I had a friend in middle school who had a zip line through her backyard. There was always a line of screaming children waiting to try it at parties.
I never did. It was too scary. The launch platform was terrifyingly high off the ground. Kids took turns shoving each other, strung up by some feeble looking cord, into thin air.
In retrospect, the zip line was probably 10 feet off the nice green lawn, and mom or dad was always right there. I thought about this as I looked down from a platform during my first zip lining experience as an adult. I stood within the many towering trees in a forest. It was fair to say I was more than 10 feet off the ground. I wished I'd practiced on something smaller when I had the chance. I tried to smile but my loving, darling family saw right through it.
"You're really scared, aren't you?!" exclaimed my delighted stepdaughter.
Clearly, Alaskans and visitors to the 49th state have shaken off any incipient fears. Over the last nine years, nearly a dozen zip line tours have sprung up in Alaska from Ketchikan to Talkeetna, including a new operation in Seward that opened less than a month ago. For up to $189 per tour (less for children), they offer rides as long as 5,000 feet long that skim through treetops, offering a moveable vista.
"People who are coming to Alaska are searching for adventure," said Ashlynn Antoni, tour manager of Alaska Canopy Adventures' Juneau zip line tour. "You're throwing yourself off a tree while you're attached to a cable. It's an adventurous thing to do. It's not the normal beaches and sunshine."
But Alaska is hardly alone. Commercial zip line tours have gained popularity worldwide, from South Africa to Hawaii to Ohio. Hawaii first brought commercial zip lining operation to the U.S. in 2002, but Alaska ranks as having one of the longest zip lines. The Icy Strait ZipRider in Hoonah is more than a mile long (5,330 feet).