Green Mama: Aerial Adventure Parks in Western MA

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

Never Felt Greener

Aerial Adventure Park at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, MA. (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

“We were really green today.” That’s what my daughter said to me one day early in spring after we had spent the majority of the day outside being active. We had even forgone the car that day and bicycled to and from our destination — the lake, less than a mile away.

I don’t think I’ve heard those words since. Not that we didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors this summer. How couldn’t we? The weather in the Berkshires was absolutely amazing. But much of our time (when we had time) was spent lounging on the dock or riding around in the boat dragging a skier or tuber or knee-boarder behind us.

We were active, but not the “green” active my daughter was so excited about that day. The kind of active that gets you outside, among nature and trees. The kind of active that involves hiking or biking or some other kind of physical activity that leaves you feeling refreshed and exhilarated and frankly (I know this might sound a little cheesy), but one with the outdoors.

Zipping from platform to platform whets an appetite for adventure. (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

Well last week that all changed. I spent a day with John Ireland and Lisa Conroy, the owner and director of programming and training respectively at Absolutely Experiential, a local company that designs, builds, inspects and repairs challenge courses, aerial adventure parks, and zip line canopy tours. Not sure what any of things are? Think zip lining through the trees suited up in a harness and clipped onto a belay wire: canopy tour. Or wearing that same harness and clipping into that same wire, but this time navigating a variety of obstacles like rope ladders, cargo nets and zip lines all on your own, and 10, 15 and 20 feet above the grown: aerial adventure park.

These attractions, especially the aerial adventure parks, are a fast-growing trend and I was interested in finding out what all the fuss was about. So John, Lisa and I ventured to Jiminy Peak in Hancock, MA to try out their aerial adventure park which the company installed and Jiminy opened this spring.

In meeting up with the pair, one of my first questions, obviously, was: Why are these parks suddenly cropping up all over the place?

“Kind of what has happened is Europe, they’re big in the parks and down in South America and the Islands they’re big in the canopy tour,” John said. “There’s an emergence of both the adventure parks and the canopy tours in this country, and I think it’s because people are experiencing the canopy tours down in South America and the Islands coming back and saying, ‘those are so cool,’ and then people over in Europe visiting there and experiencing the adventure parks and coming back and saying, ‘man those adventure parks are cool,’ and (the resorts, etc.) seeing this wide open market. And now they’re exploding.”

After trying out the adventure park, I have another answer to that question: They’re just wicked cool and a whole lot of fun!

The Adventure

Courses contain elements with ropes and ladders, leaving one feeling empowered once accomplished. (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

First, Conroy and I suited up and got a quick training and then we headed to the course. Not wanting to seem non-adventurous I opted to try the medium-level green course at first. So we clipped in and tackled our first element. It was a rope bridge that you could walk while holding on to a rope (or the belay wire if you wanted to cheat a little). I made it and was thirsty for more. The remainder of the course had us walking (or should I say wobbling) across rope bridges and zipping from platform to platform. And the best part, we were outdoors, among the trees and thanks to the 85-degree day we were beginning to work up a sweat (or maybe it was because I’m slightly out of shape, I’m not sure).

Following the last zip on the green course, my appetite for “adventure” wasn’t even close to being sated so I agreed to try the blue course — the second-most difficult course at the park.

We started on a newly installed element that was a rope bridge of sorts but the wooden steps that you had to walk on were cylindrical and spun around when you stepped on them. (Clever element Ms. Conroy.) I watched Lisa navigate the obstacle and after seeing her “cheat” and use the wire in between the cylinders to steady herself the competitiveness in me came out and I was determined to experience every element the way it was intended.

Not such a bad thing if you are in shape, but for me, well, maybe not my brightest idea. The most difficult element was the straight climb up a wobbly ladder with rungs so far apart that you had to pull yourself up with ropes and your arms. Lisa and I needed to regroup on the top of the platform after that one, but it was worth it. The views of the mountains and the changing foliage were absolutely amazing.

We completed the remainder of the course, but let me tell you my energy was waning and I was feeling a little green myself and it had nothing to do with the environment. But then I zipped to the ground … and something happened. Something Lisa described to me earlier about the adventure parks. I felt like I had just run a marathon. Not physically (although I was a little beat), but more mentally. Looking up at what I had just accomplished made me feel —to steal a word from Lisa — empowered!

Had my daughter tried out this course she probably would have commented on the greenest day she’d ever had. You’re outdoors, you’re active, you are literally among and within the trees, and the best part about these courses is they are, as Lisa said, “multigenerational.” Anyone from 6 to 86 can try them out, I’d just recommend sticking to the yellow, orange and green courses. I don’t even want to know what is on that black course. Maybe, someday.

So check out one near you. Absolutely Experiential is going to build one, scheduled to open next spring at Bousquet in Pittsfield, MA, and last year another one they installed at Catamount (Hillsdale, N.Y./South Egremont) boasts 9 courses with 130 platforms and 30 zip lines! As I said before they’re cropping up all over, so soon enough they won’t be too difficult to find.

So give one a try. I bet you’ll never feel greener.


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games.

One Comment on “Green Mama: Aerial Adventure Parks in Western MA

  1. Ahhh – now I know what you were talking about – I think. No wonder you were exhausted!

    Love you.

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