“Is this your first time zipping?” Brian, the sandy-haired owner of Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch and our guide for the next two hours, greeted us.
I hung for a just moment on his use of the word zipping, feeling a bit like a skier amongst a group of boarders, and wondered if I’ve been missing out on something.
Ziplining is a new craze of adrenaline sports. Its nothing like the zipline at your local play park. In this “no sweat” sport, you are harnessed in high-tech equipment and “zip” down a cable suspended a hundred feet above the ground. The sensation is similar to flying. At least that is what everyone says. We’re here with Visit California to find out!
Yosemite Zipline Adventure in Mariposa is on Highway 140 and is just one hour south of Yosemite National Park. It’s a perfect place to stop and give zipping a go! Kids have to be at least 8 and weigh more than 70 pounds (32 kg). Mariposa is a good pit stop in general. It’s a California gold rush town seeped in history, cute shops and character eateries.
There’s a group of 8 of us and Brian says it time to gear up. In steps our second guide, Tyler. He looks like the boy next door and I immediately take to him. It turns out he’s a local, growing up in a small town outside Mariposa about 20 miles away.
Tyler explains about the equipment, its high-tech and top-of-the-line. There’s a nylon full body harness that goes around our legs, waist and shoulders. The equipment is so strong Tyler says it will suspend a 5,000 lb. vehicle. Brian and Tyler hand us a Carabiner (big hook) on a bright nylon yellow lanyard – which he says is what will actually suspend us. We also get turquoise blue helmets. Brian and Tyler have red ones.
We pile into an open top Polaris Ranger and head up the hills to Long Ranch, which is 3,000 acres of open land. It’s gorgeous California foothills, full of deer, coyote, badgers, possums and golden eagles. Tyler’s personality starts to show through and he tells the girls he swears he saw a white unicorn in the hills last week. It’s early spring and wildflowers are starting to pop, with yellow “Pretty Faces” and blue lupins dotted around the hillside. You could imagine having a house up here and forgetting the rest of the world.
That’s what Brian and his wife Vic want to do. Vic helps out with zip-ling too, driving zippers up and down the hill and between lines. I could immediately detect a faint British accent – she moved to California 16 years ago from Devon. They started the business a few years ago, and have invested heavily in equipment and training. She tells me recruiting for staff is key, to get the right tour guide personality. In addition to the physical and safety aspects, much of the training is spent getting people comfortable with the idea of zipping – many are given it as a gift and are a bit nervous to try it.
We finally arrive at our first zip-line, it’s not long and isn’t that far off the ground. The idea is that you start small, gain confidence, and then go on to the higher, faster ones.
Ziplining was a lot of fun. At first I wasn’t sure about it but it turned out to be very good. First we were on a small zip-line and then you get to go on the really high and exciting ones. I liked the excitement of flying through the trees. I really enjoyed it!
Tyler explains about the braking systems. All you need to remember is that there are two different types – and it makes a difference when stopping! Our guides were good about making sure you remember what to do.
He asks for a volunteer to go first. My oldest daughter raises her hand. I can tell she is really enjoying the day. Tyler gets her ready to go and then on his walkie-talkie communicates with Brian, who has made his way to the end of the zip-line:
“Copy.” “1 clear.” “1 zipping.”
And off she flies!
As we walk between lines Brian and Tyler break it up with a few jokes. “Did you hear about the two silk worms that had a race. It was a tie!” The girls giggle and are eating it up.
We arrive at our second line, which is much higher and longer, and we talk about “letting go”. That means not holding on to the nylon lanyard, and letting your harness suspend you. Holding on keeps you facing forward. With letting go you can lean back and spin around. High above the trees. The girls love it.
“What the best thing about Switzerland? The flag is a big plus!” I had to explain this one to the girls. But they are relaxed and revved up to finish all six lines.
We get to Lines 3 & 4, which are side by side, and the girls get to race each other. In Line 5 we attempt to throw a bean bag into a small box below. At Line 6 there’s a stunning view of Mariposa (which means butterfly in Spanish). Brian’s a local and we get a history lesson thrown in with the tour. Mariposa was one of the original gold rush towns and very important to California’s growth during the 1800s.
Line 7 is shorter, but the fastest – and it’s a perfect way to end our zip-lining experience.
I know the girls are zipping converts as before we reach our car to drive on to Yosemite, they are already asking when we can come again!
I really liked that you could let go and lean backwards because it felt like you were flying. I also liked that they were really high so you felt like a bird soaring over trees. Some of them were really long so you gained a lot of speed and went super fast. On one of them there were two next to each other so you got to race reach other. The only bad thing about it was it was over so quickly!
IF YOU GO:
Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch 4808 Highway 140, Mariposa, CA 95338 +1 (209) 742-4844 yosemiteziptours.com On Highway 140 and 1 hour south of Yosemite, it’s a perfect place to try zip-lining. You can also pan for gold.
Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau 5320 California 49 #4, Mariposa, CA 95338 +1 (209) 742-4567 www.yosemiteexperience.com A valuable resource when planning your Yosemite/Mariposa trip. Make sure you download their Vacation Planner, or request a FREE copy.
Betts Gold Coin 5021 Highway 140 Mariposa, CA 95338 bettsgoldcoin.com Fabulous and reasonably priced food and free history lessons too. Proprietor Bob Borchard shares colourful stories of the Gold Rush and kids get a free gold coin if they answer a history question (just remember John C Freeman). Well worth a visit (or two).
Yosemite Gifts 5023 California 140, Mariposa, CA 95338 +1 (209) 966-4343 yosemite-gifts.com A kid’s dream – with loads of affordable little gems, souvenirs and gift items. They also offer jewelry making lessons. We could have spent hours in this shop.
Mariposa Creamery & Booksellers +1 (209) 966-2226 5022 Highway 140 Mariposa, CA 95338 Try a Cherry Cow (blended cherry cola soda and vanilla soft serve) or Yosemite Glacier (soft serve with topping blended in). Oh and there’s caramel pecan sauce too. Such choice.
“We’re going zip lining” my mum said.
I didn’t say anything, but fear exploded in my head like a bomb.
When we got there I looked at the high wires and felt just as nervous as before, maybe even more.
As soon as we were all harnessed up we headed to the first line on a bumpy ride in a land rover.
“Who wants to go first?” as the instructor.
“My daughter will” my dad volunteered.
“OK” I whispered in a tiny voice.
As soon as I was strapped in I started flying over the trees, and all of my fears and worries flew out of me. I was enjoying myself so much!
After we finished all of the other zipline I looked back at the first one which seemed so big, but now it looked tiny.
Note: Our activities were provided by Visit California for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own and my family’s.