Zipping through the forest

Yesterday, I did something I never thought I would do.  Ever.  I’m scared of heights, am afraid of falling, and am not in the best shape.  But, it happened.  I went zip lining.

And I LOVED it.

Although we had plenty planned for Memorial Day weekend, zip lining was not on our list.  In fact, we didn’t have any plans for Monday aside from possibly going bike riding in Kanawha State Forest but even that wasn’t set in stone.  But then Thursday night, I was browsing Facebook and noticed that Adventures on the Gorge in Fayetteville had a special for Memorial Day only: a 2 for 1 deal where you basically buy one zip line ticket and get one free.  So of course, we couldn’t pass it up.

The hardest part was deciding which zip line to do: TreeTops Canopy Tour for $99 or Gravity for $109.  Both have high ratings and come with their own thrill, but you’re choosing between zipping from tree platform to tree platform (TreeTops) or mountain top to mountain top (Gravity).  There really is no wrong decision, but since Jon and I had never gone before, we chose to do TreeTops as it looked to be the milder choice between the two per my in-depth YouTube research.  And let me tell you — it was an excellent choice!

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TreeTops Canopy Tour consists of 10 zips, 5 cable bridges, and one rappel from the final platform which is approximately 35 feet up.  Along the way, you’ll be one with nature as you zip to and from tree platforms, over Mill Creek, and along the hills.  The entire tour will take 2.5 – 3 hours and you do need to be in moderate shape, as there is some hiking near the middle.  Contrastingly, the Gravity zip line course is open-air and offers more scenic views of the gorge and mountains.  On the longest zip, you’ll go 3,150 long (longer than the New River Gorge Bridge!) and upwards of 60mph.  The fastest you go on TreeTops is 40-45mph.  Cameras and a small backpack are allowed on both trips, but you must properly secure all your belongings.  I brought my digital camera and looped it around my harness while Jon had his phone in his folding shorts pocket.

For our trip, we chose the Noon departure of TreeTops and lucked out with two wonderful guides and a good group with 6 fellow zippers.  Most of us were a little nervous at first but after a quick practice run and two shorter zips to get the hang of it, we were (mostly) all pros.  It took some of us (ahem, me) a while to get the hang of braking properly but by the 4th or 5th zip, the training became second nature and the adrenaline took over.  For me, the scariest part was rappelling down the final platform.  I was terrified of that first step off the edge, but once I was caught in the weight of my harness, I was fine.  Perhaps rock climbing school will be our next adventure?  You never know.

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I know zip lining may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in trying, I highly recommend Adventures on the Gorge.  Their guides were knowledgeable, fun, energetic, and made sure that everyone felt comfortable no matter how nervous you were.  This was the first time I’d ever booked anything with AOTG but I can tell you that it won’t be my last (and I plan on coming back for Gravity!). I’m trying to talk Jon into booking a rafting trip for my birthday in a few weeks…. we’ll see how that goes.

As a bonus, I put together some clips for a short (1:34) YouTube video of some of our zips.  I am not a video editor but I know you’ll be dazzled by my skills:

Adventures on the Gorge is located just outside of Fayetteville, WV in the town of Lansing.  They are a year-round resort featuring cabins, restaurants, and activities that include white water rafting, zip lining, a timber-themed obstacle course, and much more.  For more information on zip lining at Adventures on the Gorge, check out their TreeTops Canopy Tour or Gravity Zip Line webpages.  Prices vary depending on the day and are cheaper mid-week.

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Note: this review is not sponsored or endorsed by Adventures on the Gorge.  All thoughts expressed are my own and the trip was purchased with my own money. 

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A leisurely stroll along the Hawks Nest Rail Trail

With the warm weather approaching, I no longer have excuses for not getting outdoors.  It’s true that this winter has been a hard one and I’ve been preoccupied with moving into a new house, starting a new job, and writing paper after paper for my grad classes — but still, it’s been way too long since I’ve spent the day outside.  So to remedy this, Jon and I went on a leisurely hike/geocaching trip along the Hawks Nest Rail Trail.

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Beginning in the town of Ansted, the Hawks Nest Rail Trail follows Mill Creek down to where it meets the New River at the base of Hawks Nest State Park. The entire length of the trail is nearly 4 miles (1.9 down; 1.9 back) and is a steady gradual decline/incline.  This makes it ideal for bikers, walkers, runners, and even children.  Perhaps the only threat you’ll have to watch for is mud, especially if you go after a rainstorm as we did.  Along the way, you’ll be privy to waterfalls, bridges, and wildlife that help distinguish this trail from others in the area.  Remains of the Mill Creek Colliery Mining Company that operated through the 1920s can also be seen along this trail, as it was once an actual railway.  For more information on the history of mining operations along the trail, take a look at this website.

The official start of the trail

The official start of the trail

The trail follows Mill Creek down to the New River

The trail follows Mill Creek down to the New River

Old mine entrance

Old mine entrance

At the base of the trail, you’ll stumble upon the lower grounds of Hawks Nest State Park where the aerial tram is.  Because it’s still early April, nothing was open so our only way of getting back up was the way we came.  However in the summer months when the tram is operating, you can pay to ride the tram up to the lodge for $3 – $4.  However, please note that if you parked at the beginning of the trail in Ansted, you won’t be anywhere near your car once you make it to the lodge.  While down at the base, you’ll also see the launching dock for the New River Jetboat, which is a fun ride from Hawks Nest to the New River Gorge Bridge.  I’ve been on the jetboat once years ago and plan to go again this summer so if anyone would like to see a post about that, let me know!

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Hawks Nest Lodge and Lovers Leap Overlook as seen from the base

Hawks Nest State Park’s Lodge and Lovers Leap Overlook as seen from the base

If you’re into geocaching, there are also two geocaches located along the trail.  The first you’ll encounter is the Coal Heritage Geotrail #1 (GC260JM), approximately .4 miles from the official start of the trailhead.  This one is an easy find and a large ammo can — my favorite!  If you continue along, the second geocache you’ll come across is Scouts Stash (GC29T3M).  This is another easy one, however if the river is up like it was when we visited, you’ll want to use caution with children to ensure they don’t venture out onto the rocks in the creek.  I won’t give too much away in terms of spoilers, but the location of this cache is not somewhere where you want to fall down.

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon spent along the Hawks Nest Rail Trail and I encourage you to check it out next time you’re in the area.  It’s a beautiful sight and easy enough that virtually anyone in the family can utilize it.  For more information about the Hawks Nest Rail Trail, please visit the Hawks Nest State Park website.

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)