All geared up and securely anchored in, we headed to the first cable, Alder. Three hundred ninety-six feet of wind in your hair and stimulating speed. “This is the bunny slope,” Michael Goodman our High Life Adventures guide explained. He then zipped off with a speed that was far from gentle. Michael Groat, our second guide began hooking up the first rider. “Keep the meat in the seat and lift the feet.” he reminded us.
I repeated the mantra in my head as I watched the other 11 members of my group run, jump and seemingly freefall off the hill. My turn. As Groat clipped me to the cable, he radioed over to Goodman, “Alder, zipping Cookie Monster.” That’s me, according to my helmet. I closed my eyes, lifted my feet and screamed.
That was the first of eight thrilling adrenaline rushes I experienced at David and Lancy Larson’s family owned High Life Adventures. In a mile-long cable tour, 5,280 feet of stunning Pacific Northwest forest greets you as you take the plunge.
The next seven lines got longer and steeper. At the end of every zip we were caught in the capable hands of our guides, “How was it?” one of the Michaels would ask. The team wants each customer to enjoy the ride, so they judge each participant’s comfort level and offer encouragement or thrills as needed.
The entire trip takes about two hours, over the area’s ponds and pools and past David and Lancey Larson’s family home. The lines are open year round, with summers booked back to back. In winter the rides slow down, but special Twilight Tours are a chilly treat. The park is lit up with twinkling stars, holiday lights and bonfires to keep guests warm and toasty.
Another way to warm up in the winter is Lancy’s homemade soup at the on-site Zip N’ Sip Bar. She serves up award-winning chili, beer bread, sandwiches and appetizers to hungry adventurers. But acrophobics shouldn’t stay away, all are welcome. The eatery is open to anyone looking for a good meal or a cold pint. Serving local beers on tap and a variety of bottles, the bar is a friendly and cozy lunch spot with beautiful views and great entertainment. Patrons can wander out onto the property and witness scaredy cats and show-offs zipping on and off of the closest hill.
For an improved view, while sipping a brew, patrons can climb up the “Stairway to Heaven”, the newest addition to the park. This winding staircase of salvaged Sitka Spruce leads curious guests up to a higher vantage. Here they can witness a special zip, the Maple line. The steps were built in David’s mill during the off-season whenever the team had a free minute.
On Maple, zippers are offered a menu of ‘water options’ to enhance their ride, from a hand drag in the lake to be completely submerged. Each is courtesy of the guides, which Goodman reminded us isn’t an exact science, “At the end of the day it’s just a guy pulling on a rope.” But if a tourist is accidentally soaked, no worries, a bonfire and a breezy ride on Spruce await.
The Spruce line is located 700 feet up in a fire lookout tower replica, also built by David and crew. It gives a full view of the lake, plus Zip N’ Sip refreshments waiting on the other side. Instead of the normal tight line holding guests just two feet from the cable, visitors have the option of taking the “Zwing”, a 20-foot long freefall. The jump and subsequent swing look terrifying, but three-fourths of my party took the harrowing leap from the tower and all highly recommend it.
On a High Life Adventures trip of a lifetime, the journey begins and ends with Katie Larson. As the office manager, she is responsible for the ins and outs of scheduling, waivers and merchandise. She is an integral piece of the adventure machine and a Larson herself, which means she is a risk taker. “When we were little we had a giant log treehouse with a tunnel and rope swing,” she recalls. “It was like Swiss Family Robinson.” She also remembers the early days on the seven-acre property when the area was just their family’s playground.
David’s been creating thrills for his family and friends since he was a kid, and he isn’t done yet. The family is currently putting in the groundwork for a second adventure site in Seaside. Check out David and Lancey’s next project, a self-led ropes course opening next year.