I have admired the Ozark hills from many angles, never from a bird's eye view.
Normally old people don't fly off 100-feet perches and over woodlots while tree limbs and other obstacles fly past at almost 35 mph.
My dear friend, Tamra Corbin, of the Branson Convention and Visitor's Bureau convinced me that ziplining was a sport I should try. This young lady is in her early 20s and still invincible, not almost 60 like me and very destructible. She had already been ziplining six times and convinced me there was nothing to fear.
The staff at the Branson Zipline Canopy Tours did a magnificent job of explaining safety issues involved with this unique sport. Then they instructed us on attaching our harness and safety equipment that was similar to a parachute harness.
Finally, we loaded on a four-wheel drive vehicle that drove us up the mountain. We kept climbing steeper until the realization hit that we were going to come back down without the vehicle.
The top of the mountain was beautiful and cool after recent rains. We stepped on a suspended bridge and started walking and dipping towards a permanent wooden stand that was about 100 feet over the Ozark forest floor.
Corbin decided to go first after one of our guides zipped off so I could see what to expect. She hooked on, turned and gave me a smile and then was gone, wisping through the trees and looking ever so graceful. Then it was my turn. I took another look at the ground below.
The lady who stayed behind with me started hooking up my equipment. She started by having me stand on a wooden block two steps up so my safety cord and then my rollers (Zipline Trolley) and harness attachment could be hooked on the line. A voice on her radio gave me clearance to jump and I was ready. I stood on the platform, hooked up and nervous.
I have never been afraid of heights, but I'm not crazy about heights either. Yet, everyone was waiting for me to go so I took a deep breath and stepped into space.
I was immediately surprised how comfortable my harness was. I was sliding down a steel cable that was designed to hold over 20,000 pounds and picking up speed as the trolley wheels made a satisfying hum on the steel. I was suddenly flying without an airplane or parachute and enjoying the ride, until I turned around backwards in mid-flight.
My body was flying down the zipline towards my next high stop while I looked over my shoulder to observe my flight. I quickly arrived at my first zipline stop backwards — not what I wanted to do.
Everything happened in a split second and my automatic breaks stopped me. I looked down at the ground again and found my fears had gone — I wanted to do it again.
“We are a unique zipline,” said Wes Stoner, sales manager for the Branson Zipline. “This is a true canopy tour situated in the woods and we are in the treetops. You often won't see the next stop until you are there. Our four million dollar set up with two miles of zipline cable is situated in our own private 31-acre nature preserve.
"We had a forestry management team come in to create a management plan for us to save nature. We can't cut down limbs or anything unless it impedes the safety of our ziplines. The public loves our preserve and we have a lot of return business.”
The zipline is a half inch braided steel cable rated to hold 27,000 pounds, even though a person must weigh between 70 to 275 pounds.. The eight ziplines range from 300 feet to a quarter mile and are designed to go between 15-35 mph.
“We have only one of two 100 foot freefalls in America,” Stoner said. “Our Power Fan freefall was created in England for paratroop training. This is a drop that stops at the bottom, great parachute free-fall training. I have watched people completely conquer their fears of heights on these tours.
"We provide an experience for the entire family. For those who prefer to stay on the ground, we have a photo safari available loaded with wildlife and plant life.”