Posted by: Kristen Hicks | November 23, 2010

How to fly through the Texas hill country

Until quite recently, my daily commute took me through the lovely hills of the Texas hill country, slightly west of Austin.  While the commute was long and the hills caused some serious wear and tear to my car, I generally considered myself lucky to have found a position that allowed me to avoid the headache inducing traffic of major highways and city centers in favor of the majestic views afforded to me on my daily trek.

Knowing that my dad shares my love of the beauty of this area, some time ago I gave him the gift of a canopy tour, to be redeemed at a date of his choosing.  A couple of months ago, he decided it was time to take me up on my offer and we extended the invitation to some close friends and family members.  The result was a beautiful day that served as a sort of mini family reunion.

The Cypress Valley Canopy Tours are located about an hour west of Austin, TX and immediately upon arriving you get a sense of the appreciation for natural beauty and environmental sustainability that are a big part of the company’s philosophy.  There’s even a centrally located watermill that contributes to the place’s electricity.

Once everything was in place to begin our tour, we learned one of the first lessons of Cypress Valley: they only hire abnormally beautiful people.  Seriously, if there’s someone out there looking for a adventuresome, eco-conscious group of attractive 20-somethings to base a reality show around–I just found your dream cast (more seriously, don’t actually do this, it would completely ruin the atmosphere of this place).

After getting a quick lesson in the basic rules and how to brake yourself on the zip lines, things get started pretty quickly.  The sensation of flying through the tress is incomparable.  The views are gorgeous and the experience is a unique mix of exciting and relaxing.  The experience is carefully designed to allow you to just lean back and take in the beauty while it all moves by at a surprising speed around you.

The day was enjoyable for everyone involved and especially so as it served to bring together many family members I see too little of.  I’m not always great at coming up with good gifts for people, but I feel confident that this is the best one I’ve ever come up with for my dad.

A smaller subset of our original group was so impressed with the experience that we opted a couple of weeks later to return for the Canopy Tour Challenge course.  Convinced by the promise of longer (and thus faster) zip lines and a greater physical challenge we embarked upon this new adventure, which greatly resembled a ropes course set high up in the sky, only accessible via a few preliminary zip flights.

Be warned, if you are not a particularly athletic type (which I, sadly, am not), the “Challenge” in the name of this course is no misnomer.  There are, if memory serves, 9 different challenges.  Each person has to do at least three of them to reach the finishing point, but the ambitious can do all or as many combinations of them as can fit in to the time allotted (about an hour to hour and a half). Of the three of us participating at this juncture, I was easily the least adventurous, so I just did four of the “easier” challenges (even these left me sore for sometime afterwards).

While I did enjoy the physical challenge, for me the most enjoyable aspect was being able to take my time on the challenges and linger in spots to take in the view below and around me.  I could also, in these interim moments, enjoy watching my brother and boyfriend take in their challenges, which provided plenty of moments that were entertaining, humorous and impressive.

After completing the challenge part of the tour, the final zip line was the first to set us up facing the direction it moved it.  If one so desired, they could take this flight in full on Superman mode.  It was a unique final touch that felt well earned after the full day.

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