August 14, 2011

Kid Tracks: Monkeying around tests your nerve

By WENDY ALMEIDA

You might understand on the logical side of your brain that your carabiner pulley clips are securely attached and you are not going to go splat on the ground if you walk out on the tightrope. It's no problem. You can pretend to be a monkey for the day.

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Tightrope crossings at Monkey Trunks in Saco take some balance, and grabbing pulley clips helps.

Photos by Wendy Almeida/Staff Writer

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The zipline was a favorite activity at Monkey Trunks for the Almeida girls. The hardest part is taking the first step off the high platform.

IF YOU GO

MONKEY TRUNKS, 2 Cascade Road, Saco, www.monkeytrunks.com

ADMISSION: $49 for monkeys over 48 inches; $39 for monkeys under 48 inches; $179 for a family of four; Maine residents get $10 off admission prices every day after 3 p.m. and all day on Saturday. Maine ID required for discount.

KIDS' REVIEW

13-YEAR-OLD: I liked the zipline at Monkey Trunks. I liked the course, but I didn't like some of the things that wobbled too much.

15-YEAR-OLD: I liked the zipline a lot. I liked the course, but it was a little intimidating and there were some parts of it that were a little nerve-wracking. Overall it was really fun but you have to be a little daring to enjoy it.

But the other side of your brain is saying no way are you leaving the stable wooden platform to swing like a monkey. You are way past that evolutionary milestone, thank you very much.

My daughters and I each went through a variation of this debate before taking that leap (and step) of faith out onto the ropes course at Monkey Trunks in Saco.

Money Trunks is a high ropes course that offers 48 "challenges." That means 48 ways to cross to different points of the course. Think giant tree house with rope ladders, tightrope wires, tires and foot-looped swings, as well as many other variations on this theme.

It's a true thrill-seeking, monkey-inspired climbing adventure.

There are three levels of challenges, the lowest offering more stable crossings. Stable, though, is a relative term when describing this course, because everything moves to some degree, except the round wooden platforms. The highest challenge level offered the most swinging-type crossings.

This place is an adrenaline-pumping experience, but the staff makes sure you know they keep safety in mind at all times.

Before we were allowed to step on the course, we watched a video that explained the course and its safety rules. Then we were fitted with a harness and helmet. The "monkey clips" were attached to each of our harnesses, with a demonstration of how to use them. The two carabiner pulley clips have a safety mechanism that prevents more than one clip from being disconnected at a time, to ensure you're secure and always connected on the course.

Each climber manages his or her own carabiners by detaching and reattaching to each crossing's safety rope so you can be self-sufficient and move through the challenges at your own pace. There are plenty of staff members around to assist all the climbing monkeys.

Once we walked through a low ropes course to demonstrate that we could sit back in a belaying stance in our harness (a move we knew from our indoor rock climbing adventures), we climbed the steps to the first level of the high ropes.

My 13-year-old hesitated before stepping out to the first crossing. The plank bridge secured by dual ropes running through the wood had some sway to it. That first step was a shaky one for her, but the next was steadier. She made it to the next pole platform with a smile, ready to face the next challenge.

My 15-year-old also hesitated before her first step and then crossed with ease. I had the longest mental debate before my leap of faith came. I think when you're over 40 you get slower about everything, including making a decision to follow your kids somewhere you are not sure you really want to go.

Muttering monkey puns (like "I must be bananas") offered some comic relief before I took that step out on the tightrope about 20 feet off the ground. But once I got a sense of my balance after a step or two, I really enjoyed myself on the monkey-like terrain.

After crossing a few challenges, my 15-year-old waited for me to catch up to her to share her observation of the course: "Everything moves, Mom."

As you work your way around the course, the challenges change; some are easier, others harder. But there was one constant: every crossing offered a balancing challenge, with forward and sometimes sideways movement on the wires.

(Continued on page 2)

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