ZIP IT GOOD!
I look over at my guide Samantha who clips me to the cable and indicates that I am ready to go. I walk down the graveled incline until my feet leave the ground and I begin to glide. I pick up speed, and am swooping down a grassy slope adjacent to a small lake, shouting with joy, accompanied by the ziiizzzzzzzz sound of the pulley wheel rolling along the cable.
I am surprised as I flash over a small inlet in the lake and out of the corner of my eye catch a glimpse of a plastic pink flamingo in the water below me. Then, it’s time for me to pick up my feet and come in for a landing as guide Haley eases me to a stop. I stand up and Haley unclips me from the cable. It is my first ever experience on a zip line and it is over all too soon. Fortunately, my tour has just begun, as there are seven more zip lines to experience at High Life Adventures, a newly opened guided zip line course in Warrenton.
High Life Adventures is situated on 30 acres a mile southwest of the Astoria/Warrenton Airport. Owners/operators Lancey and David Larson have lived on the property for 22 years, raising three children there. The site is a secret little gem, all but invisible from the adjacent highway, with forested slopes surrounding a beautiful small lake.
David Larson, longtime operator of a logging and excavating business, has been playing with zip lines since childhood. He installed a zip line over the lake on the property twelve years ago, and had tinkered with it over the years, but it was his wife Lancey who came up with the idea for High Life Adventures.
“We had gone to Hawaii about a year and a half ago, and did a zip line tour there. It dawned on me when we were flying home that we had the perfect piece of property for that sort of business. When we got home, I started researching the zip line industry. We went to Boston to attend a conference on Challenge Course technology and zip lining. We took several classes, then hired a consulting firm and an engineer and went to work.”
David Larson put in a lot of time on the construction of the zip lines. “We started laying out where the lines would go in, finding the high spots on our property. We used a range finder to figure out the angles where the zip lines work the best. We were able to fasten the zip lines to our heavy equipment [from the logging and excavating business] and pre-tested them before we built any structures. We built everything according to industry standards, then added a few things that we feel actually make it safer.“
Shane Dean, the Larson’s son-in-law, stepped up to plate to help with the most difficult part of the process, obtaining the necessary permits from Clatsop County. “With waiting periods, and notices that were sent out to neighbors and more, it took a year, ” says David. “The County was very helpful.”
Fifteen months and many hours of hard work later, the zip line course was complete. High Line Adventures began offering tours this May, three weeks ahead of schedule.
Recently, I was complaining to a friend that I have reached a stage in my life where I don’t seem to have adventures any more. Soon afterward, a visit to High Life Adventures caused me to retract that statement. Even a reformed adrenaline junkie turned couch potato like me can get a thrilling, but safe adventure fix by riding a zip line. Having a moderate fear of heights gives me that extra squirt of happy hormone rush.
Cathy Nist’s Big Zipline Adventure
The zip line course at High Life Adventures is designed to introduce the participant gradually to the concept of flying through the air while suspended from a cable. My fellow travelers and I geared up by donning climbing harnesses and helmets. Attached to each harness is a trolley, a framed pulley wheel that clips onto the zip line, a steel cable mounted at an incline. Riders start at the top of the slope and are propelled by gravity to the other end of the line.
After a short orientation, we walked over to Alder, which at 400 feet long with an average height of 15 feet above ground is the bunny slope of zip lines. The course progresses through a sequence of increasingly challenging traverses around and over a seven-acre lake, eight zip lines that add up to nearly a mile of gliding opportunity. As we continued through the tour, the lines became progressively longer and higher.
The fifth line, Hemlock, which launches off of a steel and wooden tower on the side of a hill, was a real white-knuckler for me. I had to open a little gate in the railing and step off into thin air to get going. It took a real leap of faith to do it, and it was not easy. I had to trust that the equipment was going to hold me (it did), that the cable wouldn’t break (it didn’t), and that I wouldn’t flip out of the harness and auger headfirst into the ground ever so far below (I didn’t). Nonetheless, I believe I screamed something about peeing my pants as I rocketed toward a narrow-looking alleyway through the trees on the opposite slope (I didn’t). What a rush!
The Larsons are justifiably proud of their green business, the zip line course is pleasingly landscaped and although the site is an active tree farm and has been selectively logged over the years, it doesn’t look it. Over 2100 trees have been planted on the property since 2009. In construction of the zip line course, as much recycled material as possible was used. (The zip line cables are new as are the harnesses, trolleys, and safety equipment). The zip line support structures and the office/shop building were built from lumber salvaged from trees blown down during the 2007 storm. The steel pilings used are repurposed drill casings and oil tank supports obtained from the Port of Astoria. Best of all, the tour itself has a low carbon footprint. No fossil fuels are expended as visitors walk between zip line stations, hiking up moderate slopes on graveled trails and roads. Gravity does the rest.
I asked Lancey if it was difficult to open up her family’s personal property to the public. “No,” she replied, “because we enjoy watching people have a good time. I love it when we see people zipping across and they’re laughing and whooping and hollering.” Indeed.
The final three zip lines of the tour are by far the most enjoyable and exciting. Huckleberry, at 930’ really gave me the feeling of flying for the first time as I zoomed down another grassy then shot out across the lake. Maple took me so low over the water that I was able to lean back and skim the water with my hand. I’m told that the guides can pull on the cable, causing a rider’s lowest body parts to bounce in and out of the lake. I chose to not to finish up with a wet butt. Spruce and Willow are tandem lines that stretch 1200’ from the top of the aforementioned tower, crossing the length of the lake. We were encouraged to race each other to the finish. As I outweigh my teenaged opponent by more than 100 pounds, I zoomed past him without even intending to, ziiizzzzzzzzing to a finish as my feet churned up twin rooster tails of gravel.
After two hours of zipping, I was tired and happy. My blood was zinging through my veins and I felt as if I were addicted to a new drug. I had watched my fellow “zippers” conquer their fears and gain confidence in them. That’s a powerful thing to see.
While I don’t plan to jump out of an airplane anytime soon, I know now that it’s never too late to experience adventure as long as I am willing to keep myself open to it. Scratch that off the bucket list!
Unlock your inner Tinker Bell or Peter Pan at…
High Life Adventures
33136 SE Hwy 105
Warrenton, OR 97146
Tours are available hourly from 9am – 4pm, seven days a week, rain or shine, March through October. Tours take approximately two hours. Participants must weigh between 60 and 300 pounds and be fit enough to take a moderate hike. Wear comfortable clothing and closed-toed walking shoes.
Cost: $99 for adults, $69 for children 15 and under with a 10% discount for parties of 10 or more, and a 20% discount for parties of 20 or more. Walk-in tours may be available, but it’s best to book ahead. Watch videos and book tours online at highlife-adventures.com.