zipline when we planned to visit Richmond.

We booked a master suite for our stay through Airbnb near Praveen’s house. We like to have breakfast from Market Cafe in Richmond everytime we visit; Anu & I like the Pongal in Market Cafe. You should really try it if you happen to visit Richmond, VA anytime. The two varieties of chutneys are too good & the sambhar as well!

You may remember about my Luray Caverns trip during spring 2015, I wanted to take my wife there and after having breakfast we started to Luray Caverns which was the first place to visit for the day & the next was Zipline.

I’d looked for coupons in groupon and compared few zipline providers and decided to go with Virginia Canopy as they were ready to provide for the same rate in groupon. We got the 3’o clock batch for the activity. We then had a tight schedule to visit Luray Caverns and then to travel to Shenandoah State Park where Virginia Canopy is located.

The drive from Richmond to Luray Caverns was too good! Anu said that the route resembled the drive from Coimbatore to Ooty. Yes, It was like that but the difference is that the roads here were very broad and the curves were not risky to drive. Since the weather was almost like early summer in Hosur, We could see lot of bikers and cyclists through out the way.

We have to leave the caverns atleast by 2:15 so that we can reach Shenandoah State Park by 2:40 PM which is 17 Miles away from the caverns. As we reached Luray Caverns time was 1:10 PM but there was a huge line since it was Easter weekend. It would definitely take an hour to just enter the caves to get ticket & we would miss the reservation for Zipline for sure. Since it was heavily crowded and there was no space for parking, we parked our car in the lawn as directed by the staffs.

We then wandered the place for a while and took photos at the pond and took photos at the Love sign they’ve at the entrance. It was 2’o clock already & we’d decided to start to Zipline.

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Check my 500px & Flickr for more pics.

Virginia will remind you about your childhood days if you were ever grown up in village. Such a green and calm place throughout! It was drizzling as we entered Shenandoah State Park! The smell of soil welcomed us with smile! I felt I was at home when 🙂

Staff at the park entrance was very kind to explain me the route to reach the Zipline tours building. We reached the Zipline parking precisely at 2:40 PM.  As we entered the office we were given the forms to sign the disclaimer, for sure the papers may have said that they’re not responsible for any injury etc… when have we every read anything before signing? We signed it anyways!

Exactly at 3 o clock we were called at the backyard where they had all the zipline gears arranged for us. There were 9 people in our batch, Scott & Jennifer from Philadelphia and a family of four & three of us. The staffs helped us in wearing the zipline gears and even the helmet. As we are done with the setup we now got ready to board the UTV for the ride to woods.

Five of us were in a UTV and rest were in other vehicle, their staffs took us on the UTV trail ride. We enjoyed the off road up hill ride in the woods. After 10 minutes we got down somewhere in the forest and waited for the other set of people to arrive. After the remaining people arrived, we walked a few meters in the woods to the training spot.

Lion and Chris were with us since the training till end of the activity. They both were very kind and friendly. They both gave the basic training on how to move forward, how to slow down and if we at some point slow down how to get back in the rope. Like the ok sign in scuba diving, there was a sign to slow down. They made sure every one of us are comfortable with this and made us do all the basic training in the steel rope tied between two tall trees for this training purpose. After the training is over, we now marched towards the main activity tree (activity spot) 😀

The first zipline was 20 ft height and it was a short distance, it was very much sufficient height and distance to make us get use to the sport. haha that first feel was fantastic and very nice 😀 After the first line I felt like achieved something! We loved it so much! They ensured our safety and constantly communicated in their walkie talkie, Lion first went to the other end, Chris sent each of us one by one and came to other end as last person.

The next zipline was 40 ft height and the length was more than the first one. It was very fun standing in mid top of the tree and looking at the forest like how we see in discovery channel. Anu and I loved it so much! After the second zipline got over, we all got ready for the third ride which was 90 feet height form the forest level and the distance was approximately 400 meters. It was really fun! Looking at the mountain ahead of us and moving in 40 miles per hour speed in between the trees were amazing!

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IMG_9832As we finished the 3rd line and was waiting to go for next line, we were able to see some deer wandering in their home. Since it’s deer and not bear it ran away fast 😀 We then took the 4th line which was not very length, but height was almost same. It’s at this point their photographer Treesha took snaps of us when we were in motion in the zipline. As we reached down we took group photos and My wife and I looked at each other and we looked at Praveen discussed among us saying that’s it, activity completed. Since we were told it’s a three hours activity and it was just less than an hour and half, we thought they gave a false promise, but wait… The fun part & adventure were still pending.

We drank some water from the can they’d kept near the tree which was very clean & they were making fun statements that the water was not from Michigan flint water; which is a serious issue here due to lead poisoning (similar to how we discuss about Kaveri water when we go to KA).

We then took a short nature walk and Lion explained about some rare and poisonous plant in a fun way and kept all of us engaged and interested in the activity. We thought the activity is completed when we saw the UTV near us, but we were asked to climb the next tree (using the wooden steps they had attached to the tree!) it was a big relax when we saw the rope again and was excited more now! 🙂 After the 5th line, which was a short length, there was a Air Stair Bridge which we had to walk to pass on to the other end of tree, it was fun. Lion escorted four of us facing us and walked backwards, while we walked slowly following him. Anu dropped her bracelet while walking in the bridge, since I was walking behind her, I was able to take it as I passed it.

Then we crossed the sixth line each by shouting like different animals 😀 which was fun! Anu, Praveen what did you shout like? Comment below. I shouted like ape inspired by Ceaser (Don’t ask me who or what is Ceaser!). Then passed 7th line and now there was a Sky Bridge, which was easy to walk but Lion gave a open hand challenge, which means we should cross the bridge without using hand to balance.

And now the finalllllllll zipline! A lengthy one… It took 30 seconds to zip from one end to other end! As we reached this end I was joking to Anu saying we have to jump down from the tree and she was scared as well, but after everyone finished the zipline and assembled in the last tree, it was real! We really had to jump down from the 1,035″ tree! Not literally jump but we’d to rappel down from the tree! It was the adventurous part of the zipline but their staffs made it feel very easy! First Praveen went down then me and then Anu. It was very nice experience!

We took a short walk from the tree and in five minutes we’d arrived to the office where we started. We arrived to the place where we put on the gears & their staffs helped us to remove it all. They were very nice people. And the best part was, we were all issued a certificate for doing the Zipline! 🙂

They could have made a last zipline to end after the river which would have fulfilled the adventure sport absolutely thrilled! Of course, I left a feedback about it.  Definitely a fun day I’d with Anu. It’s a very nice place to do Zipline and enjoy the nature at the Shenandoah State Park where the Shenandoah River passes just opposite to the Zipline office.

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Taken at Shenandoah State Park River.