Monday, January 6, 2014

14 Years Go Zipping By

The group before the tour
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

My son recently turned 14, and man have the years zipped by. The Chuck E. Cheese days passed our boy a long time ago. In the past we've done indoor pool parties, Harry Potter inspired scavenger hunts, and a trip to Lambert's for their famous "throwed rolls" in Sikeston, Missouri.  This year, we were looking for something to top all that.  So why not mark the occasion by zip-lining in the beautiful Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois?

We weren't sure if it would be possible to do it in the winter, but after checking with the folks at Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour it was a go.  The only thing that prevents a tour is dense fog, ice, or thunderstorms.  Luckily, considering the negative digital temperatures we're experiencing this week, plus the snow, our tour was booked on a day when the mercury reached a balmy 42 degrees.

Zipping in
My son, a couple of his friends, my wife, daughter, middle son, and even mother bundled up in coats, sweatshirts, and hoodies and headed to Makanda, Illinois to embark on our journey.  My wife, boys, and I had zip lined before, but in Mexico.  This was something my mom had always wanted to do, so we surprised her with the trip to show our appreciation for all she's done for us.  Our daughter, Brooke, has always come in just under the 70 pound weight requirement to zip, so that's part of the reason we didn't do this over the summer, after Shawnee Bluffs opened.

The guide's POV
Despite being a little chilly, I think we all had fun on the three hour tour.  No one got lost and best of all no one got hurt.  The guides, Marc and John, were amazing and very helpful.  They put some of the first timers at ease, and Marc zipped tandem with our daughter who didn't quite have the umph to make it through the last three lines.  Safety comes first, as we were all assisted with the gear and checked multiple times as we walked and zipped through the forest.  The platforms in the trees are designed to hold 12 people who each weigh 270 pounds, so we all felt safe as we looked down on the forest below.

Some fast facts about Shawnee Bluffs:  Like I mentioned, it's a three hour tour.  There are eight zip lines, with the longest one being more than a thousand feet (1,016 feet to be exact).  I'm not quite sure how much speed we had on them, but watch the video below and you'll get the idea.  There are three short hikes too.  Like I said, it's a lot of fun.  The cost is $85 per person and the guides appreciate tips.  Sure it was more than the average birthday, but we had a ton of fun and made plenty of memories.  My dad, who is not a fan of heights, is actually talking about going the next time we venture back into the trees!  We hope to do it again when the leaves are out and some of the destinations are disguised.  You can click this link for more details.

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