August 14, 2011

Kid Tracks: Monkeying around tests your nerve


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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.


MONKEY TRUNKS, 2 Cascade Road, Saco,

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.


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.

In addition to a couple of hard wooden planks, other challenges we tried included a balance beam-like crossing that had rivets allowing the wood to move vertically when you stepped on it. That made walking a tricky process of securing one's footing and weight on the shifting wood before placing the next foot.

If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be a real tightrope walker, there are single, double and crossed wires to walk across, just like they have at the circus.

When I asked the girls which crossing on the main course they liked best, they said the rope ladders. I agreed. The rope ladders swayed more than some of the other crossings, but we felt more secure walking across them. They enveloped our whole bodies, unlike the open-air feeling (and reality) of the plank bridges and single wires.

Our favorite part of the course overall was the zipline. The girls' first experience on a zipline was this past winter at Sunday River. They absolutely loved it. There really isn't any need to balance your body like on the ropes course, so ziplining feels like a real breeze. I think the hardest part of the zipline is simply taking that first step off the high platform.

This entire course is actually about having fun high above the ground, so I would be remiss if I failed to offer this caution: do not push your child to do a ropes course like Monkey Trunks.

They might say they want to do it. They might be thrill-seekers every other day of their lives. But until you see them take that first step onto the rope, don't assume they are ready for it.

Get yourself mentally prepared to walk away if you see fear instead of excitement on your child's face.

I saw a mom coax, and then express surprise, that her normally thrill-seeking daughter was so afraid to step onto the rope.

The company's policy is that a full refund can be issued if a visitor (of any age) cannot make it across the first challenge. It's better to simply walk away and try another time.

My daughters are teens and I found this was a great age to enjoy this climbing challenge. But because it was an adrenaline-filled afternoon, they were exhausted afterward. So was I. This is not an adventure for the faint of heart.

You have to be able to manage your fear of heights. Once you're up on the ropes, it takes at least a couple of crossings before you can get to a platform with stairs to the ground.

Of course, the staff can belay over within seconds to panic-stricken visitors and get them back down quickly.

But if you don't want to make that kind of scene when the realization strikes that you are not cut out to be a monkey, you will likely still be stuck crossing some challenges before you're back on solid ground.

If you have older kids who like trying new things, Monkey Trunks is a great place to visit. And mom and dad should get ready to be outmaneuvered by the kids on the course.

It's a challenge made for an agile teen ready to show his or her parents who is the real king of the jungle.

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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