How To Dodge A Bullet Ant 12 Stories Up — In The Rainforest CanopyLaurel C. Allen8/26/14 12:18amFiled to: Into The AmazonAmazonRainforestPeruLaurel C AllenAdventuresScienceCitizen ScienceTravelIndefinitely Wild3213EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkIn the final installment of Into The Amazon, LCA heads into the rainforest canopy, overloads the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, discovers a constellation of stars under her feet, then shows you how you can do all this yourself, for science!AdvertisementI'm suspended over a nearly twelve-story abyss, so far above the forest floor that my brain keeps trying to create a false one out of the tops of normal-sized trees below. (And then abandoning it — a mental adjustment that feels like falling.) The path is narrow, just a long line of 1x10s laid down atop aluminum ladders cradled in nets. Each step sends a shiver down the bridge; every three shivers creates a larger bob that rolls back at you in opposition; every other step earns a sharp crack as plank-ends buck against each other. Ropes creak constantly — you can feel them jumping under your hands.People who love adventure know that euphoria and terror often go hand-in-hand, but this — one of the longest canopy walkways in the world, strung between 14 emergent trees — is as beautiful as I've seen that dichotomy get. The exposure this far above the canopy is incredible, triggering some fierce primal imperative in my lizard brain to seek shelter. And even though I'm not (usually) afraid of heights, my stomach is in a permanent state of free-fall that's both heightening the colors around me and leaking straight into my knees. AdvertisementThe beauty, the vertigo, the exposure, the drop — it all adds up to a freedom so pure that I'm afraid to examine it closely, because I don't want it tamed. (And it won't be, even after three days up here.) By the time sunset hits three hours hours later — as the mist drops down and the darkness under our feet turns solid — all the wobbly kind of fear has fallen away, leaving only tack-sharp elation behind. After a brief hike from Explornapo this morning, we've moved into the ACTS (Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies) Field Station, which has operated as an HQ for visiting scientists for the last 20 years. Their canopy walkway — spanning a third of a mile — offers easy access to the vegetation, insects, and general ecology of the least-explored layer of rainforest, and canopy expert Meg Lowman is showing us the ropes.The rules of the walkway are simple: no more than three people on any one bridge at a time, no more than four people on a platform, and watch out for bullet ants.Named in honor of how much it hurts to be stung by one (i.e. the equivalent of being shot, overloading the "Schmidt sting pain index" at a 4+), bullet ants tend to use the walkway's hand-ropes as a mini highway. Since it's almost impossible to navigate the ever-bouncing walkway without skimming your hands along both sides, your best course of action is to 1) ramp up your reflexes and peripheral vision; 2) accept that you're almost guaranteed to get bit/stung by something while up there; and 3) be grateful when it's just a trio of wasps. ShareTweet Kinja is in read-only mode. We are working to restore service.