Be it the stuff of legend or one man’s imagination, swinging through the trees has morphed into adventure activities drawing people of all ages and skills. Sky bridges, canopy tours, zip lines, hanging vines, ropes and aerial parks are bringing adventurers to new heights.
Several resorts and adventure tour providers are capitalizing on this trend to broaden their appeal to families and individuals looking for a new adrenaline rush in warm weather. Since becoming a popular stagecoach stop in the early 1800s, Mountain Lake Lodge – formerly Mountain Lake Hotel – has hosted travelers for more than two centuries, some passing through, others spending the summer or some number of weeks, enjoying myriad activities, fresh air and fine food in the mountaintop setting.
Keenly aware of the changing landscape of outdoor interests, the 2600-acre, foundation-owned property has added Mountain Lake Treetop Adventures, presumably for those who find croquet and paddleboats a bit on the dull side of outdoor entertainment. Sky bridges, swings, rope ladders and zip lines offer a wide range of exhilaration among the forest canopy. This first aerial adventure course in the New River Valley boasts three elevated courses for different ability levels and 30 elements of challenge. Following a specific training session, participants navigate the courses in a self-guided way, maneuvering among rope bridges, zip lines, ladders and obstacles at one’s own pace.
On the day it opened, Heidi Stone, general manager at Mountain Lake Lodge, was among the first to zip, climb and swing through the trees and challenges. “It was fun, awesome, exhilarating, and I felt such a great feeling of accomplishment afterward,” she says. Located at Salt Pond Stables about a mile from the lodge (walk a mountain trail or drive over), Mountain Lake Treetop Adventures is part of the revitalization and rebranding the entire property underwent a couple years ago. “We are offering a more well-rounded adventure experience now, and everyone is doing this from around age 8 to 78; it’s the perfect family reunion adventure activity,” Stone adds proudly. The forest challenge courses open some time in April, as weather permits, and you can sail along ziplines and encounter treetop challenges well into autumn.
“As the industry matures, it becomes more important to designate those who are qualified to deliver services,” states the home page of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). Founded in 1993, the organization has developed Qualified Course Professional (QCP) Guidelines for installation, operation and inspection. The staff at Mountain Lake Treetop Adventures has been safety trained by certified installers.
Because of the nature of scrambling among the trees in Tarzan-like and Jane-like manner, safety is paramount, and there are waivers, weight and height qualifications, recommended footwear and clothing styles (nothing flappin’ loose, for example) and required training for participants. Each adventure park website outlines its requirements, and it is all for your safety and protection.
Once trained and property outfitted, you can challenge your mental aptitude and physical dexterity ~ soar like eagles and glide among towering trees in the forest like Tarzan and Jane.
www.mtnlakelodge.com New River Valley!
www.theoutdooradventurepark.com VA (near Farmville)
www.wilderness-adventure.com VA (New Castle)
www.goape.com VA (Williamsburg)
www.bearmountainadventure.com VA (Luray)
www.massresort.com VA (Massanutten)
West Virginia Adventures
www.adventurewestvirginia.com (New River Gorge WV)
By Joanne M. Anderson
Photos courtesy of Mountain Lake Lodge