Zip lining, like sky diving, has never been high on my bucket list of adventures. I just didn’t see the attraction of dangling from a cable and whizzing above, or through, trees at 35 MPH. Rather than a bird’s-eye view of a forest, I prefer a shrew’s-eye view, meandering along, often traipsing on my hands and knees, smelling wild flowers, picking wild berries and scouting for mushrooms and mosses to photograph. Mushroom meandering is my favorite fall past time when the floor of the Tongass National Forest spews forth its annual mushroom eruption.
One of my favorite mushrooms haunts is on Douglas Island amid the ruins of the once prosperous Treadwell Mines complex. Many of the ruins are just below Alaska Canopy Adventures’ zip lines and sky bridge. I often thought, “I should try zipping,” but never thought about it once I left the forest. Recently however, one of my Gastineau Guiding co-workers mentioned she once worked for Alaska Canopy Adventures and suggested I give it a try. “You will love it.” Love it? That’s a stretch, but then thought I should at least try it once. So I did.
My decision to zip with Alaska Canopy Adventures in Juneau was the right choice, so much so I am looking forward to other opportunities to zip line.
The equipment, staging area, bathrooms, launch platforms and lines were well maintained and in safe condition. I checked closely. The staff was professional, courteous and patient. We had a woman in our group who was afraid to launch, but after some tactful encouragement from our guides, Marcus and Miriam, she zipped off confidently and playfully.
I never thought much about soaring on a zip line and expected to be speeding along on just one line, but Alaska Canopy Adventures has multiple platforms and a mile of lines, some 600 feet long, rising 185 feet above the forest floor. I was pleased to learn that the excursion starts with a short “practice run” to ensure guests know how to launch and land, and what to do if one falls short of the landing platform, which happened to me. The zip segments start out short and gradually get longer. Overall, I was feeling pretty comfortable by the time I graduated from the orientation platform to the actual course. I thank Marcus and Miriam for my confidence. They are good instructors and amiable partners.
Billed as Alaska’s Ultimate Canopy & Zipline Expedition, the 3.25 hour adventure begins with a jet boat ride from downtown Juneau to Douglas Island where guests disembark on the beach. Guests return to town the same way. After the equipment fitting and safety briefing, guests are transported to the orientation platform in an all terrain truck. The truck trip includes an introduction to the temperate rain forest and historic gold mining ruins and relics.
Because I have exhaustingly explored the history and ruins of Douglas Island, and because I lead whale watching excursions, the jet boat and 4×4 ride were a mediocore experience for me, but my fellow zippers were much more engaged. For me, the actual zipping was the highlight. Sure, the zip speed and wind in my face had my adrenaline pumping, but the serenity and silence of the forest were calming and my favorite part of this adventure. Admittedly, I didn’t “sight see” the first couple segments, preferring to concentrate on making it to the landing platforms, but toward the end I did look down and take in the forest from a different perspective.
I will say that I was overly cautious about slamming into the landing platforms and pulled up short several times requiring Marcus to reach out and pull me to the platforms. Once I stopped so short I was out of reach, dangling more than 100 feet up, 20 feet short of the platform. Marcus and Mariam warned us that this could happen and what to do about it. I followed Marcus’ directions to spin around and pull myself to the platform hand-over-hand until he could grab me. Easy.
I highly recommend this Juneau adventure, but keep in mind that height, weight and health restrictions apply, so check out Alaska Canopy Adventures’ website before booking this adventure. Cost for zipping through the Douglas Island rainforest start at $189, but a discount may be available.
High-5 to the entire Alaska Canopy Adventure crew: Dock Rep Chelsea, Captain Chris, Operations Manager Derek and guides Kathryn, Marcus and Mariam.
All text or photos copyright by Aleta Walther
or respective copyright holders, 2015
Naturalist, Outdoor Excursion Guide, CIG, CTA, ATG