I’m watching from below in relief as the other bloggers on the press trip are challenging themselves with what appears to be effortless ease on the Tree-Top rope course. They are walking along the floating planks, leaning and pulling themselves around obstacles and zipping into huge rope nets with no fear. Just moments before I was up there looking down at the ground below. My hands were trembling as I held on to the metal wires for dear life. Each step from one wooden plank to the next was painfully scary and required timing and physical strength. I got through two of these segments before the defeat finally kicked in. It was a single wire. Like a tightrope but there were wooden planks scattered along it and I had to walk around them while maintaining my balance on the single wire below me. I was done! There were no ladders to get me down and there was no way I can go on anymore. My hands were red and so stiff I could barely close them around the safety wire clipped above me. My legs were shaking from last two segments of rope course and I stood helpless on the small wooden plank stuck between two segments of rope course.
How did I get there? Well I was on a press familiarization trip sponsored by Central Counties Tourism. The Tree Top Eco-Adventure Park stop was supposed to be a zip-lining experience, but turned out to be so much more.
Tree Top Eco-Adventure Park
The Tree Top Eco-Adventure Park is located in Oshawa Ontario and is one of the largest tree-top parks in the Greater Toronto Area. The park consists of a series of military style training courses set up 10 to 50 feet high in the trees. The park operates daily from 9:00AM – 5:00PM rain or shine with only severe weather conditions closing the park. A word to the wise: this is a physically demanding trip and should the guides or you decide that you cannot continue they will take you down to the hiking trails below. There is no refund if you are unable to finish the course! I say this because … well … read on!
We arrived after lunch and were quickly helped into our gear by Randy and Jenna. Harnesses were strapped around our body and legs and a cute blue helmet was also required. Girls bring something to tie up your hair if you have long hair as it is required that your hair be out of the way. The harness was then attached to two safety wires with clips on each end and a pully for the ziplines.
We were all taken to a demonstration course where they went through the safety procedures. Clipping yourself with one safety wire take a step up the ladder clip the second and keep clipping and un clipping. I walked across the tight rope as hanging of a big rope and swinging across just didn’t seem to be something I was going to be able to do. I even zipped across with glee, having a little trouble getting on the second platform at the end of the zip but I made it!
So I wasn’t totally comfortable with this whole situation but I thought I’m going to give it a try anyways. So I made my way up the ladder of the beginners course and stood on the small platform high in the tree! The first segment of the course was a shaky suspended bridge. There were planks missing throughout with only a small stump of tree to get you across to the next plank in the bridge. I was shaky, terrified and physically exhausted but I got through it. The fear started to set in that I was way in over my head. But our guide Randy was watching my every move through the course. He assured me that people get tired and they have to be brought down. He was amazing really especially through the floating planks segment. Each plank was suspended with four wires and they all moved independently before me. Gently gliding around in the wind. Every time I was ready to step forward the plank would subtly drift forward widening the gap before me. Randy watched as I worked my way through it. I love that he wasn’t pushing me, or trying to coach me, just letting me think it out as I clumsily made myself towards the next tree platform.
I nervously started to hint that this was really hard. That there were no ladders on the middle platforms to get down. He calmly said its no worry that they were all trained in high angle rescue and had a way to get people down. He said people get tired all the time and this was no big deal.
While I felt calm about my safety it was the defeat that was starting to way on me emotionally. Tight rope walking on its own would have been a challenge but looking at the wooden logs attached to the top and bottom wire in a V shape and knowing I would have to lean and walk around them while switching the placement of my feet on tight wire was just too overwhelming for my brain to absorb. My hands were read and aching and I knew I could not go on anymore. “I can’t do it!” I said and Randy came over the platform and said no problem Jenna will get you down.
Behind me I noticed that other bloggers on the trip had turned back after the first ladder and decided to walk the hiking trails and not risk the shaky rope course. I felt like a big loser for not being able to finish even the beginner segment but I was also proud of myself for at least trying. Jenna came over and was so sweat and calm about it all. She showed me a new clamp hook and how it opened and told me when you get to the bottom you will have to open this yourself. She made me try it a few times and then started putting together the emergency kit of wires and hooks. Some strapped to my harness and some strapped to the wires on the Tree platform. “I’m going to repel you down the tree.” She said. She showed me the contraption and told me to tug on the rope threaded within it. Not that I was on expert on whether or not this thing was going to hold but I nodded. I was trying not to cry – it was a feeling of defeat and a feeling of the unknown as I still didn’t know how I was going to get from the platform to the ground. Then she said “you need to lean back and I’ll slowly lower you down.”
For the first time I was going to actually have to rely on the harness to hold me in the air! I actually had to suck up all my fear and swallow the big lump in my throat and lean back away from the safety of the platform. With the lever on the contraption she slowly lowered me down, my legs fell beneath the platform and I slowly walked myself down the tree. Halfway down I started to smile. It was the stupidist thing really, but I realized that not only can I write about this amazingly challenging tree-top course but now I could write about being rescued from the tree and my first repel experience! AWESOME!
My feet hit the ground and the thrill of it all came back to me. The fear, lump in my throat and feeling of failure disappeared and I was so happy I could almost burst! I guess I’m officially a travel blogger now!
Half the bloggers on the press trip were on the ground walking the trails watching the adventure bloggers swinging through the trees with ease. Because I just experienced it I know it was not easy! As the we walked through the different areas in the course it got more and more difficult. At th end of each rope segment was an awesome zip-line!
The Big Zip
On the ground we talked about The Tree-Top Echo Park’s biggest draw- The Big Zip. This is two ladders up to a 728 feet zip back to the main office. I convinced myself the hardest part of this was going to be climbing up the ladder. The first ladder was solid wood so I was confident I would get through that, but the second ladder was a wire ladder with wooden rungs and it was really shaky and unstable.
How could I possibly write a post about the Tree-Top Echo Adventure Park without doing the Big Zip? So after a ground blogger chickened out, I was next in line. I don’t know how long it took me to get up those two ladders, but I took it one rung at a time. Clipping and unclipping my safety wire, while holding on with one arm to try and steady myself as the ladder swung side to side. I saw the platform above me and had a moment of panic. “Now what? I said looking up at Randy who was perched at the platform. “Take it slow and easy, you’re doing fine!” again, he didn’t coach or push, just let me figure out how to get from the ladder below up over the edge of the platform. I crawled or actually rolled clumsily onto the platform completely spent with only the sweet ride across the zip before me.
Randy hooked up my pulley and told me to push off? Another moment of having to take a leap of faith and let the harness hold me to the wire. I sighed and prayed thinking its an Oprah leap of faith just go for it and let me legs fall off the platform and I was off! This is what I expected the zip line adventure to be about! The thrill of hanging off a wire and gliding through the trees! Then I got to the end!
As I reached the end of the zip another rope clicked to my pulley and I had to hang on to it and ride it to the platform. My hands clung to it for dear life but when I got to the platform I couldn’t get my feet on it and then I had to pull myself up to it. I started to zip line backward and the panic came back. The person holding the rope below started to walk me towards the platform again, but my hands started to fail me and I couldn’t hang on anymore. I zipped backwards again. They assured me it was OK and they clipped me with the rope again and helped me towards the platform. How in the hell was I going to get up onto it. Finally, I mustered up all the strength I could and yanked myself up and rolled onto the platform. I hooked the safety wires onto the wires on the platform and released the pulley from the zip. Then there was another shaky ladder to get down. My hands were red and cramped and I couldn’t grab onto anything anymore. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to walk down that ladder. I couldn’t even clamp and unclamp my way around the pole towards it.
So Jenna made her way up to me again and guess what? Yup another high angle rescue! I repelled down the pole to safety again! Two saves in one day apparently a first for Jenna!
So if you are up for a physical and thrilling adventure in the trees then the Tree Top Echo Adventure Park is definitely something you won’t want to miss. There is even a miniture course for the kids to monkey around on. The cost for the course is $56.00 for an adult and $48.00 for children under the age of 16. Protective gloves will have to be purchased at an additional charge. For those of you like me that just want the thrill of the zip, you can ride the Big Zip for $25.00. That gives you two rides! I’m thinking I may have to go back for that! Practise makes perfect right? Who’s coming with me?
This trip was sponsored by Central Counties Tourism, however the opinions expressed are my own.