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Sonoma-Area Eco Tours Takes Guests up for Panorama Views of Redwoods

By Kelly Church

Located in the Redwood Forest, Sonoma Canopy Tours is a two-course guided eco tour with zip lines, sky bridges and a spiral staircase. The Occidental, CA-based company was started by a former Sonoma Canopy Tours manager and his wife who took a vacation to Mexico and tried for an entire week to have a canopy tour. Every tour was full.

They reflected on their own Redwood Forest town and realized they too have tall trees and could create their own canopy tour. In 2010, they opened their business and now serve more than 20,000 people each year.

The courses are set up as multiple platforms that have different zip lining experiences. Platform one allows guests to get comfortable with the equipment and the feel of zip lining while offering great views of the forest. Platform two is a little bit longer and faster, and is about 80 feet above the ground. Platform three is where "the real adventure begins," with a deep ravine 300 feet below you. Platform four offers panoramic views of the forest. Platform five is the longest zip line, at 800-feet long.

Platform six has a view of the creek on the canopy floor. Platform seven takes guests up the spiral staircase, climbing 30 feet higher for a better view. Platform eight is at a slower pace, with a 175-foot sky bridge that naturally sways. Platform nine is another sky bridge. Platform ten is a short zip line to the final platform where guests rappel to the canopy floor.

While Sonoma Canopy Tours is an adventure, they also strive to provide a spiritual experience to guests. The company is located on the property of Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds, a Christian retreat center for public and private schools, churches and nonprofit organizations to meet. Deborah Klein from Sonoma Canopy Tours says she feels like the zip lining experience aligns with the conference center because so many people feel an attraction to nature because it's bigger than themselves.

"The spiritual component is whatever the student or individual feels within themselves as they react to the nature surrounding them," Klein says. "Sonoma Canopy Tours encourages each person to look out across the beauty they see from the canopy tour and take it in from some of the platforms. There is nothing but trees for miles in all directions. The beauty of nature and the untouched forest is awe-inspiring."

The company also does a lot of charitable work for at-risk youth in the community. Sonoma Canopy Tours sponsors foster kids going to camp and works closely with schools and other organizations to give kids an opportunity to zip line for free. In fact, they work with organizations like Social Advocates for Youth and Sunnyhill Farms to work on goal setting and reward youth who achieve their goals with a canopy tour.

"Sonoma Canopy Tours provides the youth with a feeling of accomplishment for completing a tough and scary thing- heights," Klein says. "I encourage them to remember their feeling of success when they have completed the canopy tours and draw on that feeling when they are faced with other challenges, like a new job [or] a new school?we are all scared of something ? they see that and have confidence to face life."

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