December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Reporter recounts experience zipping through air

After an 80-foot long zip, participants smile and laugh as their 2.5-hour journey comes to a close on Wednesday. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

After an 80-foot long zip, participants smile and laugh as their 2.5-hour journey comes to a close on Wednesday. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

HENRIETTA TWP. — It was late Wednesday morning and I was tied to karabiners and rope, suspended in a tree.

Thirty acres of dense green woods — which easily could have been mistaken for a rainforest — stared back at me as I jumped.

It didn’t take long before I realized how soothing it is to travel more than 40 mph on a zip line suspended 100 feet above the ground.

Wednesday marked the third day of operations for Common Ground’s Canopy Tours in Henrietta Township. Seven zip lines, a floating stairway, three sky bridges and a rappel station crisscross the Vermilion River to form something akin to an above-ground trail.

Each day groups of people can pay to take a tour through the trees. While an enlightening experience, it is not for the faint of heart.

Two guides equipped with Nalgene bottles and an extensive knowledge of Northeastern Ohio trees began the tour by securing the four of us in our group into harnesses and helmets, and giving us a quick lesson in how to stop and start ourselves.

We began the tour by climbing stairs that wound around a tree at the edge of the forest, the top of which held the end of a long zip line that stretched across an open field to a tree just within the forest.

It was daunting, to say the least.

One at a time we were secured to the line with a clip, two karabiners and a warning not to grip the zip line. I realized later that’s easier said than done when speeding toward a tree at 45 mph.

We jumped from the first platform individually, leaving the tree and flying high above the ground into the woods.

All the fear vanished the second I left the platform.

I was tightly secured in the harness and was almost weightless breezing between the trees, which were bursting with color from Wednesday’s rain.

What I thought would be similar to a roller coaster ride instead became an almost meditative experience.

The tour lasted three hours as we rode across the lines from one tree tower to another. Three lines gave way to Indiana Jones-like floating bridges, while another led us to a floating stairway — a cross between a set of stairs and a bridge.

The stairway is a point of pride for Common Ground, whose tour guides reminded us it is the only operational floating stairway in the country.

One long zip line and a rappel station ended our tour and deposited me back at the lodge with a sense of excitement and a new appreciation for adrenaline-seekers. I could easily have done the whole tour over again.

For Common Ground, an organization that aims to provide “self-discovery programs to empower participants to mindfully choose their path in life,” the canopy tours are a natural addition.

As Common Ground director Rick Grahovac said, “It extends our mission.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.

Canopy Tours

14240 Baird Road, Henrietta Township
(440) 707-2044
30 acres with 7 zip lines, 13 tree platforms, 1 floating stairway, 3 sky bridges and a rappel station
Cost of a tour: $87 per person, discounts available for groups
Participants must weigh between 70 and 250 pounds and be in good health
Minimum age: 10 years old. Children ages 10 to 15 must be with an adult