Unsolicited Endorsement: High ropes courses

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by Sayaka Matsuoka

It’s like “American Ninja Warrior” meets ziplining.

When my boyfriend Sam and I decided to go to Asheville for our anniversary last November, we also decided to each set up a surprise experience to do together in the city. He picked hot-air balloon riding (which was awesome and very cold in November), and I picked a little-known gem called the Asheville Adventure Park.

I had watched several videos and read ample reviews about the park beforehand. It was described as a “high ropes course” set in treetops complete with diverse obstacles, all several yards above ground. Although this one was the first one I had ever heard of, there are several other similar parks in the state, including one at the Greensboro Science Center called Skywild opening up next month.

I knew this was something we would both enjoy; I like running and playing sports and Sam loves to rock climb and always said he would love to try “American Ninja Warrior” whenever we caught glimpses of it on TV. This seemed to be the perfect match.

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The treetop obstacles that soar up to 40 feet off the ground are not for the faint of heart. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

We started on the practice course that showed us how to go from one line to the next. Because the courses are within treetops, high off the ground, adventurers are always clipped into a safety line that catches them in case they fall, which I did.

Soon, we were climbing over walls, balancing on pedestals and logs suspended in air, and crawling through tunnels. We quickly conquered the first two levels and proceeded on to the intermediate routes. These proved to be much more difficult and nerve-wracking than the elementary courses we had just defeated.

One of the scariest parts of a course, in which you had to take a leap of faith to continue, is seared in my memory. You basically had to stand on the edge of a platform that circled the trunk of a tree and fall backwards into space, trusting that the line would catch you.

I completed the intermediate course and for whatever reason, thought that I had the brawn to take on the most advanced course. The perfectionist in me just wouldn’t let me be content without having tried my hand at this one.

I made it about a third of the way along before I got to arguably the hardest part of the whole damn park — the hoola hoops; they triumphed over me. I think I made it to the second one before I slipped and my heart fell into my stomach as the line caught me. It was then that I decided that I was done with the treetops for the day. Every inch of my body was sore and aching. It was almost as good as hot yoga.

If I could, I would absolutely do it again. There’s just nothing like doing an obstacle course 45-feet above ground and burning calories while you do it.