We’ve been spoiled this autumn as the glorious, golden days spun out uninterrupted, encouraging all sorts of local outdoor adventures. But even as the inevitable cloudy darkness descends, it doesn’t mean we must retreat exclusively indoors. The Northwest may be drippy and gray in the fall and winter, but it’s also largely green and temperate. So let me recommend an outside activity that, extreme weather permitting, will be available well into the autumn.
I do not consider myself adventurous, fit, or even active. Most would agree that I am a near full-time indoor kid. But that doesn’t mean I am entirely averse to trying something new. I’ve been known to enjoy a hike or two. So when my friend decided to celebrate his birthday with a trip to Northwest Trek to try out the Zip Wild course, I had to tag along.
Full disclosure: I am a Metro Parks Tacoma employee with a persistent and fervent love for all things park so a trip to this beloved Metro Parks facility did not require much arm twisting. The getting-me-60-feet-in-the-air-attached-only-to-a-cable took a little more self-determination.
Zip Wild is made up of four different challenge courses designed to cater to multiple abilities and comfort levels. It loops through the tree canopy, an Ewok (or Wookiee)-like habitat made of tree platforms, suspended log bridges, cargo nets, tight ropes and more. (And no, it does not send you rocketing over the cougar or grizzly bear enclosures.)
The experience is more than just the exhilarating thrill of speeding through the trees: it treats the zip lines as rewards once you’ve accomplished the barrier challenges in between. And somehow, this made the zip line elements all the more exciting.
I surprised myself, tackling the Adventure Course’s climbing wall, elevated cargo nets, and tightrope with a resolve that began as timorous and, to my relief and just a little pride, evolved into something nearer to nerve and delight.
Personal responsibility is a defining aspect of Zip Wild as, throughout the course, you control your own experience: every participant is in charge of their own safety, must remember to attach properly at every challenge and tree platform, and must communicate with those in front of and behind them. Although there are staff members throughout, there isn’t someone stationed at every platform, latching you on to trees and making sure you are securely attached to the zipline — hence the release form you sign prior to participating.
The instructor’s mantra “attach to the tree” kept running over and over in my mind, but the added responsibility heightened both my excitement and accomplishment when, upon reaching the end, I could internally high-five myself for having not fallen messily to my death.
Zip Wild is a gorgeous, intentional adventure: a concentrated contemplation on both our surrounding natural environment, and our bodies’ capabilities. My experience was truly unlike anything I could have imagined. My accompanying friends shared that, although some had completed zip line courses in other areas, Zip Wild was exceptional thanks to the challenges and the beautiful Northwest setting.
I am a little shocked to realize that I look forward to heading back and trying the Extreme Course next. I’ll just keep telling myself that there’s not that much of a difference between 60 and 80 feet.
The day we explored Zip Wild, there were hundreds of people excited to test their mettle on the course, and the helpful staffers shared that this wasn’t the busiest day they’d seen by far.
Zip Wild is open weekends at Northwest Trek. The Extreme course is for adventurers 18 years old and up, while the Super Kid Course allows those six years old and up to participate. Currently, Northwest Trek has no decisive plans to cease operations for the fall or winter. Ice and electrical storms are the only real weather elements that will force a closure, so until then, pick a weekend this fall and go swing through the trees at Northwest Trek.