Sixty-five feet off the ground, your toes peek over the edge of a wooden platform while your friends jostle around behind you and laugh in excited nervousness. There is a helmet fastened to your melon, and not one, but two safety lines anchoring you securely to the thick wires bound to the tree in which you are all perched.
But that doesn’t stop a deep lobe of your brain from sending your stomach into backflips as you near the edge of the platform and peer down.
You keep one hand on the tree. This won’t keep you from falling, but the tree is connected to the ground… somewhere down there. And for now, that feels safe.
A guide clips you onto a thick wire by your own personal pulley, which you have been carrying around on your full torso harness.
“You’ll go faster if you yell cannonball on the way,” he smiles.
You let go of the rough bark of the tree, put your hands on your safety line, and push off from your perch, into thin air.
This is adventure in the wilderness—but just a stone’s throw from a Bob Evans.
ZipZone Outdoor Adventures seems a world away from the hustle and noise of the city streets, but the proof of its proximity is right there in its address. A woodland adventure with no buildings or traffic noise to speak of, it sits right on High Street/Route 23, just north of the city.
Canopy tours take you up into the treetops, high above the ravines and creeks below. You can slide along cables with the help of a pulley, zipping between platforms attached securely to trees. With the recent addition of their new treetop Adventure Park, people of all ages can climb through hand crafted obstacle courses at varying heights. Through hoops and loops, over hurdles and up netted walls, they start at a kid-friendly low difficulty, only a few feet from the ground. (The perfect height for a parent to walk alongside.) And they progress up to adults-only, black diamond difficulty, taking you up to a soaring height, and requiring a workout-level intensity. All the while, you’re connected safely to a continuous belay cable system
Owners Lori and Jerrod Pingle opened the obstacle course—the first of its kind in Ohio—in August. The pair spent time in Hawaii constructing zipline setups, and decided to bring it on home when they opened their own course.
Lori hails from Worthington, and is no stranger to this oasis north of the city.
“I went to a camp here on this property in the ’80s and ’90s. The ropes course really freaked me out and I basically couldn’t do it. I was really sad that something knocked me down like that. So every year when I came back, I did a little bit more and a little bit more—until I was doing the whole course blindfolded and facing every challenge, even though I was really scared and I’m afraid of heights. It really showed me how this kind of thing can teach you about life. Even though you’re scared, you can still do it if you have the right support system. There were so many lessons I learned. I feel like I can do anything if I make the right choices and move through that obstacle.”
The philosophy behind the struggle to complete the course, and keep moving through fear lends itself to the work done at Camp Mary Orton and the Godman Guild, which ZipZone partners with. The park itself sits on 20 acres of land situated on 167 acres owned by Camp Mary Orton. Pingle leases the area occupied by the adventure park.
“We’re a for-profit business that works with the camp, which is a total win-win. What we pay them goes to helping kids get GEDs, helping adults get jobs, helping to continue people’s education so that they graduate from high school. So it’s really incredible what we get to help with because we’re on their property. Also, they get a more consistent form of revenue. They don’t get any money from the government. They don’t have trusts or anything. [Each year] they have to make sure they get enough money for next year to continue operating. So any money they get through this, and other revenue based programs they do goes to their non-profit work. So us being here is a way for them to have a more secure future, which is so cool.”
Nuts and Bolts:
Some brass tacks info on ziplining (from the course’s designer, Lori)
“[We] use this amazing technology called tweezles. You can only lock to a cable that has a tweezle, and once you lock onto a course, there’s no way to unlock until you reach the end. We have these amazing lowering kits to get you off the course if you don’t want to keep going. But the key thing is that you’re always hooked in, so it’s a continuous belay system. There isn’t a mistake a guest can make that will get them unclipped from the course.”
The courses are constructed carefully, with the health of the trees in mind: “We have two different construction technologies happening here. Some of them have bolts that go through the tree, some of them have wires that are wrapped around. It’s just two different applications, depending on the type of tree and some other things.”
In order to drill through the tree in some instances, a special auger is used that allows no oxygen inside the body of the tree.
The weight limit for the zipline tour is 270 pounds. This isn’t based on what the cable can hold, as these beastly wires can support literal tons of weight. The limit is due to the amount of speed that will be built up when traveling along the cable. More weight = more force in the landing zone.