Adrie Zimny was about 40 feet in the air Saturday, June 12, at the High Ropes Minnesota course in Scanlon, and she was feeling a little timid.
The 7-year-old Esko resident had just ascended to the upper level of the course with her dad, Ryan Zimny. Adrie said at one point she started to lose her balance, but as soon as she did her harness caught her and relieved some of her fear of falling.
For the rest of her 90 minutes on the course, Adrie skipped from the lily pad section to an Indiana Jones-style bridge and then descended to the ground on a “Dyno Jump” repelling system.
“I thought it would be scary to do some of the hard ones, but once I was doing it, it wasn't scary at all,” Adrie said.
Adrie was one of the first members of the public to try out High Ropes Minnesota, which held its grand opening Saturday.
Co-owner Cliff Langley opened the park as a sister business to Swiftwater Adventures with his partner Brian Pfeifer. The pair founded Swiftwater in 2014 and had been putting away money to build the ropes course for several years and decided the time was right this spring.
“We decided coming out of COVID that there’s been a renaissance of people getting outside and wanting to do things,” Langley said. “So we thought, 2021 — this is the year to do it. We had the course built in April. Today’s the official opening day for the general public. We’ve done some school groups and so far people have been having a blast and loving it.”
The course — located just a few hundred feet from where Swiftwater puts its boats into the St. Louis River — has five poles and two levels, the first about 12 to 15 feet off the ground, and 12 different challenges for climbers to negotiate. They start with a short tutorial on the “Smart Snap” which requires people to clip into the next challenge before the unclip from the previous one.
“At no point are you standing on a platform not clipped in safely,” Langley said.
After mastering the Smart Snap system, people make their way up a tilted log into the first level of the course.
Stacey Homstad and her daughter Addison, 7, carefully made their way up the log, but it wasn’t long before Addison was bouncing her way across the challenges, leaving her mom to gingerly negotiate the “Burma bridge” while she watched from the next platform.
Cory Mooney of Duluth occasionally subbed in and guided rafting tours for Langley. He said the rope course is a great entry into an adventure or high ropes course.
“If I were trying this for the first time, it’s awesome because they’ve got it all,” Mooney said. “On the ground, you figure out how to work the system where your feet are still on the ground, nice, safe and comfortable. Then you make your way up into the lower area and work your way up the high stuff, if you’re up for it. It’s a really nice way to kind of ease yourself into it.”
High Ropes Minnesota and Swiftwater Adventures hopes their adrenaline-fueled experiences will increase the number of people visiting and spending money in Carlton County.
“I think we’re just hoping to bring more people to the area to experience all the awesome adventures there are, between Jay Cooke State Park and the St. Louis River,” Langley said. “We’re just hoping to bring more people to the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton area to have some fun and enjoy the cool things to do, great restaurants and cool people.”
If you go
High Ropes Minnesota is open from 1:30-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
The cost for 90 minutes on the course is $35. For those interested in a whitewater rafting tour as well as the ropes course, the companies offer a $75 special for the ropes course and 2 hours and 30 minutes on the St. Louis River.
Children must be at least 45 pounds to enter the ropes course.
For more information, go to www.highropesmn.com.