Zip (Line) A- De-Doo-Dah!!!: A Zip Line Adventure

It’s a long way down.

I’m standing on a wooden platform twenty feet above a forest floor. The platform wraps around a sturdy tree. A sturdy harness wraps around my legs and chest. My hands grip a pulley that wraps around the sturdy steel cable that stretches from this tree to another about 40 feet way. I completed the training session and know how to hang on and how to brake; the guides are experienced; their safety training intense…

Still, it’s a long way down.

At a signal from the guide standing on a platform around that other tree, I’ll step into the abyss and “zip” along the cable. Once I make that step, it will be two hours before I again stand on Terra Firma. Until then, it will be zip lines, platforms, spiral staircases, and swinging bridges. Oh, and did I mention that after this first zip, the zips get higher and you can’t see the platform for the others until you are almost there?

“Zip is clear. Zip is clear.”

I take a deep breath and fly off on a treetop canopy adventure.

Nobody knows exactly how many zip lines exist; each season, more open. But when the “best of” lists come out, Zip Quest, just outside Fayetteville, NC, is near the top, and for good reason.

There are 8 zips, 3 spiral staircases, and 3 swinging bridges. As each zip gets longer, we grow more confident. Our guides, serious Matthew and mischievous Aaron, teach us how to “cannonball,” pulling our knees into our chests to keep our speed up so we don’t stall midway on longer runs. By the time we make the longest zip – 180 feet – we’re relaxed, able to look around and enjoy the view and hearing bird songs over the humming tune of the cable and pulley.

More than just giving an adrenaline rush, Zip Quest does it with aesthetic flair and ecologic sensitivity. Brothers Eason, Callan, and Russ Bryan decided to create the zip line course as a way to make their 55 acre tract of nearly pristine forest profitable without surrendering to surrounding commercial and residential development. They took advantage of the thick forest, rolling terrain, and natural assets – like the largest waterfall in the region – to create an outdoor adventure that doesn’t compromise nature.

Branches along the course were trimmed back just far enough to be safe, giving zippers a true Rocky the Flying Squirrel experience. Only 12 trees were cut for the construction, and those were used to build the platforms, stairways, and swinging bridges. The cables and platforms were fastened without drilling into the trees; if the course was dismantled tomorrow, within 18 months there would be no sign it ever existed.

The dramatic finale of the adventure is at Carver’s Falls, a broad, rushing waterfall hidden deep in the forest. We glimpse it from one zip, then cross it via two swinging bridges before zipping over it on the next-to-last run. Matthew suggests spinning as we zip over it for the best view, but I’m still perfecting my cannonball, so I just look over my shoulder.

At the final landing, we have the same questions: is it over already? Was that really two hours? And where do we sign up to go again?

Zip Quest is open year-round, although in fall and winter, it’s mostly just weekends. Tours are rain or shine, unless the weather is severe. The forest takes on a different dimension in showers. There’s also a Night Quest tour with the only lights coming from a headlamp on your helmet and the moon. You must be at least 10 years old and weigh no more than 250 pounds. The trip is $85 and reservations are recommended. 910-488-8787.

Photos courtesy of Zip Quest