There's a new adventure in town!  Go Ape in Rockville, Maryland, next to Lake Needwood in the northern part of Rock Creek Park, is waiting to deliver some amazing treetop fun times.  While ziplining is probably the more popular part of the activity, there are many other challenging rope, swing, cargo net, and balance tests along the routes.

The park is setup in four progressive segments.  After receiving a training briefing - which included gearing up with your harness, instruction on how to be safe by always staying attached with at least one point of contact, and using the equipment on the tree ladders and traversing cables - we were let loose to start on the first segment.  The first step of every segment is to get up onto the tree platforms, hooking into a safety pulley system then climbing a rope ladder.

I had expected the experience to be filled with ziplines and bridges from tree to tree, but it was a lot more challenging than that!  And while Go Ape caters to children and adults, it requires a relatively good amount of physical strength.  One of the first obstacles is a tarzan swing, where you hook into a regulated speed rope swing that crashes into a hanging cargo net.  You are expected to grab the net and climb up on a diagonal to reach the tree platform, and if you've never climbed a cargo net that is not secure on the bottom, you don't realize how much upper body strength it takes.  By the time I reached the second tarzan swing on the course, in the fourth segment, my arm strength was about zapped.  Of course it didn't help my energy levels that I went on a long hike that morning!  For the tarzan swing, they suggest that you actually bounce off of the net, then try to grab at it when the pendulum moves you back.  For the first swing, the speed wasn't so bad, but the second swing had a longer free fall leap from the platform and much faster speed into the cargo net.  I was the first to go off the platform on Round 2, so I was surprised by the velocity on impact, so much so that my shoe got caught in the net and almost fell off!!  That certainly would have made finishing the course more difficult!
Making choices - left or right?  I went right!
The course, from training to finish took us about three hours, and that was only because we were the first group to go during our time slot, so we had no delays ahead of us.  There is a lot of time spent hooking into the cable safety system and clipping your pulley onto and off of the cables for each obstacle...and taking pictures as well.  Of course the best parts of the day were the four ziplines that marked the end each segment.  The goal is to land on your feet, doing a running motion to lessen the impact.  Unfortunately, there are times where the harness spins you around, and inevitably you must land by dragging your feet to slow you down, ultimately landing on your butt.  Alas, I was 4 for 4 on my butt landings.  Maybe next time!