Adventure is my life. I travel all over the world looking for my next adrenaline rush. When I find adventure close to home, that’s an added plus, especially in today’s economy. It‘s even better when I can turn it into a family travel adventure.
So naturally when Zoar Outdoor invited me to try out a new zip line canopy tour, the first in Massachusetts and southern New England, I was thrilled.
I called up and spoke to one of the founders, Karen Blom. She told me that Zoar Outdoor has been around since 1989 and is located on 80 acres of land with hiking trails and group facilities. Then she said the magic words, “We don’t only have zip lining…. we also have rafting, canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking, fly fishing and rock climbing.” I was in heaven…an eight-in-one adventure place practically in my backyard.
She then gave me a brief history of the place, “Zoar was built with those with an adventurous spirit in mind.” (That’s me!)
“You can come for a one day adventure, take a clinic to learn more about something you already know, or stay for a few days and try a couple of different things out. We have on-site camping, cabin tents, or you can stay in our five bedrooms, Hawk Mountain Lodge, which is really quaint. It was built back in 1748 by Moses Rice, the town’s first settler.” (I liked that fact, since I like anything that is a first.)
I asked about eating options. She explained, “The lodge is like a bed and breakfast place without the breakfast, since we choose to support our local restaurants instead of going into the food business ourselves”
Making It a Family Travel Adventure
I was ready to pack my bags. As always, adventures are more fun when you share them with family and friends, so I brought my dear son and cameraman, Spencer, for a two-day action filled expedition.
I booked a midweek two-day package that included one-on-one (OK, one on two) kayak instructions and a small group canopy zip-line adventure. We chose to stay in the lodge.
We drove to Charlemont, Massachusetts, which is located in the famous Berkshires, overlooking the Deerfield River Valley. It’s just a two-hour drive from Boston, and a three-hour drive from New York City.
Practicing the Zip Line
After a cozy night in our individual rooms, we were up and ready to zip line at 8 a.m. For this adventure we just needed to be in comfortable clothes, remove all jewelry, tie any long hair back and wear good walking shoes or hiking boots.
Zoar Outdoor concentrates on safety. They make you practice for each adventure. Unlike in Jamaica where I was one of 30 zip liners and their concentration was on the speed of getting the most tourists across the trees. “No problem man…go. “ At Zoar, we practiced on what looked like a clothesline until we felt comfortable.
Our two instructors were Mikey and Luke. Mikey explained the deal, “Our Deerfield Canopy tour consists of nine zip lines, two sky bridges, two rappels and two short downhill hikes. We use 14 tree platforms using six white pine trees, five red oaks, one white oak, one hemlock and one hickory tree. We keep the ratio of guests to guides at eight to two, so everyone gets personal attention. It will take about 3½ hours to complete the tour, counting our Jeep trek up the mountain. We use a dual cable system and as you can see we teach you how to hand break to control speed, and how to bring yourself in, in the unlikely case you get stuck in the middle. Remember zip lines are gravity driven, so we have to keep the weight minimum at 70 pounds so the person can make it to the next platform and the maximum at 250.“
I smiled, “What happens over 250 pounds? I mean does the cable break or is it just because at that weight they will come barreling in so fast that they’d knock over the instructor?” Mikey smiled, “Put it this way, the cables can hold ten times the weight.” Wow, what a diplomatic answer.
Ready for the Real Zip Line
I let Spencer go up first because I had done it twice in Jamaica, and I wanted to record his practice run. He did great.
After that we headed up in a 4 x4 to the top of the mountain. Now we were ready for the real deal, the other instructor, Luke, made sure Spencer was strapped in correctly, signaled to Mikey who was over on the other platform via walkie talkie and Spencer was on his way. I could see the smile on his face from the back of his head…that’s mom vision for you.
Now the thing is…zip lining looks easy on video, and in fact it is. You hold on and zip along at a nice clip. But the first time anticipation gives you that moment of doubt. Let’s face it, it’s high up…you are on average 50 feet in the air and you are trusting a cable to carry you safely over the treetops. While you know it’s safe, there is that little bit of trepidation, hoping that the ACCT certified vendors who built it, were not drinking on that day.
Add to that that the platforms you are standing on have a natural sway… which is a good thing but if you are scared of heights, can tend to make you nervous. Luckily, I like heights.
Spencer loved his first zip line and was a happy camper.
A More Challenging Zip Line
After a few horizontal zip lines we had to do a vertical repel. The repel was necessary to get down to a wire bridge we had to cross. When you head straight down, once again it’s a game of trust. Crazy things go through your head, “Can Mikey hold my weight or did that extra box of chocolate chip cookies that I ate this morning instead of oatmeal put me over the weight limit?” “Did my ex pay Mikey on the side to let go?” “Does my butt look fat as I repel down?” You know the normal stuff that runs through your mind.
We both rapelled down safely without a problem, and went over the swinging bridge, which was great, hard to hold a flip camera on, but great nonetheless.
The entire zip line took about three hours. We were with a great group of people, had awesome instructors and made it safely back to our car.
We thanked Karen and the gang, took our zip lining photos and were on our way. Spencer sat next to me in the car grinning. I thought, “How cool is this that my 20-year-old son and I can spend a great two day adventure that will be remembered for a lifetime.”
But the payoff came three days later when he was playing, “Call of Duty – World at War” on his Xbox. He was communicating with someone around the world who was his teammate. From my office I heard him playing and he said, “Yeah, guess what, I went zip lining for real a few days ago…with my mom…Yes really. Yeah it was awesome. Ya gotta try it.”
In life, when kids recommend things to each other, something that you as the parent took them on…well there just is no better endorsement than that.
Fran Capo is TravelingAdventureMom for www.travelingmom.com as well as a comedienne, keynote motivational speaker, eleven-time author, adventurer, spokesperson, and five-time world record holder, best known as the Guinness Book of World Records fastest talking female. She is also the co-host of the TV show, Live it Up! with Donna Drake and Fran Capo that airs on Friday mornings 6-7 am on Channel TV10/55 reaching 5.8 million homes. Fran has appeared on over 350 television shows and 3500 radio shows including, Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, Last Call with Carson Daly, Good Morning America, Nick at Nite, Discovery Channel, the Martha Stewart Show , CNN where my segment was voted top five watched for the week bringing in and most recently on Fox and Friends. To learn more about Fran Capo go to www.francapo.com