Friday, August 22, 2014

Zip-lining in Talkeetna

I've wanted to try zip-lining for quite awhile. As luck would have it, there is a very good zip-lining experience to be had just a few hours away from my house in the charming little town of Talkeetna. Talkeetna is the "Gateway to Denali" as it's where the climbers take off to get to the largest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley. My husband, daughter, and I took the scenic drive from Palmer to Talkeetna (about an hour and a half)and then the staff at Denali Zipline Tours took it from there. It was a perfect first experience and the instructors were amazing! ~Patti
What: Zipline experience
Where: Talkeetna, Alaska
Duration: 3 hours
How Many Zip Rides: 9, + 2 aerial suspension bridges, 1 rappel  
 Difficulty Level: Not recommended for people with back or knee issues or who can't lift their arms above their head.
What to Wear: Comfortable clothing, closed-toe shoes. No special attire required but wear layers appropriate for the weather. You go rain or shine, so a lightweight rain jacket is good. You are in a harness, so don't wear bulky clothes.
What to Bring: Nothing but your camera/phone(if it can be safely zipped into your clothing)
Cost: $149 adult, $119 ages 10-14. Tip if you like to zip! 
Best time to go: Year round, but summer, spring, fall are best
Children: Yes, but must weigh at least 90 pounds
What they provide: All the gear you need which is a harness, helmet and gloves. 
Pet Friendly: um, no… :)
Other Restrictions: Participants must not weigh more than 270 pounds. Must not be pregnant. Also must sign a waiver. 

Directions on how to get there from Anchorage at the end of this post. 

When you arrive into Talkeetna, you will see this little cabin on your left before you hit the center of town. Pull in here to check in and catch the shuttle bus. The bus ride is about 3 miles down a very bumpy, but scenic, dirt road. 

When you get to the zip base, the guides make sure you are in your harness correctly and explain what the different parts of the gear are for. Very organized. The harnesses were surprisingly comfortable (relatively speaking) and you soon forgot you even had one on. 

Groups are small, we had 7 in ours, which was nice. Prior to starting the zip, there is a short ground school so everyone gets a chance to ask questions, get instructions, and try out the gear on a small zipline ...and it is only about 3 feet off the ground :) The tallest platform is 53 feet off the ground!

Ready for my first zip. I have to say I was not scared at all since AJ, one our guides, had us so well harnessed. After practicing at ground school and having my concerns addressed, I was just excited to go! 

When you climb up to the platform, you are hooked securely to a tethering zip. Then one at a time, you take off! There are 2 instructors - one to send you off the platform, and the other to guide you to the platform you are zipping to. Only one person at a time zips. It takes no effort to 'fly' through the air, you just let gravity do the work and use your breaking glove to slow down. The zips get progressively longer and higher as you go.

The first of two aerial bridges (120 ft.) we crossed. They sway a bit, so you need to pay attention and hold on, but it's not dangerous - you are still hooked up to a safety cable. Beautiful views of the boreal forest!

From this platform we did a 17 foot rappel. I have to say that this was the only thing I was (unnecessarily) nervous about. You are harnessed and under complete control of the guides, but stepping off backward into thin air made my stomach flop :) Once I took that first step, though, I felt silly for having worried - it's all about trust.

My daughter Spencer and husband, Scott - just hangin' around...

The last zip goes over Reflection Pond...about 600 feet of flying!

A shot of downtown Talkeetna. The West Rib restaurant is known for monster burgers, prompting the Travel Channel's Man v. Food to film an episode there! This is a charming town - be sure to leave some time to explore!

Stopped here for a post-zip coffee and yummy black bean brownie - trust me, they are delicious! The rosemary shortbread cookies were scrumptious as well. This gem of a bakery is several miles before you get to Talkeetna, after you take the turn off from the Glenn Highway. On the right, cannot miss it!

View of the great one, Denali.

To book your reservation for a really cool Alaska zipline experience go to their website: Denali Zipline Tours

Note: The guides take pics throughout the zip, so you have the option to purchase them at the end for $8 per person. They are emailed to you and are very high quality. The photos in this post with their logo in the lower right corner are the pics I purchased of our zip-lining experience.

DirectionsFrom Anchorage - Travel north toward Wasilla on the Glenn Hwy. (AK-3). Continue through Wasilla to milepost 98.7 on the George Parks Highway and turn right on the Talkeetna Spur Road - there are signs. Talkeetna is at the end of this long, straight and might I say very well-maintained road (about 14 miles). The Denali Zipline Tour office is on your left, in a small cabin, across from the Talkeetna airport. There is plenty of signage.  Allow 2.5 to 3 hours drive time from Anchorage.

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