The folks at Go Ape reached out to me to see if I might be interested in experiencing and reviewing their newest course in New Britain. I, of course, jumped at the chance!
Go Ape is an amazing outdoor Treetop Adventure Course providing participants with about 3 hours of outdoor fun and exercise. The result is spectacular. We were able to explore the park from an otherwise unobtainable vantage point as we navigated our way through the treetops using zip lines, obstacles and tarzan swings.
What resulted was perhaps one of the most amazing experiences I've had in a very long time.
I'd like to think I'm pretty adventurous. I'd like to think I'm physically fit and strong. I'd like to think I'm up for challenges and adventures. I definitely like to step outside my comfort zone as I believe that's where the best things happen. And so here I was about to step as far out of my comfort zone as I've ever gone, though I didn't know it at the time!
We arrived to find a temporary trailer set up with the Go Ape Offices at Stanley Park in New Britain. There I was given a load of paperwork to read and disclosures to sign. I had to be made aware that our activities were dangerous and even potentially fatal! I signed my life away. I signed my children's life away. How much of a risk taker am I? I was beginning to think I should turn around. But my youngest was super excited. We arrived late because despite my car's navigation I still managed to miss an exit. We had to wait for the next group.
You participate in a group so that your guide can go over a comprehensive training once, for everyone. Paying attention is critical.
When our group was all present we were harnessed up then participated in a thorough 30 minute safety briefing and training. As we went through our training I worried that I might forget a crucial step, but as you gain experience and go through the motions it becomes second nature. And the higher you go, the more in-tune to your safety you are. I was worried about having to be responsible for the harnesses for my 15 and 10 year olds. I was less concerned with my safety than theirs - every time we climbed a new tree, crossed a new rope course, crawled, jumped or zipped we had to double-check that every clasp was properly shut. Again, this soon became second nature.
After we learned and practiced the proper way to harness ourselves, we had a few trial runs on low level platforms - where we got to try out tightrope walking, zip-lining, climbing and free falling into the spider web-like net. Level 1 didn't seem so bad. It was in fact, a breeze!
After our practice run my little one pulled me over. He wasn't feeling so well. His stomach hurt - his harness was awfully tight. He looked positively ghostly. We sat him down and gave him some water and took off his harness. He was still clammy after a few minutes of rest and hydration. As soon as one of the guides caught wind that Alexander wasn't feeling well he rushed over with some Gatorade, thinking that it might do the trick. After he inhaled the bottle, rested a few more minutes his color came back and he was rearing to go!
Above - As Alexander sailed into the net, Christopher was securing his harness to get ready for his next task. Three people are allowed on a platform and with children under 16 a parent must be on the platform with them before one can take off. (I shot this just prior to my jump, which I did with eyes closed!) Once I got to the platform Christopher was ready and able to take off.
Each obstacle becomes slightly more challenging! I found safety on the net as I took this picture of the boys eagerly awaiting my arrival so they could zip across!
There are 5 courses in the park each with a set of obstacles that become more and more challenging. At the base of each course is a bench to rest and catch your breath if you need it and water so that you needn't worry about carrying your own bottles. I work out very regularly and I was surprised to find myself trying to catch my breath after a few of the obstacles, many of which are as mentally challenging as they are physically. You want to say I can't do this! You want to turn back, but you can't! And therefore there's no choice but to push yourself to your limits. How often do we really do this anyhow? Not often enough if at all.
With each course, the trees get higher and higher. I was amazed at my ability to hyper-focus as I concentrated on what was straight ahead of me and not below. Many of the obstacles are extremely unstable I learned to rely on my footing and how things felt underfoot so that I didn't have to worry about looking down and losing focus. Losing focus would have meant a fall. But I was harnessed. Yet, despite that fact there was something in me that simply couldn't allow myself to mess up. I was determined to make it across each task at hand. Some chose not to, and simply zip-lined across - I saw that as a cop-out and I wasn't here to cop out!
The courses with the ropes were hardest for me. Unwavering focus and upper body strength was required. Just ahead, if you look, is the twisted ladder... one of the most nerve-wracking of all. The trick, I learned, was to walk the cable. However, almost at the end my left foot slipped out from underneath and I held on for dear life! I wonder if I had forgotten that my harness was even on?
There are no guides who travel with you and you are really on your own. This is in part, I am sure, due to the way the course is set up and the fact that only 3 people are allowed on a platform at a time. No worries though, once you get to the harder courses, there are guides below to offer encouragement and support.
Another safety net, another photo op! I was terribly worried about dropping my phone! As you can see, more dangling moving wooden steps just beyond the rope tunnel... we were quickly approaching our 2nd zip line though! The zip line is an awesome reward for your hard work!
The Folks at GoApe want participants to know that by participating in a Go Ape adventure they are also contributing to the health, finance, and well being of the parks. The company provides a portion of our proceeds and stewardship services back to the parks we call home. I also want to point out that no trees are harmed from any of the cables attached to the trees. If you look closely at my photos, you'll see that each tree is protected by special braces that grip the trunks. Each platform rests on these braces. The braces are also designed to expand as the trees grow. Each tree is manually inspected by independent arborist to ensure optimal health. So go ahead, hug a tree! (and as you get closer to the end, and as the platforms get smaller and smaller, you'll find yourself doing exactly that!
This wonderful concept began in the UK before it came here. Their motto is "Live Life Adventurously" and I don't think enough of us do this, at least not often enough. Go Ape offers us to challenge ourselves in a way we don't typically do. It requires strength and strategy in way we don't often combine the two. Because once you start a course and are in the trees, there's no way back down and you can't back out, therefore you cannot fail. If you think about it, it's all set up to help you succeed.
In the end you come away with an incredible sense of accomplishment - one that many of us as adults don't experience near enough. You have no choice but to push yourself, and despite all the self doubt, in the end you did it and that is one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever give yourself.
Before I got to the final zip line and made my way to the top of the very last tree 65 feet up in the air, I told myself that I was going to finish the task but I wouldn't do it again. Ever. As I stood on that tiny, narrow platform 65 feet up securing and sending off my children, all I could think of was to get down to safety. And then it was my time to fly the nest. I sat down and let my harness do its thing. I didn't close my eyes. I didn't hold on for dear life. For roughly 1/5 of a mile, over a large pond, I held out my arms and sailed into the wind - I felt like a bird flying in the breeze and it was the most sensational thing I have ever experienced.
A day later I've noticed a few new bumps and bruises and my stomach muscles are a bit sore. As I think about the adventure I shared with my children I'm reminded of a favorite childhood story, The Little Engine that Could and how, in the end, she said to herself "I knew I could, I knew I could!" Would I go back and do it again tomorrow? In a New York Minute I would! And so would my boys.
Go Ape also proved to be an amazing bonding experience for me and my boys. I highly recommend this as a family activity as you work together to offer guidance, support and cheer each other on. It's an activity everyone can participate in together and everyone comes out with the same fulfilling experience. The course, including the training, takes about 3 hours to complete. It's a wonderful day spent reconnecting with nature - tuning out the digital world and tuning into the natural world.
Pointers, notes and comments:
- Eat beforehand. You'll need your strength
- Arrive a few minutes early to fill out disclaimers and paperwork
- Use the restrooms before you get harnessed!
- Wear sneakers
- Wear comfortable slightly loose fitting pants or shorts
- If you plan on bringing a phone or camera cargo shorts or pants are recommended
- Leave sunglasses behind. You won't need them in the trees!
- At the base of each station rest if you need to but do drink the water to stay hydrated.
- Gloves are available for purchase but aren't necessary. My hands were sore not from the ropes but for holding on for dear life!
- Take your time
- Enjoy the beauty all around you
- The course is open rain or shine with the exception of lightning and heavy winds
- Guides are extremely informative and kind
- Guides are stationed below some of the courses but you are on your own for the obstacles
- When in doubt close your eyes and look straight ahead!
- Believe in yourself!
Go Ape is located in New Britain, CT, and 14 other states. To find one near you, or suggest they build one near you, visit their
My experience was complimentary but that in no way altered or affected my experience. The cost is not inexpensive, but for a physically challenging and engaging 3 hour activity and and experience you won't forget, the value is indeed priceless.