There I was… forest green below me and the sounds of footsteps behind me. The only path to safety was across several pieces of wood that dangled from ropes which vaguely resembled a bridge. “Was this it?” I thought to myself. “Is this where the Adventures of Kentucky Kent come to an end?” I gripped the line and stepped forward…
Yes, the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark played through my mind. My wife Ally and I were not in a movie, but enjoying a day at the Chattanooga ZIPstream course located at Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain. Our guide led the two of us along with five or six other people in our group on a one and a half hour adventure.
For the sake of full disclosure; our guide was our son Macee (Macy). He put his Army skills to work and seemed at ease with the course and his group of adventure seekers. His words of encouragement and tips boomed through the trees as our group worked our way along the course. “You’re doing good guys!” He would yell. “I knew you could do it - Great job!” All of the guides were professional, well trained and personable.
Have you noticed that I’ve already mentioned the words “course” a few times? The ZIPstream Course at Ruby Falls is in fact a… course. It’s not a single Zip Line as many people may think. The course consists of suspended obstacles such as ladders, nets, walkways, bridges, tunnels, and two zip lines. The course is a very doable challenge set in a scenic location. It’s a slightly different view of life when you are walking around on platforms high in the trees while securely attached to a safety line.
Ally and I had a great time. Here is what you can expect during your adventure.
ZIPstream is an adventure but it is not a “walk up and go” attraction. Guests are teamed up to form small groups which are headed up by a trained guide. If you have a party of two or three you’ll be paired up with a similar number of visitors. Our group had about eight people.
Once your group is formed you’ll receive your safety gear and attend a brief safety class. The class touches on every step of your upcoming adventure starting with putting on your harness and helmet. You guide will inspect your gear while going over the rules, answering questions and telling a jokes to relax any jitters. Ally and I served as Macee’s inspiration when he reassured a nervous young lady in our group.
“I’m not sure if I can do this,” the girl said as Macee checked her gear.
“Trust me,” Macee said to the girl. “You can do it.”
“Oh,” she said with a deep breath. “Ohhh my.”
“Look,” Macee said with a serious voice. “Do you think I would let anything happen to you with my parent’s right here?”
Mace pointed towards us and Ally and I politely smiled and waved. The young lady, and the rest of our group, laughed.
Once the equipment was fitted we were taught how to navigate our way along a ground level safety course which shows you how to lock into the course. The term “locked in” means that once you attach your safety gear to the course, you are always “locked in.” The way this works is with a two sided locking belay device secured to your harness. You “click” onto the first safety line using the red side of the belay and it locks in place. That safety line comes to an end when you reach a tree or transition along the course. Another safety line starts a few inches away. At a transition point you attach to the new safety line using the blue side of the belay device. Once the blue side is locked in place, the red side is unlocked and you can safely detach from the previous line.
The course starts with a short climb up a wood ladder to the first platform. From there you navigate a suspended wooden tunnel which places you at the first suspended obstacle. These obstacles range from suspended bridges, wooden steps, and four by four posts with foot pegs, knotted ropes and more. After each challenge a sturdy platform allows for a deep breath, a smile and a sense of pride as you look back at your accomplishment.
The main course is broken up into two sections with a traditional zip line at the end of each. There are three course sections with one being dedicated to younger visitors. At the end of the first section the Zip line places you back on the ground with your group where everyone has a chance to catch up, chat, take a deep breath and grab some water. Then, it’s on to the second course which also ends with a ride down a zip line.
Need to Know
The Zip Stream Course is an above ground aerial adventure course. You are required to wear a safety harness, helmet and close toed shoes. All pockets must be emptied including cell phones and wallets. All jewelry must be removed and long hair pulled into a ponytail. Personal items are stored safely and returned when your gear is turned back in.
Wear comfortable clothes such as camping shorts, tee shirt etc. Think hiking or camping clothes with tennis shoes. Avoid shoes with slick bottomed heels, skirts or sundresses. There is a weight limit of 275 per person and a minimum height requirement for both children and adults. Please check with Ruby Falls for additional information.
Expectant mothers can participate with a written release from a doctor.
Here are a few things you need to know. Bug spray and sun block make for a great day! Cameras are not allowed on the course. Trust me; you’ll need your hands. A waiver must be signed before participating. While you are encouraged to have a good time and enjoy your visit it’s good to know that the guides frown upon horseplay.
The ZIPstream aerial adventure at Ruby Falls is an "almost-any-weather" activity. The courses will run rain or shine on posted open days. The exceptions to this generally are exceptional downpours and the presence of thunder/lightning. In the event of thunder/lightning all courses will be closed until the conditions improve and it is safe to return to the trees.
For the Kids
A smaller version of the course is available for younger visitors. The look, the feel and the sense of adventure is the same as the adult course with zip line at the end. Check with Ruby Falls using the contact info below with any questions,
Ruby Falls ZIPstream Aerial Adventure
Group Pricing: 1-800-755-7105
1720 S Scenic Hwy
Chattanooga, TN 37409
GPS Coordinates: (35.021819, -85.341906)
Kent Whitaker is a cookbook author and culinary writer with 10 published books. He is also member and AUXCHEF for the United States Coast Guard Aux. Kent and his wife Ally live in East Tennessee with their son Macee and two spoiled dogs. Kent's books are available, or can be ordered, at any book store or online at www.thedeckchef.com . Look for Kent on twitter at www.twitter.com/thekentwhitaker.