Zip-lining is a sport (if you can call it that) that we’ve discovered only recently. And the place we discovered it is just about the best place anyone could hope to discover it: Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, GA., (just west of Atlanta) which we wrote about a couple of years ago. It was an absolutely fabulous adventure then, and it’s only improved since then.
What was once the tallest tower to leap from at 60 feet is now dwarfed by the 100 foot Screaming Eagle tower, which appears even more formidable because it’s perched on top of a hill. Looking at it from a distance, it’s hard to imagine yourself plunging from it and zooming high in the air, back across the canyon toward the beginning point.
You start at the lodge, a rustic hardwood building perched next to scenic Snake Creek. A century or so ago, this was the site of a paper mill, and some of the ruins still stand. They blend in with the landscape quite nicely, and add to the sense of adventure when you go out exploring the territory on one of the hiking trails. (If you’re really game and a rugged outdoor type like us, try biking around the property!) But sitting in the lobby waiting, or at any other time, and gazing out on the wooded hills (with a tower perched on top) and the burbling creek, you feel very peaceful. Enjoy the mood while you can, because once your zip-line tour is called outside to get into your gear, you’re about to be saturated with adrenaline.
We opted for the Extreme tour, which lasts about 5 hours. And even though it was a rather chilly day, we loved every minute of it. With the exception of a couple of breaks during which we could go to the bathroom, we were high above the ground pretty much the entire time – either soaring on one of the many zip-lines, walking on sky bridges, or hanging out on perches in the treetops preparing to do one of the above.
The sky bridges, by the way, are shaky-looking (and even shakier feeling) passages though the trees that really give us acrophobes a run for our money. Not only are they sometimes very high off the ground, but they often feel like walking on a tightrope. Sometimes that’s pretty much what you’re doing – treading on nothing more than a cable. In most cases, however, there are narrow planks to step on,sometimes spaced almost impossibly far apart. You’re guaranteed to feel challenged,whether you’re afraid of heights or a veteran squirrel. Especially memorable is the 600-ft. bridge across the creek, which lays claim to being the longest sky bridge in the world; and also just might be among the highest. No matter how much it may give you the willies, you just can’t help pausing for a moment in the middle and gazing down at the creek far below you.
And then comes the grand finale, the Screaming Eagle. Once you get up there, if you have any trepidation at all, it’s best just to jump as quickly as possible,without thinking about. And you’re off at speeds up to about 60 mph, achieving a height difference of 300 feet, for nearly half a mile, back over the creek again. Superman never had it so good.
We enjoyed our first visit so much that we were amazed by how many improvements had been made since then. And what’s more amazing still is that they have even grander plans in store. The friendly owners of Banning Mills seem determined to go on adding new plot twists forever, zipping past all the competition. We wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days they have a zip-line going to the moon. We wish them success, and we can’t wait to go back and see what thrills will surprise and astound us next time.