Adventures on the Gorge Gravity Zip Line Course - photo: Adventures on the Gorge
Adventures on the Gorge Gravity Zip Line Course – photo: Adventures on the Groge

I admit it, when I could see three counties from the platform of the Gravity Zip Line adventure at Adventures on the Gorge, my heart stopped just a little bit. The 1.5 mile course above the breathtaking scenery in the hills of West Virginia put me eye to eye with the birds flying over the valley.

Then, I learned that the 500-foot and 1,800-foot zip lines were just the “warm-up.” The grand finale was still to come: the AdrenaLine, the longest zip line on the East Coast. At 3,150 feet long, soaring 200-feet in the air at 60 miles per hour, my previous three county view, and my substantial pause for a deep breath, were nothing compared to the panoramic experience from this vantage point.

Zip lines can be one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the outdoors for a unique view of the natural scene below. However, zip lines like this one are not for novices as there are few options for turning back once you are underway.

That being said, zip lines are an acquired taste. In fact, the first time I ever tried it, I nearly panicked, feeling so out of control and worried that I would never stop at the next platform. If you can get past that, you will learn to love one of the most spectacular outdoor adventures available.

Gearing up for zip lines - photo: David Peters
Gearing up for zip lines – photo: David Peters

If you are a first-time zip liner,  it is important to know some key things before you strap on the harness.

1. Take a reality check

Are you afraid of heights? If so, do not immediately assume that zip lining is not for you. It may just take longer for you to feel comfortable and you should opt for a less aggressive course. If you panic easily, or you are truly terrified of heights and know that you will not get past it, then you should consider another activity. Knowing your limits is just as important as being brave. You never want to put yourself into a situation that does not feel right for you.

2. Check out the zip line company

It is imperative to thoroughly check out the adventure company that you choose to use for your zip line experience. Ask for recommendations, check safety records and read reviews. This is one adventure that requires competent guides and there are a lot of shotty companies out there.

3. Instruction overload

Zip line instructions come fast and furious and any misstep could have critical consequences. This contributed to much of my anxiety the first few times. I tried to remember all of the instructions: Which hand slows me? Which hand should never go on the wire? Which signal from the guide on the platform means what? How do I stop again? You will have a small practice zip line at the start of your trip. I cannot emphasize enough that if you are not comfortable or you need to go over the instructions again, do not hesitate to do it.

View from above The Wilds Zip Line - photo: Anietra Hamper
View from above The Wilds Zip Line – photo: Anietra Hamper

4. Listen

It sounds simple enough, but with your adrenaline pumping for your first zip line adventure, you may actually forget to listen to details. Know that every single thing your guide tells you is important to your safety and the safety of your group.

5. Practice

Like everything in life, practice makes perfect. During my first zip line experience, I swore I would never do it again. I choked on anxiety and I was so so nervous that it was not the “fun” experience that everyone described. At that moment, never would I have imagined myself tackling the AdrenaLine with Adventures on the Gorge, which is zipping an open-air line, 10.5  football fields in length traveling at the speed of my car on a freeway. What changed? Practice. I tried smaller courses again after my first attempt and just got comfortable with the mechanics and movements over time.

6. Don’t forget to look

Really. My first zip line experience, I did not see anything except the line in front of my and my end target. Nothing. I was so consumed with the motions, that I completely forgot to look at the scenery all around me. The real joy of zip lines are being able to experience your environment from this truly unique perspective…when you don’t look around you…you miss the point, and the awe-inspiring views. As a first-timer, don’t forget to look, even if it means a quick peek to the side.

There are so many cool zip lines available, like the safari zip line at The Wilds in Ohio and various canopy tours (even night time canopy tours) throughout the U.S. and internationally. Learning to enjoy this spectacular adventure is worth the small learning curve your first time.