CUMBERLAND-It's summer and that means father and daughter Jim and Hailey Zeiler, of Daytona Beach, Fla. are traveling the nation, looking for new, fun and adventurous things to do.
Recently, they tried out the zip line that was just opened at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio and they said it was well worth the trip.
"The animals and the scenery is spectacular," said Jim Zeiler, 52.
The zip line safari opened to the public June 27, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held July 1 to mark its grand opening. Already, the response has been "wonderful" said Julieann Eckel, owner of Hocking Hills Canopy tours, the company that owns and operates the zip line at the Wilds.
"People are excited about it - they're glad we're bringing something new to the Wilds and giving them something extra to do," she said. "A lot of people put zip lining on their bucket list because it's something new, different and exciting and they've never done it before."
In fact, Eckel said statistics show that less than one percent of the U.S. population has been on a zip line, but it's quickly becoming the "fastest growing and hottest thing to do in outdoor recreation and sports."
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Hailey Zeiler, 11, of Daytona Beach, Fla., rides the zip line at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. The zip line is about a mile long and stretches over open pastures. The highest point in the course is about 80 feet above the ground.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Sichuan takin roam in a pasture at the Wilds as a man travels on a zip line above them. Riders of the zip line get an education about the Wilds when they land on observation platforms that are part of the course.
A total of 10 zip lines stretching for just less than a mile make up the zip line safari at the Wilds. The highest point on the course is about 80 feet off the ground and riders travel between 25 and 30 miles per hour.
Eckel's company also owns and operates the canopy tours at Hocking Hills but she said the zip line at the Wilds is completely different.
"At Hocking Hills, it's tree based - you're in branches," she said. "At the Wilds, you're in open pasture 90 percent of the time (and) you're zipping over rare and endangered wild animals."
Opened in 1994, it is a private, nonprofit conservation center located on about 10,000 acres of reclaimed mine land.
Location: 14000 International Road, Cumberland.
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily June, July and August and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in May, September and October.
Hailey Zeiler, 11, has tried both and said, "I like this one better," about the zip line at the Wilds.
While riding the zip line is a thrill for most people, Eckel said it is not meant to be an experience like one might have at an amusement park. Instead, she said the 16 tour guides who work on the zip line strive to make it an educational experience, telling riders about the history of the Wilds and teaching them about the animals that are there.
"We're a green company," Eckel added. "We don't use any electricity, any power whatsoever - everything is gravity fed, so it's definitely a green tour."
For those who don't care to get an aerial view of the animals, there are plenty of different tours and activities offered on the ground, including several that are new for this year.
Tom Stalf, senior vice-president of the Wilds and the Columbus Zoo, said the animal encounter safari, started earlier this year, is meant especially for youngsters.
During this tour, visitors ride an open-air safari vehicle through some of the Wilds' open-range animal areas, where rare and endangered animals roam in large, natural settings.
Also included as part of this tour is a chance to come face to face with animals from the Columbus Zoo, such as cheetahs, armadillos and flamingos.
"You go into an air conditioned classroom and have the opportunity to see animals up close and actually get to touch them," Stalf said.
There's even a horseback safari, which just began at the end of May, for those who want to see the animals from something other than a vehicle.
"You'll mount on one of 17 horses and it's an hour to an hour-and-a-half ride," Stalf said. "It's a great opportunity to have some peace and quiet."
Recently, Sunbury, Ohio residents Kelly Kreager, 12, and her father J.T. Kreager, 41, took the horseback safari.
"I love horses a lot and my dad and I thought it would be a really cool experience," said Kelly Kreager. "(I) can't wait to come back and do it again."
Advance reservations are recommended for this activity, during which two guides lead riders through wooded areas and along hillsides.
Another activity started just this year at the Wilds is the fishing safari, which enables visitors to fish from a bank or from a boat supplied by the Wilds.