HENDERSON — A group of adventurers hooked themselves one by one to a cord above a suspension bridge and walked carefully across to the tower.
Standing 50 feet in the air, the tower is ominous to the average heights-fearer. But to this group, the treehouse-like structure is the gateway to the most heart-pounding part of the Kerfoot Canopy Tours experience — the Red Tail zip line.
The group climb the windy staircase to the top, and they take in the view. Dense woods that fold into a deep ravine. Blue sky. And soon, each one will be flying right into it — up to 170 feet above ground and 40 mph, nowhere to go but down.
“Screaming is encouraged,” said sky guide Colin Begley about the two lengthy zip lines connected to the tower.
“Smells like vacation up here,” one of the braver participants says.
Kerfoot Canopy Tours — which opened June 14 north of Henderson on the Scenic Byway — is owned by Lee and Eva Kerfoot. Lee grew up on the Gunflint Trail and learned to appreciate the great outdoors from his grandmother, Justine Kerfoot, who was a Northwoods pioneer.
“He grew up with that in his blood,” Eva said.
Having lived in Victoria for several years, the Kerfoots went looking for the perfect acreage of land last year to open an outdoor adventure business with zip lines connecting from tree to tree. Lee's family owns Towering Pines Canopy Tour on the Gunflint Trail, and they thought southern Minnesota along the river would be the perfect setting for something similar.
“It's just an awesome way to get out and enjoy the woods,” Eva said.
The couple hiked around various areas looking for the right setting. “It needs to be naturally exciting,” Eva said, with lots of mature trees and ravines to make for the best view and overall experience.