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November 26, 2013
by Karen Kefauver

Nov. 26, 2013—I felt like Katniss, zipping through the towering trees on a thrilling ride. Fortunately for me, despite the incredible adrenaline rush, I was not fighting for my life like the young heroine of The Hunger Games. Instead I was on a late afternoon excursion with six friends from Santa Cruz. We had arranged to meet in Felton to try out the Redwood Canopy Tours offered by Mount Hermon Adventures, part of the Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.

For many of us, it was our first visit to the beautiful, sprawling property, and we admired the modern facilities. Mount Hermon was founded in 1906 and it attracts 60,000 visitors annually, according to its website. For Saskia Lucas, the organizer of the outing and the founder of Santa Cruz Open Streets,
the zip lining itself was a first. “I am so excited,” she exclaimed, wriggling into the mandatory safety harness and helmet with the help of one of our two guides, Shane and Erica.

For the uninitiated, zip lining uses specialized equipment to provide a quick, scenic and exciting ride on a cable from point to point. Each participant wears a harness and uses a pulley system to glide along interconnected wires that stretch between elevated platforms. The first commercial canopy tour appeared in 1992 in the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica. Others soon followed around the world, and now they’re practically de rigeur.

Ihad zip lined twice before, during vacations in Mexico and Brazil. I imagined my Santa Cruz tour would be moderately exciting; mostly it was an excuse for me to skip out of work early on a Monday and enjoy the camaraderie of a fun group of pals. Turns out I was mistaken in my “been
there, done that” attitude about zip lining in Santa Cruz County!

During our two-hour tour, which included six zip lines of various lengths (the longest is 440 feet), our group bonded as we laughed, shrieked and snapped photos while gawking at the ground far below. We wound our way through the glorious redwoods, with one of our group, Greg McPheeters, embracing one of the magnificent 280-foot-tall trees in true treehugger style. At our highest point, we were 150 feet off the ground in the middle of the zip line. “Enjoy the view below,” our guide Shane suggested.

What set this trip apart for me was the fantastic view of the redwoods, the panoramic view of the creek and canyon below and being with friends. Living here 20 years, I had never experienced the towering forest in this unique way. All of us shared the awe. We were also impressed with the superb skill and humor of our guides, who blended the thrills with education.

Next up for me: I would like to try the Twilight Twinkle Tours, offered from November 29 through January 5. It’s like the Redwood Canopy Tours but with critical differences; all that excitement happens in the dark, “elf” guides lead the way and lights sparkle and illuminate the experience. Reservations are required and it’s booking quickly, says Annie Williams, a Mount Hermon Adventures staffer.

“This is the third year we have offered this,” said Williams. “We’ll have even more lights. Our guest helmets will have lights and our guides use glow sticks. It’s a very popular tour.”

Redwood Canopy Tours at Mount Hermon Adventures, 17 Conference Dr., Felton. 831.430.4357 for reservations and info, or visit www.mounthermonadventures.com/redwood-canopy-tours. Participants must be 10 or over, weigh between 75 and 250 pounds and be at least 52 inches tall. $89; inquire about discounts for groups of 8 or more.

Twilight Twinkle Tours run Thursdays through Sundays, Nov. 29-Jan. 5.

Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer and social media consultant based in Santa Cruz. She enjoys bicycling, yoga and travel.

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