When Jonathan Kline went to Honduras in 2009 on a mission trip, he had one of those experiences he'll remember for a lifetime.
During some free time, he and wife Olivia went on a zip-line canopy tour of the rain forest.
“You would go out (on the line) and hang out in these hot springs. There was a waterfall, a hot waterfall, and you could be under it,” he says. “It was pretty neat.”
Kline can't promise a steaming waterfall as a feature of Zip Timber Lake, an expansive zip-line adventure course he opened last month at Camp Timber Lake between Huntington and Roanoke. But he does have some major thrills for visitors.
Chief among the eight rides is The Flying Squirrel, which whizzes people 1,000 feet across the widest part of a 12-acre fishing lake at speeds of up to 40 mph. The line starts in treetops 70 feet above the ground before landing riders on terra firma – actually, a pile of soft mulch – on the other side.
Kline, 28, says the zip-line course is a first for northern Indiana. The closest other Indiana sites are about a four-hour drive to the south, with other zip lines in the Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago areas, he says, and he expects to draw enthusiasts from throughout the region.
When people get bit by the zip bug, he says, they'll travel to try out different zip lines.
The Zip Timber Lake course takes between two and four hours to complete, depending on participants' skill level, Kline says. It features several scenarios that people find either stimulating or somewhat scary.
Most of the course goes through high tree canopy where participants can spot everything from songbirds to hawks. There are four sky bridges – one featuring spaced horizontal planks, one with zig-zag vertical planks, one with cloud-shaped planks and one called a V-bridge.
The latter is a 60-foot tightrope-like cable at the bottom of a “V” with cable railings at the top. Participants walk on the wire across a natural ravine to get to the next landing.
“People tend to have a hate-love relationship with our sky bridges,” Kline says as he whisks a visitor around trails following the course on a four-wheeler.
A shorter ride across the lake is offered by a dual line that allows participants to race each other. One zip line begins at the top of a rock-climbing wall inside a vertical plastic tunnel. As for that longer lake zip line – that requires being lifted to the platform by a sky-hook hoist.
Kline says participants are accompanied by two trained guides who have radio contact with the campground office at all times. Helmets and safety harnesses with at least two attachment points are always used, he says.
Kline, who grew up nearby, says he acquired the campground's 365 acres in 2003 after the sale of some family farmland. He designed the course himself after visiting zip-line attractions in southern Indiana and Kentucky and consulting their operators. Professional riggers laid out the lines, and campground staff built the structures.
A certified arborist helped select sturdy and healthy trees for platforms and line attachments, he says, and the course passed a safety inspection conducted by staff from the Association for Challenge Course Technology, an industry group.
The zip lines have been drawing 35 to 40 people each weekend, Kline says. The youngest was 7, he says, and the oldest was 89 – Kline's grandmother.
While he considers the course safe for most people, signs at the attraction warn that pregnant women and people who have medical conditions that might affect them on the course should not attempt it.
Zip lining at Camp Timber Lake has proved popular with church and scout groups who can spend the day or combine the trip with overnight camping, Kline says. Options on the mostly wooded grounds include primitive or RV sites and three air-conditioned cabins with mini-fridges and microwaves.
The course is now being promoted by Visit Fort Wayne and the Huntington County Visitors and Convention Tourist Bureau. Both have been “really helpful,” Kline says.
“The zip line has really taken off,” Kline adds, noting he has more in mind, including the possibility of Halloween and wintertime events and a shorter course for the less adventurous.
“People seem to like what we have so far. We've had a lot of good feedback.”