Jody Christiansen was into trees, and he enjoyed finding ways to get other people into them as well.
In 2004, he discovered his dream. He and his wife, Anna Lee, took their family on a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate daughter Madison’s high school graduation and his completion of chemo treatment for lymphoma. Jody, an avid recreational tree-climber, took an interest in a zipline experience they had while they were there.
“He thought the zipline was a really unique way (to get people up in among the trees),” says Madison Christiansen. “After that trip, he had the bug to build a zipline.”
The result is Tree Frog Canopy Tours in Glenmont, in the heart of Mohican country, where thrill-seekers have a chance to sweep through some of Ohio’s most beautiful scenery on one of the only dual-cable canopy zipline tours in the state.
When Jody’s lymphoma returned for a second time at the end of 2009, says Anna Lee, “my husband had a lot of time on his hands, and so he was investigating (the possibility of creating a canopy tour) online. We found a company, Bonsai Design out in Grand Junction, Colorado, that we consulted. They came, they searched out two areas that we had picked out, and this is the one they chose. They designed the course and built it.”
Construction started in May 2010, and Tree Frog Canopy Tours, a member of The Energy Cooperative, officially opened that August. It quickly became a family business, as Madison became a guide and gradually took over other responsibilities.
“With my dad’s lymphoma returning at the end of 2009, the thought of moving home just sounded like a good idea,” Madison says. “Who doesn’t want to get out of the office and work outside up in the trees?” The Christiansens’ other daughter, Morgan, was also a guide for a season.
The canopy tour is a 2½-hour ziplining experience with more than 4,000 feet of cable. Participants move through a total of seven ziplines, two sky bridges, and two rappels. On a dual-cable line, participants can expect a faster and smoother ride. Tours are made up of a maximum of eight participants and two guides.
The ziplines range in length from 150 feet to 1,100 feet from tree platform to tree platform. The highest point on the tour is 120 feet high on the 735-foot zipline.
Before starting on the first zipline, guides teach participants how to steer their bodies, how to pull themselves back up the line, and how to brake on the line. The longer ziplines have an extra brake at the end to slow participants down, if needed. The highest clocked speed at Tree Frog Canopy Tours is 51 mph.
Becoming a zipline guide isn’t an easy task. To keep the tours as safe as possible, guides receive substantial training and must be recertified often. “They have to complete a 60-hour training and they learn everything there is to do to guide. They are recertified every month,” Anna Lee says.
The tour doesn’t require any ziplining experience; people with no background and people who have been ziplining for years are welcomed. The only requirements are that participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds.
Tree Frog Canopy Tours continues Jody’s legacy of bringing people happiness by introducing them to the feeling of flying through the trees.
“When my dad passed away in May 2016, my mom and I didn’t want to give up his dream, so we took over all operation,” Madison says. “She does all the behind-the scenes stuff, and I run the day-to-day operations. It was a lot to figure out and take over, but we think we make a pretty good team.”