Must Love Heights: Go Ape Treetop Adventure At Shelby Farms
Last Friday morning, I had a chance to try out the new treetop adventure course at Shelby Farms, which opened to the public this weekend. It was definitely an adventure.
Before I tell you about my morning, let me cover a few things that a lot of people have asked me about this.
– The course is not just zooming zip lines. It is a series of obstacles (tightropes, swings, bridges, ladders, other strange things) with zip lines in between.
– The course is about 40 feet in the air, so you’ll be about three or four stories high much of the time.
– You’re wearing a harness at all times, so if you follow instructions, you should be safe.
OK, now on to the adventure.
The Go Ape HQ is in a trailer near the Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms. A group of young, enthusiastic guides greeted me inside; then I signed a waiver. We went right over to the briefing area to join the other media folks there for the preview.
Here, our main guide Zach trained us on the carabiners and pulleys (you are responsible for hooking and unhooking yourself to various supports and wires each time, as no guides are up in the course with you) and helped us get into harnesses. They’re snug, but not uncomfortable. You’ll want something that secure and substantial when you’re careening over a lake later.
Go Ape at Shelby Farms has six “sites”. The first site is more training and low to the ground. Then you’re past the point of no return.
Site number two is where things get going. I was told that it’s the tallest one of the six, and oh boy, is it tall. 40 feet tall. Full disclosure: I had to pump myself up for this because, even though I love roller coasters and hadn’t had any trouble with heights in the past, I’m not a huge fan of them. I was determined to try it anyways. I had to report back to you, of course.
First, I climbed the rope ladder, which was a bit of a challenge because the wooden rungs were slick from the morning’s rain. Once I made it to the top, I was surprised to realize that my general dislike of heights was stronger than I expected (read: sheer terror). I started to get shaky. Our little group encouraged one another, and the guides, who stay on the ground the whole time, were also very “helpful” in reminding me there was no way down and that the f-word “fall” wasn’t allowed on the course.
Then, there were several obstacles, including a “bridge”. I use quotes because it was really more like slick wooden planks a foot apart hung from wires 40 feet above the ground than a proper bridge. Following Zach’s suggestion, I tried not to look down, but that was kind of hard to do since I needed to see where I was stepping.
After I crossed the Bridge of Destiny (my terms) it was time for my first Tarzan swing. I followed Zach’s instructions to just sit into the harness and let it support my weight as I swung. I Tarzan’ed right into a rope net; then climbed across that net and up to an even higher platform. Here, I had to stand on the edge of a slick wooden platform to unhook the swing from my safetyharness.
I realized at this moment that, even though I was totally safe and excited to try this course, my body didn’t want to be in a tree anymore. There is no way to exit the course once you start each site, though. You just have to keep going. I am only telling you this because if you have doubts about your affinity for being up high, this might not be the thing for you. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’re going to love it and think it’s no big deal.
Finally, I marched up a hammock-like bridge, and it was time for the big zip line. After all that slippery climbing, hooking up the zip line support and letting go was easier than I thought it would be.
I went zooming across the lake at a nice speed for a good several seconds; this was pretty fun. If I hadn’t used up all my adrenaline trying to get up there it would have been a great rush. I landed in a big pile of mulch-like stuff. Definitely wear shoes and clothes you don’t care getting dirty.
And that was the end of the first site. There are four more sites, and it gets more intense. Feedback from others in my group was generally that everyone had a lot of fun, and two people said they’d be back to do it again. The MBJ has an article and a lot of footage from a GoPro that I’d recommend watching before going. Check that out here. Toby at the Memphis Flyer also talks about his experience and shares photos here.
Below is a very quick video that Shelby Farms representative Rebecca Dailey took on my Go Pro of MBJ reporter Meagan Nichols doing a Tarzan swing later in the course.
Go Ape is for people who are not afraid of heights, in good shape, don’t mind getting muddy, and enjoy some fairly extreme activities. And not afraid of heights. Did I say not afraid of heights? Go Ape’s website says they’ve helped many people overcome this fear, so if that’s something you want to work on, there you go. I didn’t realize this was that much an issue for me and I am a fairly adventurous person, but hey, I gave it a shot and I learned a lot about what others can expect from the course.
You must reserve your space ahead of time, either online here or by phone (the number is on that site). It’s $57 for adults and $37 for kids ages 10-15, plus taxes. No kids under 10. There are weight and size restrictions, so check out the website before you go. I heard they sold out before they even opened the course last week.
Another thing: I’d pick a dry, sunny day for your first time. The added challenge of everything being slick and wet is something for a second go-round or an experienced person. The course takes two to three hours depending on how fast you go through the obstacles. Go Ape at Shelby Farms will be open on weekends in March, then add more days in April.
If you want to get out of your comfort zone, run some hills or take a dance class. If you like heights and want to set your comfort zone on fire and throw it into Mount Doom, go to the Go Ape Adventure course.
Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course
Google map to “Woodland Discovery Playground”