Written and Photographed by Kate Perkins
IT’S A WHOLE NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE BEAUTY OF LAKE COUNTRY’S WOODS AND WATER. Gliding along a zip line in a harness is like seeing the woods as a bird: the tops of trees are flying by, the forest floor is far below, and the views feel endless.
Brainerd Zip Line Tours at Mount Ski Gull is the newest addition to Brainerd’s outdoor adventure scene. The tours opened in May and offer a one- to two-hour tour that includes seven zip lines, a suspension bridge, and a fifty-foot freefall experience.
Owner Lee Kerfoot’s goal is to give families the opportunity to experience nature, build confidence, and make memories together, something he believes is especially important in today’s world of technology.
We’re so concerned with screen time and who we’re texting and messaging with… but you don’t remember that,” Kerfoot said. “You remember your family experience together. So if we can facilitate or enable that, and get you outdoors to connect with nature, that’s what you’re going to remember.
Participants start at the base at Mount Ski Gull, where they’re equipped with a helmet and a harness that wraps around legs, waist, and shoulders, fastening in front. After ensuring that everything fits properly, a van ride takes participants to thetop of the hill, where they attend a ground school with a tiny zip line that’s just a few feet off the ground. This gives everyone a chance to learn the proper riding posture, and how to use their special leather glove to slow themselves down, if needed, as well as how to pull themselves hand over hand to a platform, should they come up short.
Then it’s a 91-step climb to the top of a tower, where the views of the area are sweeping. Gull and Agate lakes are in clear view, along with much of the Highway 371 corridor past Pequot Lakes. All tours are accompanied by two guides, one at the front of the tour and one at the end, who fasten riders to the zip line and ensure that they’re attached to the platform at all times by at least one connection. While zip lining, a secondary connection provides a backup for extra safety.
The first step off the platform to zoom through the sky above the trees, with nothing but thin air and a long drop below, can be a bit frightening. But after sitting in the harness and letting go of solid ground, there’s not much to think about beyond exhilaration until arriving at the next tower.
“It was an even bigger rush than I thought,” said Scott Allen, who took the course in May with his girlfriend. Though he considers himself a bit afraid of heights, Allen had no problem on the course.
“Initially what stood out is I was hanging on like I didn’t want to fall. Once I realized I wasn’t going to fall, I wanted to go as fast as possible,” Allen said. “Once you switch from fear to exhilaration, it’s incredible.”