- Treetop playground
"You'll never feel more alive than up here," according to TreeUmph! Adventure Course guide Andrew. With 5 progressively-harder sets of treetop ropes, obstacle courses and zipline , the 14-acre park may seem daunting at first to those wary of heights or bad at balance. But with plenty of safety precautions and encouragement from guides, visitors can see why the TreeUmph!'s motto is "the ground is overrated."
- All the right equipment
TreeUmph invited myself, along with my sister, to experience the treetop challenges. The red-shirted experts help you get into gear, learn how to use your equipment and practice on a mini demonstration course.
- Listen up
Although the instructions aren't too complex, the guides run through them quickly to move on to the next groups, so be sure to listen carefully. Owners Aaron and Kathy Corr said they've seen a significant uptick in visitors since schools let out for the summer.
- Get your gear on
The snug harness is equipped with two main hooks for clipping onto different areas of the course. The larger clip is specifically for zip lines.
- Not just an adult playground
The main courses are intended for adults and older children/teenagers, but the "Ape Up" area is aimed at younger kids who want an above ground adventure as well.
The demo course gave me a chance to test out the format of the courses and check the security and feel of the harness.
- Get into the swing of things
Get comfortable with your equipment and the skills you'll need to tackle the increasingly-difficult sections.
- And so it begins
TreeUmph! has some basic safety rules, like only one person on a ladder at a time and always staying hooked onto whatever part of the course you're using.
- Stepping out
Don't grip the safety wire above your head too tightly because your hands will cramp and you won't enjoy the challenge of walking between platforms as much. The more relaxed you are, the more focused you will be.
- Ropes, wires, wood, net and more
Although the materials and stability vary from bridge to bridge, the challenges are all placed under a safety wire which you clip yourself onto at the beginning of each one.
- Swinging logs
These wobbly swinging logs were by far the most physically demanding types of obstacles to cross. Fortunately, a friendly guide, positioned to watch our course from below, gave helpful recommendations for improving our techniques.
- Don't stop moving
The key on this one is to never put both feet on the same swinging log- it will actually throw off your balance when you try to take the next step.
- Build that confidene
My younger sister was completely nonchalant about the height and more confident on the courses than I was. TreeUmph is definitely best suited for people who like roller coasters and adrenaline rushes, but even for non-thrill seekers it can be a good chance to experience adventure in a safe but challenging setting.
- Take your time
Although you sometimes have to share a bridge or platform with another person, there was never a backup or waiting line while we were there.
- Wire walkers
You gain a new respect for the grace and agility of tightrope walkers after crossing this bridge.
- Taking flight
Simultaneously relaxing and exhilirating, zip lines are interspersed throughout the courses to help you fly from tree to tree. Just make sure your harness is in a comfortable position before you take off.
- On to the next
We only did the first two full courses, which took us roughly an hour and a half, including the demo course and instruction time. For those planning to take on all five courses, you should definitely set aside a good 4-5 hours unless you're quite athletic already.
- Walk this way
The massive courses are spread out between some wetlands.
- Take in the view
If you can catch your balance and breath long enough to look around, try to take in the view of both the natural surroundings and the upcoming challenges.
- Do the wobble
Be careful of going onto a shaky bridge while another person is getting across -- their movement on the wire can make finding your balance all the more challenging.
- Don't forget crawling
Not all the obstacles allow you to stay standing -- prepare to crawl and contort to get through some of the bridges.
- Hard and harder
For those confident with the extra challenge, you can grab hold of the dangling ropes for balance instead of the wire above while walking this tight rope. As you can see, I was more comfortable with the stable route.
- All tangled up
On the third course, you swing on a rope in order to grab onto a large net.
- The long ride
The 650 foot TreeUmph! Zip Line is the largest on the property and separate from any of the courses. You have to climb a series of ladders up to a platform before attaching yourself and taking off.
- Tranquil setting
TreeUmph! is nestled in an isolated rural area in east Manatee County north of State Road 70.
- The real challenge
After some forceful persuasion from our enthusiastic guide Andrew, my sister and I climbed the 45 ft ladder to the very end portion of the fourth course. TreeUmph! does not normally allow guests to skip around the courses, but Andrew wanted us to try to get up to the 60 ft high summit course, which is the fifth and most difficult on the property.
- Shaky footsteps
When crossing these vertical logs, you can either step on metal supports on either side of the log or use the ball/middle of your foot to step on the round log part of the bridge.
- Climbing higher
The height difference from the first courses to the 45 foot high one is definitely noticeable, and more nervewracking for those not so keen on heights.
- The final leap
You have to get across one last bridge in order to reach the platform with the ladder to the 60-feet-high summit challenges. Unfortunately, these swinging trapeze monkey bars proved too hard for me -- despite attempting to swing across multiple times. It didn't help that moments before I attempted, not one but two people lost their grip and nerve while attempting to cross this bridge.
- One more try
My sister nearly made it to the other side before her hands gave out. Despite the double clips attached to the safety wire, it's hard to shake the feeling of falling when you're that high up.
- Guide to the rescue
Guides are placed throughout the final two courses in order to help climbers who can't go any further. They carry equipment to lower you down from any point on the course when you feel too uncomfortable or exhausted.
Andrew lets the rope out to get us safely down from the fourth course platform.
- The ground is overrated...but a welcome relief
After several hours in the treetops, it was satisfying to get down and look back up at the courses we had conquered.
The Summer 50 #13: TreeUmph!
/ Monday, June 17, 2013