You sit in the UTV, holding on as you follow a narrow path through tall trees and lush undergrowth until you reach a small clearing. You check your gear and head to a set of narrow, steep stairs. Your instructor attaches you to a steel cable and you climb fifteen feet to a platform that's barely bigger than your bathroom. The rest of the group clambers up, and as you circle around the tree to the other side you wonder how in the world everyone is going to fit so you stand so close to the person next to you that you can smell their toothpaste.
And then you sit down, and you let go, and you fly.
You scream and you laugh and you barely notice anything and before you know it you're at the next platform, and why won't everybody just hurry up already.
Congratulations, you just rode your first zipline!
While you're waiting for the rest of your group to take the plunge, your second instructor, who didn't make fun at all when you stopped three feet short and had to turn around and pull yourself hand-over-hand to safety, hooks you up to the lines encircling the tree. He steps back until his heels are at the edge of the platform and leans back, casually crossing his arms. He invites you to do the same. You timidly hold on and peek over the edge and decide to wait for your group.
The second line is even longer. It's so long you can't see the other platform from where you stand. But you do it. With each new platform the lines get longer and you get bolder. You reach speeds of up to 40MPH and, for a time, you are the only person in the world. You think you've got the hang of it, and then those bratty instructors make you get down from the platform - using a rope. You, who have never rappelled IN YOUR LIFE now have no choice but to attach your harness to the cable and step off the platform into thin air, using your gloved hand as a belay. There are stops in the rope so you can't descend too quickly, and your "I'm so cool this is my JOB" instructor is waiting at the bottom to guide you, yet you now wish maybe you hadn't been so excited to go first.
You get to the forest floor and land, somewhat gracefully, on your feet. As everybody else descends it's obvious that it's safe. The descent is slow and these guys know what they're doing. After a quick water break, the group takes a short hike while the instructors talk about the beauty surrounding you. It's so incredibly peaceful, and you cannot stop grinning.
After a short walk in the woods your group turns a corner and catches the first glimpse of the suspended bridge. The trail ends and you reach your final steps up a short ladder to the platform. Even though it's short, you still have to be tethered because the ladder is slightly over six feet and these guys are all about safety. As you step onto the bridge and feel it sway under your feet you know it's 140' long, but after flying over 700' it seems like nothing.
Everyone reaches the final platform and readies themselves for the last zipline. This beast is 1,230 feet long. You begin in the thick of the woods and end in the middle of an open plain. You are about to jump into thin air and ride this line for nearly a quarter of a mile. It's like they took a race track, straightened it out, and strung it between two poles, and you're going to ride it. You. Harness. Line.
You step out one last time - or so you think - and breathe. It's so quiet. Just you and the slight whine of the harness on the zipline. You spring out from beneath the trees and the final platform grows larger as you get closer. You brake, you land, and you grin like a Cheshire cat that just got its teeth whitened. You soak in the gorgeous landscape of rolling hills as you wait for the rest of your group to emerge from the tree line.
The final thrill is yet to come. To get down from that last platform, you have two choices. You can rappel like you did earlier, although this platform is much higher than the previous one. Or you can jump.
So, you jump.
Long Hollow Canopy Tours is a new attraction in the Galena area and it adds a delightful dose of excitement. This was my first time ever experiencing a zipline, and now I feel I am ruined for all others. It is one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had, and I've raced a camel and jumped out of a plane.
Mackenzie Arthur, the woman responsible for this fun, has taken her experience with ziplines in Colorado and turned Northwest Illinois into a thrill seeker's playground. While it is thrilling, rest assured that you are perfectly safe. All of the instructors are ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) certified, and you are clipped onto steel cables in two different places at all times.
Next time, I'm hanging off the edge of those platforms like I'd been born with wings.
Long Hollow Canopy Tours is located at 3247 W. Longhollow Rd in Galena. Tours last approximately 2 1/2 hours and cost $85. For more information and to book your zipline experience visit their website or call 815-777-0583.
I was invited to experience Long Hollow Canopy Tours. All opinions and thrill are my own.