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Flying high: Zip lines, outdoor adventures increasingly popular

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Suspended 40 feet above the forest floor, a group of local adventurers tenuously made their way from tree to tree.

They inched along thin boards held up with ropes and stretched across gaps that required a small jump. Climbing up a spiraling rope ladder, they reached a suspended platform.

Awaiting them was a 450-foot zip line, which would send them flying at speeds up to 35 miles per hour over Eagle Creek Park in northwest Indianapolis.

Go Ape Treetop Adventure is the most recent addition catering to a growing interest group. More and more thrill-seekers are getting off the ground and taking to the trees when it comes to finding fun.

Zip lines, adventure courses, rope nets and other obstacles have become a safe yet spine-tingling way to enjoy the outdoors.

“We’ve built the course in a way that’s taking care of the surrounding park and surrounding nature. It’s a combination of adventure and appreciation of the outdoors, combining that with the outdoors,” said Dan D’Agostino, managing director of Go Ape’s U.S. courses including Eagle Creek.

The zip line craze hit central Indiana last year, when Indianapolis’ Super Bowl festivities featured an 800-foot-long line that zoomed riders past downtown buildings. Visitors waited hours just to experience the zip line.

Seeing that response motivated adventure company Go Ape to investigate putting in a course in Indianapolis.

The British-based company had about 30 facilities in England, Wales and Scotland and branched out into the U.S. recently. It established courses in Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Md., then Eagle Creek Park.

“We were looking to work with other top-notch park departments in the country, and Indy Parks is one of the best,” D’Agostino said. “We contacted them, interested in developing a partnership. Plus, we knew that Indianapolis was a fun, outdoor-focused and vibrant community.”

Working with local officials, Go Ape organizers worked out a 15-year contract to install and operate the adventure course in the park. The construction team put together a course that elevated over the naturally hilly landscape of the park.

Parts even extend over the 1,400-acre reservoir that makes up a bulk of the park.

“Eagle Creek is really exciting because it’s some of the most vertical and elevation changes in the Indy area. We have some really nice zip lines that go over ravine areas, the creek and the reservoir,” D’Agostino said.

The course is made up rope ladders, wooden slat tunnels and walkways. Nearly 40 tree crossings take people from trunk to trunk, spiraling further and further up into the canopy.

You can pendulum out on a series of swings that let them fly like Tarzan, then finish on one of five zip lines.

“We really focus on the park surroundings and creating an experience that brings people into nature and into an adventurous setting,” D’Agostino said. “It’s not just a zip line. It’s not just an obstacle course. It’s a combination of those things.”

Adventurers may feel like they’re teetering in midair, but the course features safety equipment and precautions to ensure that no one is hurt, D’Agostino said.

Every rider goes through a mandatory training session, where they learn to work their harnesses, helmets and ropes. Harnesses and carabiners keep guests connected to a central guide line securely fastened to the support trees. Ropes serve as handrails, keeping people from falling through the tree crossings.

All riders must be at least 10 years old and be taller than 4 feet 7 inches. The weight limit is 285 pounds.

While Go Ape is the only public zip line and adventure course in Indianapolis, a wealth of options exist in the hilly terrain of Brown County.

Gary Bartels turned 500 acres into Explore Brown County, an adventurer’s paradise of zip lines, ropes courses, mountain biking trails and all-terrain vehicle tracks. Ten paintball courses have been set up throughout the property, as well.

The inspiration was the tree-to-tree daredevils he met while helping design platforms and stands for a zip line in Kapalua Valley, Hawaii.

“I took all of those key elements from Maui and used them here,” Bartels said.

Explore Brown County features 15 zip lines, ranging from 80 feet long to the “Indy 1220,” a massive zip line stretching a quarter-mile across the valley floor.

Nearby, at Rawhide Ranch horse farm and nature retreat, the Holler Hoppin Zip Lines take people over ravines, valleys and hills on more than 1,100 feet of lines.

The course is operated by Team Effect Inc., which has both daytime and night zips. Though precautions such as harnesses, helmets and support wires ensure that people stay safe, zip-lining gives people a sense of danger and adventure that few other activities offer, owner Fritz Harbridge said.

“The whole point of the zip line is to offer a thrill. But there are so many options, and so many things you can do with it, that anyone can ride,” he said.

Area zip lines

Go Ape Treetop Adventure

Where: Eagle Creek Park, 5901 Delong Road, Indianapolis

What: Numerous rope ladders, 39 crossings, two Tarzan swings and five zip lines. There are five individual sections within the course, each section taking you higher into the forest canopy.

Cost: $55 for adults, $35 for children ages 10 to 17.

Information: goape.com/days-out/eagle-creek-park

Explore Brown County at Valley Branch Retreat

Where: 2620 Valley Branch Road, Nashville

What: More than a mile of cable ranging from heights of 20 feet to 70 feet through treetops and over a lake. The 15 zip line tour incorporates a mix of trees and poles, with a mix of ground and elevated take-offs and landings.

Information: explorebrowncounty.com, 812-988-7750. Discounts for group rates, contact Rick Resener.

Camp Allendale

Where: 4605 S. Allendale Drive, Trafalgar

What: Eight-line zip line; climbing tower; giant swing

Cost: Private camp available for group rental. Prices vary.

Information: camp-allendale.org, 878-4400

Holler Hoppin’ at Rawhide Ranch

Where: 1292 S. State Road 135, Nashville

What: Five separate zip lines totaling more than 1,100 feet, with some zips taking people up to 45 feet above the ground

Cost: $25 for Rawhide Ranch guests, $30 for the general public

Information: rawhideranchusa.com, 812-988-0085

Dagaz Acres Zipline Adventure Course

Where: 42 Antioch Road, Rising Sun

What: Five dual zip lines, two canopy zip lines, a hanging bridge and a 100-foot high challenge course

Cost: $70 per person for the ultimate course, $45 per person for the premier course. Special pricing for nonprofit and youth groups, and discounts for groups of 10 people or more

Information: dagazacres.com, 812-594-2727

SpringHill Camp Indiana

Where: 2221 W. State Road 258, Seymour

What: Six-line zip line that is 800 feet long and more than 40 feet high; climbing wall; high ropes course

Cost: Private camp available for group rental. Prices vary.

Information: springhillcamps.com, 812-497-0008

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