I’m not an adrenaline junkie or a thrill seeker by any means. The mere thought of doing something like bungee jumping induces a full-on panic attack for me. I did go skydiving once, but that was almost twenty years ago and I was in Australia; I was a bit more laid back and carefree at the time. These days, the most extreme activity I’m willing to undertake is riding public transportation in the world’s largest cities. But when my friend Pola of Jetting Around invited me to join her on a zip lining adventure and canopy tour, I thought, why the heck not? Maybe it’s that whole turning-40-recently thing, but I decided to join her and live on the edge a little.
Our adventure took us a bit north of Chicago to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, an adorable town that’s long been a year-round vacation haven for Chicago-area residents. As such, I’ve always associated Lake Geneva with more subdued activities, like boating and swimming; and more raucous events, like partying and snowmobiling. So I was a little surprised to learn of the existence of Lake Geneva Canopy Tours and Outdoor Adventure Center (for the sake of brevity, referred to as LGCT from this point on), just a few miles outside of downtown. When I think zip lining, I associate it with a place like Costa Rica, where it’s quite popular; NOT with Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Pola and I arrived at the welcome center and, right off the bat, we could tell this was a highly professional and organized activity center. Instructions were clear and concise; safety concerns were addressed; and each participant was weighed in. (I wasn’t happy about that last part, too, but it’s necessary. For safety reasons, no one weighing more than 250 pounds is allowed to zip line.) All the official stuff behind us, we then drove across the road and up the hill to the garage to meet our guides, Courtney and Bud. Pola and I were joined by two other participants so there were two guides for the four of us – a decent ratio. Courtney and Bud introduced us to the equipment, got us all buckled in, and off we went in the ATV to the trailhead.
First stop: ground school. A short zip line, not at all far from the ground, is where we were instructed on the proper form and the correct ways to brake and right ourselves should we start twisting as we fly down the line. All four of us passed with flying colors and it was off to the first platform. Upon arrival, the guides mentioned that this would be the last time our feet touched the earth until we reached the end of the trail.
I’m sorry. WHAT?
I did not realize – and it’s no one’s fault but my own – that we would be zipping from tree platform to tree platform, not from one spot on land to another. And then it hit me: duh, it IS a canopy tour! We essentially would be zipping from treetop to treetop, and at other points “hiking” through the forest canopy, traversing suspension bridges and climbing helix staircases. I’ve done a good amount of hiking in my day but this was the first time I’d ever hiked without touching the ground! It was a completely new and different experience.
As for the zip lining, well… I had mini-panic attacks at the start of each run, but once I stepped off the platform and started going, I loved every second of it. Pola and I completed six of the eight zip lines of the tour, including the 841-foot run known as THE BEAST (yes, it’s so intense that it must be capitalized). The reason we did not complete all eight is that Pola became ill after run #6. Probably due to a mixture of dehydration and the frigid temperatures, Pola began feeling dizzy and light-headed, and that is not a good mix when you’re zip lining. Here is where Courtney’s, Bud’s, and all of the LGCT’s professionalism and attention to safety details came into play. Courtney and Bud encouraged Pola to sit down and relax, to see if the symptoms would pass. We all patiently waited for several minutes and not once did our guides make any of us feel that Pola’s illness was an inconvenience, or that it was holding anyone back from continuing to enjoy the tour. At one point Pola felt that she could continue, only to once again become dizzy as we ascended the spiral staircase to the platform. At that point, Bud radioed the garage for “rescue”; Ryan showed up in the ATV with an emergency kit and ropes, which Pola and I had to rappel down to get to the ground (our feet weren’t supposed to touch the earth again until the end, remember?). Based on this rescue experience alone, I would definitely zip line at LGCT again, knowing that if something went wrong, I would be in good hands (not that I had any reason to believe anything could go wrong).
So what did Pola and I miss by leaving the tour early? We missed the last two zip lines, and the grande finale: dual, racing zip lines. Honestly, I’m not upset that we didn’t partake in that last one. We saw it before taking off on the tour and it looked pretty terrifying to me. It’s not very high up, but it’s long and, therefore, fast. If you recall, I just turned 40; not sure my heart could take it.
All joking aside, I was incredibly impressed by the entire experience, from the construction of the platforms, to the safety checks and systems conducted by the guides, to the surprising scenery visible from high up above the ground. I’ve already told many of my friends that we need to take a trip up there to zip line, preferably when it’s warmer, and definitely after we’ve eaten breakfast and drank plenty of water (I’m looking at you, Pola 😉 ).
- Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is located approximately 80 miles northwest of Chicago.
- Team-building activities, high ropes, hiking, and biking are also offered at LGCT.
- Tours take place year-round, in all kinds of weather, except during periods of lightning and/or high winds.
- The minimum age to zip is 7 years; however, children under 16 years of age must be accompanied through the course by at least one participating adult and must be able to participate independently of the adult.
Pola and I were guests of the Lake Geneva Canopy Tours and Outdoor Adventure Center. As always, all words and opinions are my own. Courtney and Bud did not have prior knowledge of my and Pola’s status as bloggers, and they were exceptionally thorough and a whole lot of fun.