Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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.
Tightrope crossings at Monkey Trunks in Saco take some balance, and grabbing pulley clips helps.
Photos by Wendy Almeida/Staff Writer
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.
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.
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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