On Slacklining in Northern Michigan

English instructor James McCullough, at North Central Michigan College, in Petoskey, asked his students to write essays about Northern Michigan life. Then he asked MyNorth to share six of the essays on the World Wide Web. We said yes. We are posting one each weekday until the set is complete. Enjoy a piece, by Jonah Beck below.


The heat of July led us outside. Our days were filled with busy work hours, competing with the bustle of summer. The pizza places and grocery stores harbored off-the-walls foot traffic, leaving the lot of us drained. We had to find release from these busy days, something to bring us together. No street hockey, paintball, or video games.

Enter: The slackline. This interesting piece of equipment causes nothing but confusion for the uninitiated. One ties a line of heavy-duty webbing between two trees. With a unique locking and tightening mechanism, the broad line is made extremely taut. In essence, this creates a ground level tightrope, no higher than the waist. Anywhere two strong trees within 30 feet stood, there was potential to slackline. After a heated day on the job, nothing felt better than to go out with a couple of friends and tie up the line. From your backyard in the evening to Pennsylvania Park in the afternoon, any setting will host a slacklining adventure.

I was just getting off a long shift, getting ready to meet a congregation of friends at the waterfront. It was bright, as the warm blanket cast by the setting sun enveloped the lake. A flowing breeze brought up whitecaps while cooling us as we bathed in sunlight. Two hardy trees stood along a hilly area in between the restrooms and ball park.

Standing on the line is a unique experience. Finding a center of balance is tricky, as the taut line pulls your legs back and forth. With great care, one lifts his feet to walk along the line, ever so carefully, to avoid tipping over and jumping off. All the muscles in the legs and torso are engaged. A sense of calm, zen, relaxation, peace of mind must be met to successfully hold oneself above the freshly cut grass. As a beginner, there’s much trial and error in getting a feel for the way the line rocks and twitches.

Gulls caw by the shore breaking your concentration, while the cool breeze subtly brushes your bare feet. The aromas of the beach and the water waft your way as you struggle to maintain the zen. It’s apparent in the early slacklining ventures that this discipline could be practiced for an eternity. After a long, exhausting day at the grind, it’s a welcome challenge.

More Northern Michigan Essays

Campfire Nights in Petoskey

Making Northern Michigan Syrup

Riding Horses in Harbor Springs

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