Categories: Life & Arts
GLENVILLE — Standing on a wooden platform with my back against a tree, I look down into a gaping ravine. I’m seven stories up in these woods, and only a zip line stands between me and my next destination: a wooden ramp jutting out from a tree on the other side of the gorge.
It’s raining lightly. I take a deep breath. I grab onto the zip trolley with both hands and pick up my feet. And just like that, I’m flying.
Woody from “Toy Story” would say I’m falling with style.
The experience I describe would be more impressive, and scary, if I weren’t strapped into a full-body harness and locked into the cable above. The harness creates a feeling of weightlessness and lets you careen down the line without putting any strain on your arms. I learn this when, after seeing the zip line course’s owner cross the ravine with one hand over the line, I let go with my left hand and don’t feel any difference.
It’s thrilling all the same, and I didn’t have to go far.
I was at Mountain Ridge Adventure in West Glenville, about a 20-minute drive from The Daily Gazette’s newsroom in Schenectady. The attraction opened last year, adding to a growing list of adventure courses in Upstate New York where you can go to test your climbing prowess and feel gravity disappear.
“It’s a way to get back into nature,” says Michael Cellini, the course’s owner, builder and head instructor. “It’s an awesome experience. You get to, perhaps, challenge some of your fears if you’re a bit apprehensive with height, but it’s also thrilling.”
Cellini’s park features five obstacle courses that get progressively more difficult on their way up to the zip line course, which climbs to 70 feet and has nine zip lines criss-crossing the gorge.
The first four courses can be done by climbers of average skill level, as young as 6 or 7, he says. The fifth course, called Strive, requires some athleticism. It opened recently and features musically-themed obstacles like a piano, drum set, guitars and pipe-organ pipes suspended in the air. A sixth and most-challenging course, called Ninja, is on its way.
On a dreary day in May, Cellini gave me, Gazette photographer Peter Barber and our summer intern, Ethan Travis — who was there to capture my first zip-line experience on video — a tutorial of his woodland creation. While I’m wearing wind pants, a long sleeve running shirt and the trail-runners I usually save for hiking in the Adirondacks, Travis didn’t know when he started his day that he’d be going up into the trees with us, so he’s wearing a button-down shirt, dress pants and dress boots. He doesn’t seem to mind. “This is pretty cool,” he says as we traverse the course.
After we sign a waiver, Cellini equips each of us with a helmet and harness, a belay device imported from the United Kingdom, and a zip trolley — which he also calls a lobster claw — from France.
Then he takes us through “ground school,” a ground-level course that prepares us for the tree-level obstacle courses and zip lines ahead. He shows us how to work the “smart snap” key system, which ensures you are locked in at all times to prevent a fall. In order to move from one obstacle to another, you need to insert a key attached to the rope into one of two carabiners, which unlocks the other. It’s a cumbersome process, but one I’m happy to endure for the sense of security it provides.
“It’ll become second-nature in minutes,” Cellini assures us.
We slide down a short zip line, a subdued version of the gorge-crossing zip lines that will bring our day to a screeching halt.
With the brief training session behind us, we skip the first course, Spirit, and start with the second-easiest course, Courage. It only reaches 30 feet off the ground, and it’s easy enough, but it’s not without its fun challenges. I walk quickly across hanging chairs and a dining table, throw my body onto a vertical rope net and amble across it, and hop from one suspended tire to another before reaching the end.
When I point out the dining table’s unique location — suspended in the air in a forest — Cellini says a man used it to propose to his girlfriend last year. He says the romantic climber called him looking for a place to propose, and he told him he had the perfect spot.
“I got a vase, I got some flowers, and we set cameras up,” he says, “and he proposed to her right on that table — and she said yes.”
It’s a good thing she said yes, I tell Cellini, considering their precarious positioning atop the wobbly table.
“She was locked into the cable, so there’s no way out,” he says with a smirk.
The following adventure courses are located within a two-hour drive of the Capital Region. Seek them out and you will be sure to leave with some thrilling memories. If you’re lucky, who knows — you may even leave with a ring.
Mountain Ridge Adventure
- Address: 300 Weatherwax Road, West Glenville
- Hours: Daily; weekends in the spring and fall. Opens at 9 a.m. and closes depending on last departures.
- Cost: $29 for the zip lines; $49 for obstacle course
- Online: mountainridgeadventure.com
Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course
- Address: 35 Westwood Forest Lane, Bolton Landing, NY 12814
- Hours: Daily. Reservations advised; call 494-7200 or 494-7220
- Cost: $45 to $55; $25 for the kids course
- Online: adirondackextreme.com
Howe High Adventure at Howe Caverns
- Address: 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave, NY 12092
- Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. daily
- Cost: $17 for the zip line course; $65 day pass for all activities
- Online: howecaverns.com
- Address: 4833 Cascade Road, Lake Placid
- Hours: Daily. Tours at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Online reservations advised.
- Cost: $80 for adults; $70 for children (17 and younger)
- Online: www.experienceadkoutdoors.com
- Address: 463 Garfield Road, Troy, NY 12180
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; reservations required by calling 478-4939
- Online: www.engelkefarm.com