“I call it the Gauntlet. It’s three challenges in a row: two crazy log ones and what we call the Indiana Jones bridge. You can’t miss it in the final course.” The staff member assigned to monitor the third of five courses looked no more than 19 and had the air of someone whose body had yet to balk at any obstacle he threw himself into.
We were about forty feet in the air, standing on a small platform built around a tree while waiting for the group ahead of us to get far enough away to let us move forward in peace. Jen and I were each tethered to a wire cable running around the tree while he sat on the next platform munching away on a box of crackers. He was there to help if anyone yelled for assistance or wanted to be lowered to the ground mid-challenge. We were on the Aerial Treetop Adventure at Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, New Hampshire.
The course begins with a safety briefing and distribution of harnesses, zip trolleys, and carabiners. Our instructor demonstrated how to use the various components safely and went over the rules of the course (only one person on a ladder at a time, never disconnect both carabiners at once – always have at least one connected, etc.) and once we each demonstrated our skills, we were set free to scamper through the trees. There’s little guidance along the way, but that’s part of the fun: figuring out how to get across each challenge from one platform to the next.
The courses increase in elevation as you go, hitting over 100 feet in the air by the final course. Jen’s long legs gave her an advantage most of the time but that just meant I got a better work-out. The staff told us about half the people complete the entire course and I’m proud to say we were in that half. We were both a little sore the next day and counted more than a handful of bruises but wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
Gunstock Mountain Resort can be found online at http://www.gunstock.com/ and off-line at 719 Cherry Valley Road in Gilford, New Hampshire. The Aerial Treetop Adventure costs $50/adult but we combined it with the ZipTour ($75/person) to get gorgeous views of Lake Winnipesaukee while speeding through the longest zip line canopy tour in the Continental U.S. The combination ticket is $105/person. Closed-toed shoes are an absolute must as you won’t be permitted on the trees otherwise. We recommend doing the ZipTour with the first group of the day and getting in the front of the pack. It took us only 45 minutes to get through – less than half the 2 hours the staff says to allot. In the trees, we recommend getting to the front of your training group and if you’re behind people, try to get behind the ones who look like they’re in good shape. We found that after the first course, we never had anyone directly in front of us demonstrating how to get through a challenge but about mid-way through, staff asked us to pause for a bit so we wouldn’t have a backlog on a long ladder.
The course is not for the faint of heart, anyone afraid of heights, or anyone without a sense of adventure. For those willing to fork over the cash, sign the liability waiver, and jump from one moving piece of wood to another trusting yourself and the safety cables, it’s an experience not to be missed.
Thanks to my dad for tipping us off and treating us to the course and my uncle for telling us not to skip the ZipTour!