Barbara Bollman is all about family and hospitality. She and husband, Keith, have 12 children, ages 20 to 43, and 23 grandchildren. And it’s the way she runs the family business, Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tours in Westfield.
Opened in 2007 by Robert and Joanna Nickell, Carolina Ziplines boasts the first commercial zipline in the state. The main tour includes 11 cables, up to 1,000-feet in length, which traverse ravines in the hardwood forest and soar across a giant meadow in the foothills of Stokes County’s Sauratown Mountains.
VisitNC.com, the state’s tourism website, lists about 20 zipline tours and aerial parks in North Carolina, from the Outer Banks and Ocean Isle to Brasstown and Bryson City.
After a year of managing the adventure park, which stretches across 27 acres on the historic farm of R.J. Reynolds’ great-grandfather and Revolutionary War militia trainer Joshua Cox, Bollman said they bought the business from the Nickells in 2010.
Deano Shelton traveled from Rocky Mount where he is working on the Mountain Valley pipeline to zip with 10 co-workers and their families. A resident of Louisiana, Shelton estimates that he’s been ziplining about 10 different places across the country. “We do this just about everywhere we go.”
“I like that you are in the woods all the time,” said Shelton as he sucked on an blue ice pop after completing the two-hour tour on a 90-degree afternoon.
“And the other places are not as fun as these (guides). Some places are by the books, you do it this way, and that’s it. I had a ball with these guys.”
“The staff was very personable in the way they interact,” said Breanna Griffen of Winston-Salem who was zipping with her husband, Adam, and daughters, Ally, 11, and Taylor, 8. “You don’t get that everywhere.”
Daughter Taylor said that Carolina Ziplines “had more” than other places the family had ziplined. “Longer, faster, higher,” she said. “It was way funner!”
Breanna Griffen said she also liked the equipment they use. “The hand brake was huge,” Griffen said referring to the braking system that allows passengers to slow their descent without touching their gloved-hand to the cable. “I like that much better. It was easier for the kids.”
In September the park will expand from 11 to 13 lines on the tour. “We are adding two more long lines in the woods, retiring a couple of trees and installing all new platforms throughout,” Bollman said.
The park will also resume twilight tours in the fall. They start around sunset, with most of the tour is done in the dark, using only a glow stick to illuminate the passengers.
Bollman said that they have a good balance of local and out-of-state customers. “For some, we are a destination, and others, a stop along the way from the Midwest to Florida or the coast.
“We’re not the longest or the highest. This isn’t just about ziplining,” Bollman said as she talks about their repeat customers. “It’s about family.”
“We encourage people to bring a picnic, stay for a bonfire or hang a hammock by the creek. Family members who don’t want to zip can sit on the porch in a rocking chair.”
“My husband jokes ‘You have more two-hour best friends than anyone I know.’”