An Unexpected Thrill of a Lifetime on an Alaska Cruise in Ketchikan

by Larry Schanz

Zipliners canvas the mountains in Ketchikan, Alaska
Zipliners canvas the mountains in Ketchikan, Alaska

Our first cruise – our 40th anniversary cruise -- was aboard the cruise ship,  Diamond Princess, which took us to see the glaciers in Alaska as well as Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

When planning our trip my wife, Loretta, informed me that we had to sign up for the zip-line shore excursion in Ketchikan. She said that riding a zip-line through the trees was on her “bucket list” and the decision was not negotiable.

We were both 60 years old at the time and while I really didn’t want THAT zip line shore excursion, I could not let her go alone. We signed up.

The Alaska cruise exceeded our expectations but in the back of my mind I was dreading docking in Ketchikan where I was sure I was to meet my doom.

Finally the day arrived and we were on our way up the mountain in a rugged vehicle that was needed to make the climb. Luckily, the weather that day was absolutely perfect! The sun was out, the sky was blue and we were very comfortable in short sleeves.

A group of us were assembled in a building where the zip-line crew prepared us for our harrowing ride back down the mountain hanging by a spider web of steel. We put on our harnesses and listened quite intently as our very youthful mentors explained exactly what to do and what NOT to do. I could feel the anxiety rising in my chest.

My wife was beginning to feel uneasy as well, but was determined to go on.
She had a plan, however. We would hold back and be the very last couple to step onto the platform to have our gear attached to the zip-line. That way we could watch the others go first and perhaps learn just a bit more of how to do this death-defying stunt.

It is said that “the last shall be first” and that is exactly what happened! As my wife was the last to get in line she discovered to her shock that she was positioned to be first to go down the zip-line. We were very surprised when we stepped out onto the first platform at just how high we were above the ground.

There was a series of seven ziplines to get us down the mountain. The first one was exhilarating as we sped down the line toward the connecting platform where one of our guides awaited to slow us down and made sure we stopped safely. Each ride after that was more relaxed as we felt confidence in the gear and our guides. We could then take in the awesome beauty around us as we sailed through the tops of the trees. I’m sure it was the next best thing to flying!

What a thrill! What an experience! We would do it again! Don’t miss it!