Zip line adventures offer a new way to soar

Zip line adventures offer a new way to soar

At the Go Ape zip line adventure course at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, a small group prepares to take to the skies, in a treetop adventure that takes them 40 feet above the ground for a series of rope ladders, obstacles and zip lines.

Instructor Becky Gray takes them through the safety basics on a low-level ground course: properly operating the safety wires, how to maneuver around tree platforms and finally the basics of linking up to a zip line for a 200-foot or longer foray through the air.

The reactions to the zip line — the only one in the Indianapolis market — range from howls of delight to sharp screams to stoic silence, but everyone makes a safe landing to make their way to the next of Go Ape’s five areas and continue their movie-style trek through dozens of obstacles ranging from simple rope bridges to wildly challenging cinematic-style crossings. The obstacles include crawling on your back or stomach through a wooden slat tunnel, scrambling up a spider web-style net, and hauling yourself hand-over-hand on a wire crossing with nothing but empty space and your harness between you and the ground.

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Go Ape instructor Becky Gray shows Aidan Jackson how to work the safety equipment on the ropes. (Photo by Steve C. Mitchell) (Photo by )

Site manager Sam King says facilities like Go Ape fulfill a growing thirst in society for physical challenges and bucket-list material. “In major metropolitan areas, there’s a large demand for adventure activities,” he says. “This is a treetop adventure. It’s a sense of being like Indiana Jones or Tarzan in the movies, controlling your own adventure as you swing and connect from one tree to another. It’s a great upper body workout. You get a sense of accomplishment that you’ve overcome your fears at the end of the day."

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He says the course can make accommodations for a wide array of adventurers: “We’ve had deaf, blind and those with physical disabilities complete our course,” he says. Participants need to be at least 10 years old, at least 4 feet 7 inches tall, and weight 285 pounds or less. The experience costs $55 for adults and $35 for children 11 through 17.

The operators place a great emphasis on safety, with attendees wearing rock climbing-style harnesses with three separate points of connection and at least one tether is connected to a safety wire at all times. It seems complicated at first but becomes second nature before long, and you might not even feel the harness except when zip lining or if you slip.

Once out of the instructor’s hands, attendees essentially control their own pace and destiny, though their equipment includes a whistle to call for immediate help, if necessary. Several points throughout the course give the choice of an easier or harder path, marked in difficulty from “easy” to “extreme.” Easy obstacles can be as simple as a rope bridge; extreme can be as intimidating as a wide, arcing Tarzan-style swing from a tree into a hanging net 40 feet away.

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Collin Jackson makes his way across a rope bridge high in the trees at Go Ape. (Photo by Steve C. Mitchell) (Photo by )

King calls that his favorite obstacle: “Every time I’m hooked up and step out, that foot-and-a-half of freefall really goes to my stomach, and I love it!”

The course generally takes about two hours to complete, with five different areas and zip lines, climaxing in a long zip line that offers a unique view of Eagle Creek.

King says participants often find out a little bit about themselves in the process. “We’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Before this, I was afraid of heights, but now I’m ready to go up my extension ladder and clean the gutter at my house,” he says. “It’s a sense of overcoming fear and an amazing sense of adventure afterward.”


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