There may be a zipline tour near you

With fall foliage reaching its peak, I was reminded of a zipline tour canopy tour I took through the trees in Ohio this past June.

There are several zipline tour options. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina also have zipline adventure offerings, although not all are canopy tours.

In an Escapes article in the New York Times, Roger Mummert gives a humorous account of his own experience at Ski Mountain Ski Area in Pennsylvania where he went with his teenage daughter for a bonding outing.

At the end of the article, he summarizes the highlights of each of the following places:

After visiting each Web site, I noticed that several have Halloween activities. Remember, zipline tours are truly for a multiage crowd. I was happy to see that the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours made it to Mummert’s list. I had can still recall the whirring sound the cable made each time I zipped across.

Zipline canopy tour: A fall foliage adventure option

Back in June, when I zipped from sycamore to oak trees along the highwire cable lines of the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, I thought, I bet this is gorgeous in the fall.

Now that yellows and reds are just beginning to show their colors, I’d say trees will be in their autumn glory in a week or two. Cold has arrived at night to hasten the palate switch. Meg’s posts about fall foliage tour options, reminded me of this one.

I blogged about this tour before I took it, and am not surprised that it has remained so popular that the season has been extended through November–although the hours will change.

As a person with first-hand experience, I can vouch for the thrill of heading off on a wire from one tree to another. My favorite parts were the sections where I was zipping through the air, far from the platform I had left, high above the ground, and the platform where I was heading had yet to come into view. There is a moment where you can’t see where you are exactly because of the leaves. Then, the next platform comes into view like a surprise of “oh, there you are.”

For anyone who is afraid of heights, a zipline canopy tour might be your cure. A friend of mine said she was afraid of heights when she started the tour, but by the end she was not. Because of the process of clipping and unclipping safety lines, and the calm voices of the two guides–one who leads and one who follows, ensuring everyone’s safety, you know you are in capable hands.

Before you go out on the real ziplines, there is practice session (seen in picture) with a short zipline that’s only shoulder height off the ground. This is when you learn to stop yourself by applying pressure with the palm of one of your hands to the top of the zipline cable. It’s enough of a practice to give you the feel for how the cable, harness, clip and pulley system works.

Before the moment when you leave an actual platform to head off to another platform, you’re always clipped to either the line attached to the tree where the platform is or to the zipline. During the transition, you’re clipped to both to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. There are two clips fastened to your harness. One clip is unfastened from the platform cable and then fastened to the zipline cable. Then, the next clip is unfastened and fastened. This means if you did slip, you’re held up.

The picture is of the only part where you start from the sloping ground and run until your feet lift off. Then off you go.

Seriously, you won’t fall and the harnesses are designed to hold you properly–almost like an adult version of one of those things you strap babies into so they can jump and bounce in a doorway. There is a pulley wheel system that enables you to glide along using the weight of your body, the distance of the cables and the angle of the points where the cables are affixed to the trees.

I did slow myself down too soon and stopped about 25 feet from one of the platforms, but I was able to use my hands to pull myself along easily until I reached the point where the lead guide could pull me the rest of the way.

Seriously, zipping was a piece of cake. (In the picture above, you can see the lead guy on the platform. The person heading toward him is slowing down, partly due to the slope upwards of the zipline caused by the angle and the person’s weight.)

One terrific aspect of this trip is that you don’t have to be an athletic type to have fun. There’s not a lot of physical exertion involved. The oldest person to do the canopy tour, so far, I was told, was in her 80s. Not that 80-year-olds aren’t athletes, but the point is, this is a multi-age, multi-ability activity. You do have to be at least 10-years-old though, and weigh at least 70 pounds to be allowed to go. You also can’t be above 250 pounds. The reason for the weight limit is not that the cable won’t hold, but because of the principles of physics that make the system work. Too much weight throws off the system.

When I took the tour, one of the co-owners of the company was one of the guides. Here’s some insider information not found on the website.

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours came about after she and her husband went to Alaska with two other couples–one of the people was her sister. While in Alaska, all six of them took in the Alaska Canopy Adventure zipline tour, loved it, and thought Hocking Hills would be a perfect setting for a canopy tour company. Instead of thinking about all the reasons their dream might not work, once back in Ohio, they went for it. All pieces fell into place including the land for sale. In months, they had a booming adventure travel business.

The moral of the story, follow your dreams, particularly if you have the dream when you’re traveling.

Canopy tour of Ysterhout Gorge

Here’s another version of canopy tours, much different than the ones in Hocking Hills, Ohio and near Kuala Lumpur. At the Ysterhout Gorge in Magaliesberg, South Africa, trees are sparse, but the gorge is mighty. This is a well-done edited version that shows each step of the experience. The scenery is gorgeous. The family in this video consists of a young girl as well. You really know how much you trust a tour guide when you send your child flying along a cable, feet dangling high above the rocky ground. There’s a point where my heart would jump. Part with fright, part with their excitment–and I’m the one who once took my 3 month-old on long boat rides in Thailand, passing him above the water while he was strapped in a car seat carrier. Here is a resource to find canopy tours in South Africa, plus a Gadling post from former blogger Erik Olsen that presents options in other places.