The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 18, 2010

Zipline offers bird's-eye view of Ozarks

WALNUT SHADE, Mo. — Denna Duyck didn’t know what to expect when she and three of her friends signed up to take a the Branson Zipline Canopy Tour.

“It goes so fast,” the 36-year-old said after her first zip through the tree tops. “I was just glad to get my feet back on the other end. When you get up on the top it looks really high. I was scared I was going to hit the other end, but the guide yelled ‘pick your feet up,’ and it was fine. It was really scary, but fun, too.”

Although a little shaken after her first zip, Anissia Manuleleua, 39, said she enjoyed the experience, too.

“I was spinning around so much I couldn’t hear what the guide was telling me,” she said. “Maybe it was because of my screaming so loud. It was just blind faith that the guide would catch me. I just said to myself, ‘I’m not letting go.’”

Manuleleua said that she will remember the afternoon the longtime friends spent 100 feet off the ground.

“Some of our friends and spouses are like, ‘I can’t believe you are doing that,’” Manuleleua said. “My friends know I’m afraid of heights and they won’t believe I did this.”

Jared Easdon, who guides tours at Branson Zipline, said Duyck and Manuleleua’s reaction is typical of first-time zipline riders.

“It’s probably one of the funnest things people will ever do in their lives,” the 19-year-old said. “It’s easily the biggest adventure some of the people who come  here will ever have.”

A bird’s-eye view

For a little more than a month, Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours staff have treated visitors to the thrill of zipping through the Ozarks’ tree tops suspended from a 3/4 inch metal cable at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.

Branson’s newest thrill ride sets off Highway 65 seven miles north of Branson, 2339 Highway 65, in the Wolfe Creek Preserve. The attraction offers several zipline tour options and a bird’s-eye view of Ozarks wildlife, forest and topography. Each tour is led by a pair of certified guides who instruct, inform and entertain guests along the way.

Another zipline guide, Mike Jaris, 19, said it isn’t only the ladies who get a little scared when stepping off a platform more than 100 feet above the ground.

“We get big guys who stand up here and say ‘Oh that’s going to be easy.’ Then they come flying in at the other end and need a second or two to recover and to collect themselves,” he said. “Then, they are fine.”

Easdon said the zipline experience elicits a is a combination of emotions: thrills and happiness.

“It’s a mixture of extremes going on when you are flying," he said.

The fun of ziplining around Ozark canopy isn’t reserved only for guests, the guides enjoy the experience, too. For guides Kyle Todd, 21, and Julie Brinkley, 22, it’s a dream job.

“I think the best part is being in the beauty of the Ozark Mountains,” Todd said. “I love being in the trees. We have guides who know a lot about the forest and the wildlife and the local history. People learn something and don’t even know it. It’s great to melt into the hills for a couple of hours.”

Brinkley said she agreed.

“You don’t have the opportunity to do this every day,” she said. “We had an 84-year-old grandmother come here with her grandkids and do the Blue Streak Line. She loved every bit of it and showed no fear, whatsoever. It’s a really fun experience you will remember. It’s exciting, even for us guides who do it every day. It’s really amazing.”

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