Fly Through the Forest with the Greatest of Ease!


by Debbie Stone


Stepping off the platform, I shouted, “Forget Tarzan. Me Jane!” And then I whooped with unbridled enthusiasm, as I soared among the treetops to the next stand. Though my form was far from perfect, I didn’t care because the rush and excitement I experienced superseded any self-conscious concerns.

My arboreal-like adventure took place on beautiful Camano Island, about an hour north of Seattle. The island is approximately eighteen miles long with a total area of nearly forty square miles. It’s connected to the mainland via a bridge, so no ferry is needed.

Camano is a peaceful, bucolic place, and although it’s close to the city, you’ll feel miles away. The place is populated by a combination of permanent and second home residents, who appreciate the island’s slow pace and idyllic scenery.

As for the island’s name, the earliest inhabitants, the Kikalos and Snohomish Indians, called it Kal-lut-chin, meaning “land jutting into a bay.” Over the years, it was called McDonough’s Island, Perry Island, and Crow Island, but the name that eventually stuck, “Camano,” was actually originally given back in 1847, in honor of Spanish explorer Don Jacinto Camano.

Kristoferson Farm is the location of Canopy Tours Northwest, the company that operates the zipline tours on the island. The 231-acre farm is 109 years old and is a six-generation family business dedicated to preserving the land and its abundant wildlife. Farming with natural resources and the absence of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, is a tradition at Kristoferson and the farm is Certified Organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Hay has been the main crop of the farm, serving to support its sheep, dairy cows, beef cattle, and alpaca. Lavender is also grown and used in soaps, crafts, and culinary products, which are sold at the onsite Farm Stand. And then there are apples for apple butter and apple ginger jam, and of course, pumpkins to add to the harvest bounty.

The zipline course opened in 2011 after the family looked at business ideas geared toward helping preserve and sustain the farm. One of those ideas was a canopy tour, as a few of the members had been on zipline tours while traveling and felt it was a good fit for the farm and its mission: “Kristoferson Farm celebrates family, honors heritage, and respects the land.” The plan allowed the family to continue historical farming and timber activities, as ziplining has a low impact on the forest and provides a fun way to feature sustainable forestry and organic farming.

Canopy Tours Northwest boasts six ziplines, a log swinging bridge, two short trail walks, and a 47-foot final rope descent. The longest line is 657 feet and the highest is about 60 feet above the ground. Platforms are fir and cedar, while the cables are double half-inch steel.

Pre-pandemic, six to eight thousand people participated in the tour in a season, however, due to a staffing shortage created by the pandemic this year, the company has had to curtail its operations. Though the demand has been through the roof, it has only been able to accommodate about half the number of guests.

Participants are escorted to the start of the course in the style of a 1963 Unimog off-road vehicle. Known for their capabilities to handle a variety of terrains, these “beasts” can be found in jungles, mountains, and deserts around the world, and are used by the military, firefighters, expedition campers, and others.

Safety is paramount to the company and both guides and participants wear masks for the entire tour. Hand sanitizer is also provided along the way. Our guides, Taylor and Patrick, made everyone feel comfortable and secure, taking the time to explain the equipment and the different nuances of the various lines. They recommended positions to assume, such as the cannonball, to ensure ample speed to transfer you from one platform to another. And don’t worry if by some very, very slim chance you don’t make it across, as the guides will pull you in, so you won’t be left dangling in the wind!


The pair also regaled us with interesting facts about the environment and pointed out different trees such as the Douglas Fir, Big Leaf Maple, Western Hemlock, and Western Cedar. The latter was the “tree of life” for the Coastal Native tribes, who used the wood and bark to make lodges, boats, tools, clothing, fishing nets, and even diapers. As I gazed at this verdant paradise, it was obvious why Washington State’s nickname is the Evergreen State.

For more in-depth information about the area, there are placards along the route with details about the ecosystem, forest, conservation, and stewardship. I learned, for example, that Camano is over 13,000 years old and is a glacial moraine, which explains why the rocks on the island are rounded and smooth. The movement of the glacier wore away the sharp edges and rounded the corners of the rocks. Also of note is the creek on the property, which is home to several types of salmon.

To gain participants’ confidence with the zipline experience, the course starts with a short and low-to-the-ground line. It then builds to longer and higher lines.

I felt like a monkey swinging from one tree to the other and the feeling of freedom of flight was delicious. There’s really no effort involved in ziplining, as you’re just along for the ride, which means you can spend the time taking in the views. This is an opportunity to have a bird’s eye perspective of the landscape so don’t shut those peepers! If you’re lucky, you might even see wildlife scurrying around the forest floor or perched in the trees.

Midway through the tour, there’s a hydration stop, with access to water and the farm’s refreshing homemade lavender lemonade. A selfie station is set up for anyone wanting a pic of themselves in full zipline regalia. And if you aren’t able to get that perfect photo of yourself, there are cameras placed at a few spots along the course to capture the action.

The final activity is a descent from the platform to the ground via a rope. You’ll be reassured to learn it is a controlled descent, so just hold on and let the guides do the work. There might be a bit of apprehension as you step down into the gaping abyss, but, once you realize the ride is slow and smooth, you relax. And all too soon, you’re on terra firma.

Before or after your adventure, check out the rest of the island, particularly its state parks. Both Camano Island State Park and Cama Beach Historical State Park offer dramatic vistas of Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade mountains. And there’s a trail that connects the two, making it super convenient to access both.


Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, and regular contributor for Big Blend Radio and Big Blend Magazines, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness, and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries and all.


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