Sometimes it's not just enough to get a weekend away from home. Sometimes you have to push yourself, face your fears, and take a leap. Just don't forget to tighten your harness first.
This past weekend I headed up north past Cincinnati to Camp Kern. It's a huge campus owned by the Greater Dayton YMCA, and just a few minutes north of Kings Island on I-71. Camp Kern offers summer camps and outdoor learning to kids from all over the region. And for the adults, it offers many outdoor activities, including Ozone Zipline Adventures.
The starting point for our zipline adventure... complete with a history lesson!
I took my best friend, Jessica, with me. She was brave, and though a bit apprehensive at first, looked like a pro zipliner by the end of our River Tour that included nine different ziplines and seven skybridges.
Jessica points out our zipping course, and models the fashionable zipping harness (what a good sport!).
Our day started at check-in, which happens to be located in a historic building within Camp Kern. Pretty cool! Jessica and I waited for the rest of our 1:30pm group to arrive, then all nine zippers and 2 guides loaded up into a bus and we headed to the zipline starting point. There we signed our waivers, used the restroom (our tour was likely to take up to 4 hours with no potty breaks), and strapped into our harnesses.
Our full group getting some instructions before heading up... waiting to cross our first skybridge.
Our group of nine and our two trusty guides, Mike and Derek, headed out across the first two skybridges with no real problems. Skybridges link the different platforms built among the tree canopy. It reminded me of the movie Robin Hood. That, or a very elaborate way to link tree houses. The child within me enjoyed this part. It also enjoyed jumping on these flexible bridges as Jessica was trying to cross it behind me.
Crossing the skybridges... Mike gives us some more instructions before what was supposed to be our first zip.
Then came the first zipline. I was at the back of the line, and watched the others in front of me nervously wait their turn. I don't have a fear of heights and was genuinely just excited for my turn. We got through the first five zippers, then heard the boom of thunder in the distance. The rain was quick to follow. For safety reasons (aka the fact that we were strapped to metal lines in the sky), the four of us who hadn't zipped yet were ushered down the spiral steps of our tree platform, back to the building where we got harnessed up.
Waiting out the storm.
There, the four of us (all dry) waited for about half an hour as group after soaking group quickly collected in the building. The rest of our group who had started without us were one of the last to come back in. They had to take five ziplines to get back to a tree that had stairs down to the ground.
My first zip... thumbs up and a smile upon landing... Jess's first zip.
This twist of fate actually made the rest of our adventure much better. Once the storm passed, our new, smaller group of four headed back up the stairs to the first zipline launch point. It was time to zip. Our guide Derek strapped my harness into the line, and I jumped off the platform without a second of hesitation. The sensation of gliding through the air was awesome! Mike, the other guide, was waiting on the other side to "catch me". He essentially made sure I was able to slow down with my feet once I reached the "landing strip" on the platform and didn't hit the tree.
Crossing another skybridge... Jessica learns about some natural history... Derek and Mike teach us some more advanced zipping techniques.
The following few zips got longer and faster. At each landing spot, we were able to chat with our guides and our fellow zippers, Tom and Julie, a father and daughter from the area. Since we were in a smaller group, we got to know our guides better than we would have otherwise, and they taught us about local history, the history and offerings at Camp Kern, and natural history of the surrounding woodlands.
To watch a video of Jessica ziplining over one of the super long river lines, go here.
Finally, we worked our way to "the big time". Two super long, super awesome ziplines that actually reach from the top of one ridge, over the Little Miami River, to the top of a ridge on the other side. This is by far the most scenic and awesome zip. The next zip went at a diagonal back over the river. Equally awesome, and allowing for a little Zen moment as you gaze at the scenery flying by below you.
Our trusty guide Mike waiting to "catch" Jessica at the end of a particularly long zipline... our fellow zipper Tom getting ready to launch across one of the river lines.
The last couple zips were super long, fast, and gradually brought you down out of the tree canopy and closer to the ground. We left feeling thrilled, exhilarated, and tired after a long afternoon spent in the trees.
Ziplining is a great experience for someone who wants to go it alone and meet new people, a couple people looking to bond or share an exciting, new experience, or a team-building exercise for a work or youth group.
Our guides made us feel completely safe throughout the tour... At the end of our tour, one last shot of the guides: Derek, Mike, and Kyle (he helped with the last leg of the tour).
I know I'll definitely go ziplining again. If you are able to make it up to Ozone, ask for Derek, Mike, or Kyle. They were all awesome guides and made the experience fun and not scary at all.
While you're in the area, you can make a weekend out of it by spending a day at Kings Island, as well, or head a couple miles west and explore the historic small town of Lebanon. I'm glad Jessica and I took Derek, Tom, and Julie's suggestion to go into town and get some Whit's Frozen Custard. They make all their flavors on site, and change them every couple days. Jessica and I enjoyed the "peanut butter caramel brownie". Delish!
For more information about Ozone Zipline Adventures, go here
For more about Historic Lebanon, go here
For more on Whit's Frozen Custard (yum!), go here