2017-05-01 / ReBooted

Zip It Good

Jill Gleeson

Photos courtesy Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours.Photos courtesy Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours.Ziplining is an adventure I’ve taken on throughout the country, through caves, across gorges, most often down South. Which is probably why I’ve never zipped in the snow, flying faster through the air than the flurries falling into my hair. It’s a different experience — frostier, obviously, oddly beautiful and maybe even more exciting. Ziplining in the cold and snow feels edgier, like something slightly forbidden.

“Edgy” and “forbidden” aren’t words you’d typically apply to Branson, Missouri, one of the country’s great family destinations, but my aerial experience came courtesy of Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours during a conference I was attending in the city.

It was slightly unsettling for me to be at this conference and in Branson. I associate both with my ex-boyfriend, the one who split with me last June, busting my heart and setting my sights on mountain climbing. We’d been to Branson together years back, staying at the same hotel I was currently ensconced in, doing some of the same things I was doing on this trip, like having dinner on the Branson Belle showboat. And the conference was where we’d reunited years ago, after one of our early splits, attending it annually hand-in-hand thereafter. My ex wasn’t there this time, but I was dismayed to discover his memory was.

As it always does, time outdoors — even if flying through the air at 25 miles an hour — centers me. Branson Zipline is located about 7 miles outside of town, on Wolfe Creek Preserve in the Ozark Mountains. It’s beautiful there, even at the tail end of winter, when all is bare and quiet, in wait for spring. Quiet except for the screams and laughter of our group of five women, bundled up against the elements and grinning like we were sharing a winning Powerball ticket. Our adrenaline was flowing before we even crossed the first suspension bridge swaying high above the forest floor.

We were doing the Ridge Runner Canopy Tour, with three ziplines and two bridges. The first zip was a shortie, only 250 feet long, to get guests acclimated to the experience before they tackled the lengthier lines. It provided me just enough time to somehow get turned around backward and come flying into the next tower butt first, hollering with joy and fear and gratitude, too. If time outdoors centers me, adventure blasts every anxiety out of my head, quieting my usually noisy brain. How can you be fretting about a lost love, worrying about aging parents or even mourning a brother’s death when you’re hurtling butt-first through snow flurries toward a hottie guide named Monty with appealing dimples and great eyes? You can’t — and that’s a really wonderful thing.

The second zipline was 430 feet, long enough that I managed to gain sufficient control to come zooming into the next tower hip first. It was a slightly more dignified landing, though I laughed just as hard. I should probably mention I was ziplining in a pair of cowboy boots and a purple leather jacket with, absurdly, a hood — and a helmet on top of that. I didn’t have room in my suitcase to pack my hiking boots or a warm coat and I’d bought the jacket just days before, in Ecuador, before heading straight to Branson. Why Ecuadorians think anyone would want a hood on a leather jacket besides maybe Rocky Balboa I dunno, but I looked like some kind of vaguely demented superhero from a Marvel Comics’ reject pile.

After that there was another suspension bridge and zipline and then the toughest challenge of the afternoon: Dynamite Drop, a 40-foot free fall. Branson Zipline had a nifty device that Monty rigged me up to, which sort of gently unspooled me toward earth without the hard landings I usually have rappelling. The first step off the tower was still a doozy, though — a thrilling way to end a really good day.

That happy glow stayed with me through the rest of the conference. I wasn’t thinking about my ex much anymore, but I was thinking about how good adventuring can be for you. It can even finish up healing a broken heart. •SCM

For more information about Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours, visit

Jill Gleeson is getting set for the biggest adventure of her life. Follow her journey on her blog at and via her column at

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