Quick trips with big adventures abound in Kentucky. And that’s how I found myself dangling 350 feet in the air Saturday at Red River Gorge Ziplines.
I will admit: this was not my idea. Adventure for me usually involves scoring the biggest discount possible at the mall, not… nature. But my good friend Mark challenged me to try it out–and he had a Groupon (so ‘check’ on the discounts). So away we went, driving down the Mountain Parkway at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning to make our 9:30 a.m. ziplining group tour.
Tip #1: Call ahead to book your trip.The tour groups fill up quickly and you might not get a spot if you just walk in.
Red River Gorge Ziplines is part of Cliffview Resort, which has a beautiful lodge and cabin rentals, too. The property is gorgeous and the staff treats you like family. We checked in, and they offered to hold our car keys for safekeeping. Tip #2: Don’t zipline with stuff in your pockets.
Next, we were herded into “The Cage” to get geared up. Tip #3: Maybe not the best look for a first date. The staff was VERY professional and belted Mark and me into our harnesses with a nice explanation of how everything worked, and then tightened our helmets so we “almost” had a headache.
A quick bus ride around the bend and up the hill and there we were, at the first platform.
This is where I started to get nervous.
Our guides were Joy, Jerry and Jengo and they were AWESOME. They could also smell fear, I swear.
“We’re going to have a great day!” Joy chirped at me a bit too enthusiastically. Positive thinking was NOT going to be a good motivator for me. But Joy, Jerry and Jengo made it sound easy. We’d always be connected to the platform and the zip, they would check our gear every time, and all we had to do was lift up our knees into a cannonball position and away we’d go! And they would be there to catch us at the end.
No big deal, right?
Tip #4: Ziplining would be a lot better if there were cocktails involved.
They tried to make me go first but that WAS NOT going to happen. However, the longer I stood on the platform listening to Mark attempt a motivational pep-talk that rivaled Oprah, I realized it was best to get it over with and just… GO!
Tip #5: Don’t look down.
Thankfully I was a little short for the jumping-off step, so by the time I was hooked onto the line I was on my tip-toes and barely had to lean forward to take off. Not sure I would have gone if making a big leap was required!
It was amazing!
I’m not sure how to describe the feeling of “zipping.” I never felt like I was dangling in the air or hanging on a wire. The cable is solid and doesn’t give much, and the harness is very comfortable to put your weight in, so you don’t have to really hold yourself up. You get the speed and adrenaline of a rollercoaster without the stomach-lurching plummets and twists.
Jerry and Jengo caught me on the other side (before I hit the tree, but it was covered in foam) and I was still a little nervous, but hooked.
However, if you don’t like your first zip, it’s too late. The next two zips went from platform to platform with NO way down. So you’re zipping, like it or not!
Tip #6: Make a lot of small talk while you’re waiting for the rest of the group. The platform gets crowded, and you are pretty high up in the trees. With no way down. Distractions are necessary.
Tip #7: For some people (like me) the bridges are worse than the zips. Walk across them as quickly as possible and then immediately erase them from your memory.
The ziplines get longer and more challenging along the way. At one, we were instructed to catch a rope at the end to ensure that we didn’t start going backwards and, as the guides say “get your money’s worth.” In other words, you’ll end up at a standstill in the middle of the ravine and panic while waiting for a guide to come get you. Let’s just say our whole group was relieved when I caught the rope.
The last two zips are massive; they last for more than a minute and take you more than 350 feet over the gorge. As an added bonus, you get to race one of your group members.
Tip #8: Don’t race people who are more comfortable with ziplining than you are. They push off instead of just floating off the platform and of course they beat you. And that’s CHEATING (MARK).
Two hours later, our adventure was over. The guides work for tips and they DEFINITELY deserve them. Tip #9: Be sure to bring some cash to thank the guides for their hard work. After all, they keep you ALIVE and safe.
With all that adrenaline coursing through our veins, a stop for lunch was necessary. Our guides recommended The Rock House for good reason—it has great down-home food in a rustically modern setting, complete with tables made from reclaimed barn wood. I highly recommend the pulled-pork burger. And you can’t miss it—just look for the big bear off Hwy. 11 and you’re there!
Tip #10: Take a few adventures in your Kentucky backyard this summer. Fun really is right around the corner!