That first step into the air is a doozy, even though it’s just from a modest second-floor balcony. Your higher brain knows you’ll be fine, because you’re helmeted and harnessed and clipped to that cable not once, but twice. Still, it’s daunting. One of our guides from Zip Chicago goes first, so everyone can see how it’s done. Guide No. 2 goes last, so there’s an expert at each end.
The first dash into the woods is a quickie, leading us to a kid’s paradise: a pair of rope bridges bolted into some stately sycamore trees. Manager Clayton Spiess—who last winter constructed the course, about 80 miles southwest of Chicago—got clever with the second bridge. He split the floorboard into pieces, so it moves like a rickety treadmill. Smart escape-valve factor: Anyone who has a meltdown can take a short zip back to the office.
The midway point of the six-zip course is the fastest, most exciting segment: a 700-foot-long line above the forest floor. You can’t even see where the end is. Short hikes take us to more zip lines, including the 950-foot-long finale. Overall, your highest point is about 85 feet off the ground, while your speed, up to 45mph, is determined largely by your weight and height. (You’ll go faster if you “tuck”—bend your knees and curl them up toward your chest, as if you’re doing a cannonball dive at the pool.)
If the course feels short, well, that’s because it’s so much fun. Spiess says he’s working on a deal with the owners of the neighboring property; if it’s finalized, he’ll add three new lines, one of which will be a quarter-mile long. For now, if you want more thrills, try the night tours. Zip Chicago (2681 E Route 6, Marseilles, 815-795-5001). $149/person.