From the time you scale the rope ladder to the moment you jump off a platform high in the trees, you’ll spend 90 minutes or more with your feet off the ground.
Sensation is the name of the most challenging of the five zipline-obstacle courses above Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The Zip Wild courses operated by Deep Forest Challenge celebrate their fifth anniversary this summer and some of them have new features.
“The great thing is there is something for everybody, from 5-year-old kids to people looking for a challenge,” said Nicholas Nardelli, the course general manager.
The courses sometimes take visitors by surprise, Nardelli said. They often expect they are simply going to ride ziplines. The swinging bridges, cargo nets and tightropes present more ways to test their fear of heights. Participants are harnessed to safety cables at all times.
The most popular choice is the intermediate Adventure Course designed for people 10 and older. The course, which finishes with a 700-foot zipline, was recently expanded, Nardelli said.
Above the Adventure Course and venturing from tree to tree for nearly a mile is Trek’s ultimate challenge: Sensation.
“It’s our least popular for good reason,” Nardelli said. “It’s more challenging and it requires a lot of upper body strength.”
Sensation’s hallmark obstacle is known as the Jane Swing. From a platform about 40 feet up a tree, participants hold tight to a rope dangling from a zipline and then swing across a 50-foot gap into a large rope cargo net. Participants then climb up and across the net to the next platform.
It’s the favorite obstacle of Austen Lyons, a zipline instructor.
“I get to unleash my inner Tarzan,” he said.
The course takes its toll on upper body muscles, so a shortcut is offered shortly after the Jane Swing. Other obstacles include walking a tight rope while holding onto a rope for balance, walking between trees on swinging discs, pulling yourself through a series of three elevated barrels and, of course, ziplines.
The payoff for finishing the circuit is a long climb up a narrow cargo net to the final zipline, a 800-foot ride, 80 feet off the ground where visitors can reach speeds of 50 mph.
The zipline finishes about 40 feet above the course staging area. You can climb down or take one last challenge and leap off while attached to an automatic belay system.
Altogether, it’s an experience that delights kids and can make adults feel young.
“I see screaming adults going across the ziplines,” Lyons said. “Some of the obstacles really surprise a lot of the adults that go on the course, especially the Jane Swing. That really deters a lot of people that are afraid of heights. However, just a little bit of talking the person through it and they are able to complete it.”
Northwest Trek, near Eatonville.
Cost: $21.95-$64.95, plus tax and park admission.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Sept. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends from Sept. 5-Oct. 1.
Requirements: Participants younger than 18 must bring a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Ages limits: 5 and older, but varies by course. Weight limit: 275 pounds.