So my wife and I finally did it.

For a long time now, we’ve been saying how much fun zip-lining looks. Last weekend, the talk turned into action.

On a picture-perfect day in south-central Missouri, with temperatures in the low 80s and a slight, dry breeze, we drove to Eminence and spent some time at Eagle Falls Ranch, a ziplining establishment that’s now in its fifth season of operation.

Can you say adventure?

Wow, I can truly say this was one of the most exciting, exhilarating, and just plain enjoyable things I’ve ever done. From the first moment I stood at the edge of a platform with the ground about 50-feet below, knowing I was about to jump off and rely on a some nylon and metal gear to help me safely reach a second platform at the end of a cable several hundreds of yards away, my adrenaline ran hard and steady.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

And the 4,000-foot-plus course features five separate sections, so we did that five times. What a rush – awesome times a hundred.

Until you’ve hung from a harness and zipped along a cable at an elevation that puts you about even with the top third of mature trees on both sides of you, it’s a bit hard to imagine what it’s like. But here’s short glimpse into the experience – Shannon County style.

Once you exit the shuttle van that takes “tour” participants to the beginning point of the course, you’re quickly introduced to the reality that reaching the first segment’s jump-off platform requires crossing a wobbly, wooden suspension bridge with your harness connected to an overhead cable.

Fact is, reaching every starting platform requires negotiating the same kind of contraption, sometimes at a very steep angle.

But while it’s a bit strenuous, it’s always safe, because at virtually every moment you’re on the course, Eagle Falls guides who accompany each group of zippers make sure your harness is hooked up to cable.

Once you leave the starting platform, zipping down the cable is far easier than you think it will be. It’s a smooth, comfortable ride, and the metal-on-metal sound caused by the friction of the pulley and brake contraption (made by industry leader BrakeHawk) sliding along the thick cable provides an unusual and appropriate accompaniment to the half-minute of sky-high bliss.

I’d compare it to the sound of 30-pound test monofilament fishing line screaming out of a reel just after a salmon has taken your lure in a deep Western Washington river – only louder and more metallic. And with cables and wooden platforms attached to tall poles high up in the trees in many directions, the scene is like the Swiss Family Robinson meets ESPN’s X-Games.

At times the speed is pretty fast, but the braking unit is easy to use, and the guides provide clear instruction as to when they should be used – even in mid-flight. And reaching the higher speeds is one of the best things about ziplining; you can’t help but feel a heightened sense of excitement when you’re almost literally flying down a cable that way.

Eagle Falls’ course takes you over roads, buildings, and even a small lake, and its final leg ends with a run-out landing zone where you come to Earth on your feet, and run to a stop similarly to a skydiver.

When he was disconnecting me from the final cable, one of our guides asked me if I had fun.

Like some kid who had just gone for his first roller coaster ride, I smiled and said, “totally – one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

“That’s what we want to hear,” he said.

Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for rolling down a hill inside a “zorb ball” (another rather extreme activity offered at Eagle Falls Ranch) or diving off of an 800-foot high bridge with my ankles fastened to a giant rubber band (to me, bungees are meant for fastening boxes to ATV racks, not suspending humans from high places), but I’d recommend ziplining to anyone with a penchant for experiencing the unusual who doesn’t mind stepping a bit out of their comfort zone.

Personally, I’d say ziplining belongs on the old bucket list for anyone who’s in the right kind of condition and possesses the right body style to do it. One thing’s for sure, there’s nothing else like it.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Houston Herald writer Doug Davison cruises along a zipline at Eagle Falls Ranch in Eminence, Mo.

Houston Herald writer Doug Davison cruises along a zipline at Eagle Falls Ranch in Eminence, Mo.

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