As I stood on the edge of the platform—my toes gripping the carpet that separated me from a 300-foot drop—I tried not to look down. Otherwise I might not jump. And I wanted to jump.
Crazy, right? Not entirely.
This past weekend I was on assignment at Central Oregon Bungee Adventures, a company operating from High Bridge over the Crooked River 29 miles north of Bend. From May through October, it's the tallest commercial jump in North America at 250 feet. I went to see if I could muster up the courage for one jump, but thanks to the beautiful scenery, a reassuring staff, and a reckless, powerful desire to face my fears, I jumped three times.
James Scott is the owner and operator of Central Oregon Bungee Adventures (COBA). The Bend resident is what some would call an "adrenaline addict."
"I did my first bungee jump in '92, and I've been jumping ever since around the world. I also skydive, BASE jump, wingsuit," he says. "I'll jump six times a day."
Scott was originally looking for a base jumping location, but quickly realized that High Bridge would be perfect for bungee jumps. After a couple years, he was able to start COBA as a pilot program with Oregon State Parks.
With Broken Top Mountain across the way and bald eagles for neighbors, it's not a bad office from which to work. To that end, Scott and his team also strive to preserve their environment by cleaning up trash.
"On slower days or down days, we use our winch and we go down (to the river)," he says. "We've pulled couches out of here, TVs out of here, which is really mind-boggling: someone had to do physically more work to bring a couch out here to throw it off the bridge."
As I leaped out for my first jump, I focused on the environment to keep my mind occupied. The river was serene—even as it rushed toward me at 70 mph.
Luckily, the bungee cord did its job and I stayed high and dry above the river. As I smoothly bounced back up, briefly feeling like a weightless astronaut, I had to admire how flawlessly the gear worked. Jumpers are strapped into harnesses similar to rock climbing gear, and then hooked up to the bungee cord, an impossibly elastic yet sturdy invention.
All of COBA's equipment is custom made. While many bungee jump operations exclusively use one bungee cord for all their guests, COBA has multiple cords custom made for different weights (between 90-300 lbs.). Even the truck was designed specifically for High Bridge.
"One of the hurdles that we had to overcome by opening up here in this location is we weren't allowed to attach to the bridge because it's a historic monument. So we designed this truck that we run our operation off of," Scott says. The team also runs a redundant system, meaning every piece of equipment is backed up in case a failure does occur.
"The other day, I did my 123rd jump off this bridge, so if I thought there was any chance of something failing, I wouldn't be jumping," Scott says.
When I get back to the top, there's not enough time to catch my breath before the team asks if I want to jump again. This time, Scott challenges me to keep my feet together for style points.
On the final jump the team challenges me to jump backwards, or in other words, blindly. My initial fear creeps back, but Scott says that's a good thing.
"There's nothing natural about jumping off a 300-foot bridge, so you should be afraid," Scott says. "If someone comes here and says they're not afraid, they're either lying or something's wrong with them. ... It's about being afraid, being terrified, overcoming that fear and still performing, and having the rush of a lifetime."
COBA's pilot program ends at the end of next month, but Scott hopes to become a permanent fixture next year.
"It's pretty amazing to see the level of stoke on people's faces, to overcome that fear, to challenge themselves," he says. "To come back up and realize that they accomplished something that maybe they thought they would never be able to do."
As I let go of the railing and fall backwards 250 feet, my eyes wide with terror and excitement all at once, I know exactly what he's talking about. (Editor's note: We're buying Russ a fall-flavored latte of his choice for doing this story.)
Central Oregon Bungee Adventures
High Bridge at P.S. Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint, Hwy 97, Terrebonne
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