She flew through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young woman on the…zip line. That’s right, zip line; gone are the days of the thrilling trapeze. If you want to explore you inner-Tarzan and Jane then zip lining is the way to go. Best of all even those in the most moderate of physical condition can zip through the trees.
We first heard about zip lines on a number of talk shows, as celebrity guests shared tales of their eco-friendly vacations in the jungles of Costa Rica, Puerto Vallarta, and Nicaragua. Today, however, zip line tours have become popular vacation fun throughout the country. In fact a quick Google search of the zip line tours in North Carolina shows programs in Asheboro, Charlotte, High Point, Bryson City, and Lake Lure.
Janet and I first discussed tackling a zip line when we saw the single run down at Myrtle Beach’s Broadway on the Beach. While the line across the lake looked like fun, it seemed a little juvenile and unfulfilling compared to what we had heard about running through rainforest canopies. Then on a trip to Charlotte we saw our first billboard for ZipQuest in Fayetteville.
It seemed impossible that in the low-lands of southeastern North Carolina a zip line over a waterfall was possible. Yet as we did our research we discovered it was true, and that ZipQuest was gaining an amazing reputation as one of the best in the country. It was time to make a reservation.
We watched the weather, and picked a dry weekend in early spring. Although the air still had a chill in it we booked our flight time for ten in the morning. It is hard to believe when driving to the course that you’re heading in the right direction, and that a waterfall zip line course exists among the suburban surroundings. Yet as you turn onto the gravel road and follow the Zippy the Treefrog signs into the woods you begin to believe.
From the parking area there is a short walk to the ZipQuest office and staging center. Once you check-in you meet your guides and the rest of the members of your group. All tours have two guides, and most have at least six zippers. Our group was composed of just four zippers.
Now before you suit-up for your adventure you get one last chance for a bathroom break. It’s important, most tours take about two hours, and once in the trees there are no facilities. With the help of the guides you suit up with your harness, helmet, gloves, and leather hand brake. From there you move to the zip line training station.
The station is a single cable hung between two trees about ten feet off the ground. It is here that you are taught the safe way to zip. This includes how your guides use a two clip system to keep you secure; how to attach your harness to the cable; what it feels like to zip; how to brake; and most importantly the self-rescue.
Once our training was complete we climbed the steps to our first launching point. It was about three stories up into the trees and a short run. While this is your last chance to chicken-out, you don’t want to; Zip lining is incredibly safe. The first guide zips ahead of you to ensure a safe landing and check the platform for snakes, while the other remains with the group to keep everyone hooked to the safety ring, and see to it that riders attach themselves properly to the cable. When it’s your turn, let go, step off the platform and sail through the air, you’ll be sold on this amazing experience for life.
Zip lines are not narrow gage cables like you hang potted ferns from, they are one to two inch steel cables, mounted in the trees with large steel bolts and frames. The harnesses and clips are designed to hold thousands of pounds and inspected regularly. When you actually zip, the harness cradles the body, and you feel like you’re sitting in a chair flying through the air. Learning to brake, which is done by resting your gloved hand (which is in a thick purpose-built leather glove) on the cable above your head as you zip; it is easy to master.
The ZipQuest experience is in stages. Each level takes you higher and higher, and each run gets longer or steeper and faster. The course, designed and built by a renowned company in Michigan, lets you build confidence and become a better zip rider as the adventure progresses.
Our guides were experienced and professional. They made sure we were safe, and guaranteed a thrilling time in the trees. During the tour they talk about the Carver’s Falls area, identified the amazing trees that make up the course, and helped us look for the endangered Pine Barrens tree frogs which can only be found in the Sandhills of the Carolinas and Florida, and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
We found the ZipQuest course impressive as we flew through the trees over acres of pristine North Carolina forest. We climbed floating staircases into the tree canopy and perched on platforms anchored to centuries-old hardwoods. The course took us over a pair of suspension bridges spanning the Sandhills’ only major waterfall.
For centuries, Carver’s Falls has been closed to the public and few even knew of its existence. It is located on the west side of the Cape Fear River in North Fayetteville. The falls were created when Carver’s Creek and McPherson Creek met, and formed a 150 feet wide body of water. The water falls over a two story stone-like formation known as the “Cape Fear Formation”, empting into the Cape Fear River.
Once you get up in the trees and the sun comes out it gets very warm so dress accordingly. We picked a good day and the temperature remained pleasant during our tour. Also we purchased the additional picture package, because carrying and using a camera on the tour is challenging. However, if you have a Go Pro strap it on.
With the leaves starting to change in October and November it’s the perfect time for you to book your own zip line adventure. Just grab on and yell – Weeeeeeeeee. It is the thrill of a lifetime!