WHERE TO GO
Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure
Located near Interstate 5 at Exit 40 / Gold Hill
By Dan Shryock
The noise is distinct, the metallic sound of rollers rapidly spinning across a steel cable. The sensation is incredible, wind hitting your face as you speed high across a steep ravine, over treetops for more than a quarter mile. The view is expansive, looking across the Rogue Valley under a blue sky.
In a region known for its whitewater rafting adrenaline rushes, Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure creates heart pounding thrills in the trees.
The zipline tour company, owned and operated by Lindsey Rice-Meilicke and her husband, Jason, launched in 2011 near Gold Hill. It’s a five-stage high wire act that emphasizes excitement with heavy doses of safety and humor.
The day starts nice and easy with a short, low-hanging cable that gives each zipster a quick practice ride. Each of the subsequent lines is progressively longer and higher, allowing riders to build confidence and allay fears. The three-hour experience culminates with a final ride across a quarter-mile expanse so long your guide on the other side appears only as a distant red dot in a sea of green trees.
Each zip ride along the way is carefully monitored by trained guides who provide expert instruction, safety and a sense of humor.
“Humor is a big part,” says lead guide Steve Carlino. “We want to make everyone feel comfortable and still let them know we’re competent. It’s all in the way we verbalize instructions.
“We try to present our safety instructions as concise as possible so it’s easy to understand.”
A zipline tour starts with a safety presentation emphasizing the correct use of equipment. The guides make sure each person puts on a harness with both comfort and security in mind. They explain how the equipment works and tell you not to worry about the details. Just ride.
A guide is there at each end of a line to clip you on and off the rolling cable trolley.
“We try to help someone who is scared,” Steve says. “We like to encourage people to challenge themselves, but this is you choosing your own adventure. It’s challenge by choice. No one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
Guides tell stories of people who arrive with a fear of heights and leave making plans for another tour.
“We keep it short and low to start and let you ease into it,” Steve says. “It’s progressive. By the time you get to (lines) four and five, you’re really enjoying it. It’s important to make it adventurous.”
The zipline park operates under guidelines established by the Association for Challenge Course Technology. “They set standards for how parks are built and how equipment is inspected,” Lindsey says. “They set standards for everything and we follow those standards.”
Lindsey, Jason and their team took extra steps during development to make the zipline park accessible to people with limited mobility or disabilities.
“That was an emphasis when we designed the park. We want the whole family to be able to do it, if at all possible,” Lindsey says, noting that Jason uses a wheelchair. “For us, it made sense. My husband knows firsthand if it’s going to work or not.
“It takes more time for guests in chairs but that’s not a problem. The amount of joy and satisfaction we all get is really cool.”
That dedication to accessibility for all attracted Dan McTimmons, Betty Carlton and son, Derrick, to drive 160 miles from Redding, Calif., to try Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure. Derrick, 23, is diagnosed with autism and it is important to Betty and Dan that Derrick is welcome to participate.
Dan, an experienced zipliner, says he ranks Rogue Valley’s tour among the best he’s seen. “This is awesome,” Dan says after completing the circuit. “I liked the different lengths of the lines. This (park) is up with the rest of them.”
Derrick offers his own description.
“It’s like flying,” he says, smiling. “Like Peter Pan.”
Dan Shryock is an Oregon-based journalist and travel writer. When he's not visiting Southern Oregon or sampling local wines, he can be found cycling throughout the state.