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Mountain Lake Lodge has added a new course of obstacles and zip lines filling a desire to have more adventure-type activities.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
PEMBROKE — Emily Lawrence knows the Indiana Jones theme song well.
Lawrence is a guide at Treetop Adventures at Mountain Lake, a new course of obstacles and zip lines that could have been pulled straight off the Raiders of the Last Ark movie set.
As participants work their way through the course, the recent Virginia Tech grad can’t help but hum along.
The big difference, of course, is that while a misstep for Indy would have meant certain death, the stakes aren’t as dire here at this historic resort’s elevated obstacle course.
“I felt really safe,” said Tracy Rabon of Raleigh after going through the course on June 28, the attraction’s opening day. “I couldn’t have hurt myself if I tried.”
The Treetop Adventures course was a result of planning by the resort’s managers, said Bob Donovan, chairman of the resort’s board.
Changing desires of potential visitors required that the resort tweak its offerings, leading to the idea of adding more adventure-type activities.
“We wanted to bring more vitality,” said Donovan, who has worked his way through the confidence course. “It’s still Mountain Lake, but it’s the new Mountain Lake.”
The attraction was finished in mid-June, about a month behind schedule. Delays were the result of rainy weather.
The course is a natural fit for the mountain resort, which is well known as the setting for the movie Dirty Dancing.
“It’s the first of it’s kind in this area,” Donovan said.
The staff spent a week training, then, after a soft opening, another week guiding guests before the official grand opening.
The course features four sections.
Hawksnest is a 10-feature course that includes two zip lines. Adrenaline Alley also has 10 features, three of which are zip lines.
The final zip line is about 200 feet long and takes participants out of the treetop canopy and back to terra firma.
There’s also a lower-to-the ground kids course, called Squirrel Scramble, and a four-feature practice course that visitors go through to learn how to use safety equipment.
“It’s so much more than a zip line,” said Treetop Adventures manager Chris Weyant. “You have to take an active role.”
While strength is helpful, the courses really test balance.
Rabon and her husband, Greg, who were at the resort celebrating their 10th anniversary, tried to make it across the objects without holding on.
“It was a lot of fun, and a good mix of challenging elements,” Greg Rabon said. “If you held on to the cable it was a piece of cake.
“There were a couple times I just had to hold on.”
Safety is a priority.
All participants wear helmets and are outfitted with tight-fitting harnesses.
They get two clips. One is a zip line clip with rollers; the other is a unique two-sided carabiner for locking into safety ropes and cables.
Once a guest locks in, it’s impossible to unlock the carabiner until the other side is locked onto a safety rope or cable.
Even during climbing, participants must be attached to ropes using sliding Prusik knots.
“You can’t become unattached,” Tracy Rabon said.
No two elements are the same.
They include dangling logs, many variations of rope bridges and zip lines of various length.
Going through Hawksnest and Adrenaline Alley will take between an hour and two hours, depending on the number of people on the course and their comfort level and ability.
A company called The Adventure Guild designed and built the course, after an arborist surveyed the area and marked trees that were sturdy enough to support the elements.
It’s the third course built by The Adventure Guild, based in Chattanooga, and the first that they have handed over to other managers.
Guides are stationed throughout the course to keep an eye on guests. The guides are trained to help if a participant who falters is not able to get back on the element on their own.
In the two weeks people had been using the course, no such interventions, as they are called, had been required.
Treetop Adventures is open to the public, with prices slightly higher than for resort guests.
Weyant said her hope is for walk-up traffic to account for about 60 percent of the business, with resort guests accounting for the balance.
The attraction will be open daily through the summer, and then on weekends into the fall.
Before resort guests Robert and Katrina Buckles of Washington, D.C., came to check out the course, Katrina Buckles had no intention of trying it even though her husband had a reservation for the next day.
But as she looked at the course — and listened to the excitement from her 6-year-old son, Charlie, who planned to do the course “a hundred times!” — Katrina Buckles was having a change of heart.
“I don’t like heights so it’s kind of out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But I think it would be good for me.”
Good for her, and fun, too.
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