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Writing Portfolio – Get A Rush

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Get A Rush – June 15, 2011
The Caledonian-Record
2011 Summer Travel Guide

by Leah Carey
Staff Writer

When you’ve trekked all the trails and meandered through all the museums, the day comes when you want to do something out of the ordinary. That’s when it’s time to get your blood pumping and try something really unique. It’s time to find a playground for big kids. The kind of place that requires a medical release waiver.

Tree Climbing in Vermont

Twin Pines Recreational Tree Climbing in Danville is exactly that kind of big-kid playground. Al and Brenda Manning have created an oasis getaway that would be relaxing if there weren’t so many exciting things to do! The drive to their facility takes you out a dirt road and down a private drive to a beautiful little man-made pond and a vista of the mountains that is breathtaking.

But we’re here for the trees.

This is the only tree climbing school of its kind in Vermont, and Al is just the man to be teaching it – friendly and confident. I feel comfortable putting my life in his hands for a few hours. First he gives a short but thorough safety explanation. Next he demonstrates the double-rope climbing technique we’ll be using. He emphasizes several times that, as long as you follow a couple of basic safety rules, there is absolutely no danger. He teaches us to tie safety knots every three feet on the way up which will break any unintended descent quickly and effectively.

“The hardest part,” says Al “is getting off the ground.” It’s true. It takes me several minutes to get a couple of feet off the ground, and then about the same amount of time to make it halfway up the tree. The technique isn’t difficult – it’s basically like putting your foot up a ladder rung and then straightening your leg so your weight is on it.

Although Al officially advertises this as an activity that’s good for ages “seven to 70,” he recently took his 84-year-old mother-in-law up for the first time and he’s taken out kids as young as five and six years old. It’s good for people with a fear of heights because they can completely control every aspect of their experience. According to Al, people often push themselves higher than they expected because they feel so safe.

Once we’re done climbing up into the clouds, Al takes me on a tour of the rest of his property, which is equally impressive. In addition to the incredible view, there is a 200-foot zip line, a tree house, a couple of ponds, ATV trails, horses, and more.

Al bemoans the fact that today the average child spends only about eight hours a year in the woods. He looks at tree climbing and all of the other activities he has at his facility as a great way to get kids engaged in the outdoors again.

Al says that a lot of people have never heard of tree climbing as a recreational activity and many locals don’t realize that Twin Pines exists. Once they do it, though, “They love it! They come back and bring friends.” I can attest to that. After just one tree I’m hooked (pun intended) and I know exactly who I want to take with me next time I go.

Zipping in New Hampshire

When I heard about the “Canopy Tour” at Bretton Woods, I assumed that just meant zip lining. As it turns out, the canopy tour is much more. It includes 10 lengths of zip lines, two suspended sky bridges, and three rappels.

Our guides Bobby Wisnouckas and Doug Harman have a smooth routine. Bobby talks us through points of safety and technique while Doug gets us outfitted. Standing on the ground, it all sounds quite reasonable. Standing at the edge of a 70-foot high platform about to leap off on a 600-foot zip line that rises 150 feet off the ground…well, reasonable isn’t the word I’d use. Racing heart, sweaty palms, and weak knees are words that come to mind. Bobby and Doug are so calm and encouraging that we all make the leap of faith and land safely on the other side. But not before one of the women in the group leans over to her husband and asks nervously, “Was this really my idea?”

Another guide, Steve Nichipor, explains that the course is deliberately created to help people develop confidence and step out into greater risks as it goes along. “Most people get up there scared and they work through it. It’s progressive and people gear up as the course gears up.”

The guides each have stories about their favorite trips. Steve tells about a man who proposed to his girlfriend at the end of the “big zip.” Bobby talks about an 87-year-old woman who had a limp but “wasn’t going to let anything stop her.” Doug regales us with a story of an opera singer from the Met who sang her excitement rather than screaming.

These are people who love going to work every day and it shows. They’re constantly reminding us to take a deep breath and have fun. Doug says he always recommends that people do the tour three times: once to figure out how to do it; twice to open their eyes and look around; and three times to relax and enjoy it.

The guides tailor the experience to each group. Sometimes they spend a lot of time talking about the flora and fauna, other times they describe the history of the area, and sometimes they focus on the mechanics and excitement of the ride.

The real difference between this canopy tour and other zip lines is that it’s not built purely to get you going as fast as possible. The experience is undoubtedly adrenaline-packed, but it’s got more going for it than just a race to the bottom. It’s definitely the ride of a lifetime.

Bretton Woods is also creating a new rock climbing adventure this summer. They’ll have an outdoor cliff opening at the end of June and an indoor climbing wall and bouldering cave at the beginning of July. Assuming that it’s created and run with the same care and respect as the canopy tour, I can only assume it will be another terrific adventure!

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