A new Outdoor Ropes Course Dedicated to Sustainable Forestry
By Erica Garnett
Situated on 900 acres of Hemlock forest in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Ramblewild is the largest tree-to-tree adventure park in North America.
Upon arrival, Ramblewild visitors are welcomed by the friendly staff at the wooden lodge. There, people have a chance to use the restroom, meet their temporary guide and sample some maple water before heading out on the 10-minute walk to the park.
It is advised that people leave all personal belongings in their cars and leave their keys at the front desk for reasons which become very apparent when inside of the park.
A Safe Experience both Mentally and Physically
Ramblewild opened June 21st of 2014. Kait Calderara, the lodge manager has been with Ramblewild since it opened. She started off as one of the park staff members. Dressed in highlighter yellow, they can be spotted from visitors while in the trees, several feet off the ground. Calderara, like all staff, were required to complete the entire park multiple time so they have the knowledge to guide people through it.
While the staff is extremely helpful, the park remains self-guided. After a brief tutorial on how to use the belays and how to hook oneself on and off of the wires, people are ready to explore on their own.
Calderara explains, “The smart belay system is what enables Ramblewild to be a self-guided park.” The revolutionary product consists of an interactive pulley carabiner system that allows for constant and easy attachment and detachment.”
For safety, only one carabiner can be open at once. In the event that a carabiner was not successfully clipped onto a wire, the other one always is. The smart belay system is connected to a harness that people wear in the park in addition to a helmet and gloves. In addition, all staff is trained in the basics for emergency protocol. “This is a really safe place to get hurt,” says Calderara.
Self-guidance gives people a major sense of confidence in the park. When climbing at about 15 feet off the ground, it is natural to feel uneasy and scared.
Calderara says, “The best part about this job is seeing people come in comprehensive and then leave the park feeling confident.” There is guaranteed mental workout just as much as a physical one.
Climb, Swing, Soar, Push
The park itself is comprised of eight aerial obstacle courses. Each course consists of 15 to 17 elements including, high wires, zip lines, balancing logs, rope ladders, cargo nets and suspended bridges. Calderara’s favorites are Trekker’s Reach and Ravine’s Edge. The courses progress from beginner, denoted by a yellow diamond, up to the hardest courses which are the black diamond.
Ravine’s Edge begins with a zip line that soars over the ravine that runs through the park, at 100 feet in the air. Throughout the course, there is a skateboard that one must ride across platforms as well as swinging on a rope and landing into a massive cargo net, before finishing. In addition to Ravine’s Edge, three other courses cross over the ravine, such as Terrker’s Reach, where one sits in a saddle.
. At the top there are park staff who help choose which trail people do next. Staff is also there to help people in the event that they need to be brought down from the course in any event.
The park was built by Tree-Mendous, which is an organization dedicated to ecological and environmentally safe aerial forest park design. The Certified B-Corporation uses extensive knowledge of forestry and ropes safety experience, with inspiration from Indiana Jones and Tarzan to create, diverse, challenging and safe parks like Ramblewild.
Sustainable Full Forestry
Ramblewild is dedicated to sustainability and forest conservation. The adventure park is part of Feronia Forests which is an organization dedicated to creating efficient, innovative ways to save trees, Ramblewild being the most recent. Feronia Forests originally purchased the 1,200-acre property to preserve the trees there.
One hundred ten acres of the land are devoted to tapping trees for maple sap which is converted into the maple water and maple syrup. Vertical Water packages the maple water and the maple syrup is bottled locally by Mission Maple. Free sampling and all products are available at the Ramblewild lodge in addition to granola bars, beef jerky, and other outdoor snacks. These are convenient for a quick energy boost before entering the trails, which Calderara highly recommends.
By using the land in different ways, Feronia Forests produces revenue-generating offerings that are mutually beneficial for the people and the forests. Calderara refers to this as “tree-hugging capitalism.”
Save the Trees, Hug the Trees
Every part of Ramblewild was designed intentionally around the trees. The platforms were built around the trees with room for them to grow so they won’t be suffocated. “Hemlock trees especially have slow growth rates so there don’t have to be many adjustments to the park this way,” explains Calderara.
The trees also tend to hold in cold air and provide shade from the sun, making a five to 10-degree difference in the park. Since Ramblewild is open all-year-round, Calderara highly encourages visitors to plan their footgear and clothing choices accordingly. “If you are not dressed properly, you will not have a good time,” she explains.
Working around the trees also requires working with them while in the park. Initial trepidation from being so high up in the trees eventually turns into a trust relationship formed between the trees and people. They are supporting the rope and the course and for the time being, people’s lives. Also, there are several elements throughout the course in which people need to literally hug their tree to maneuver through the challenge, so rest assured, trees will be hugged.
Building Biceps and Community
Ramblewild looks to give people an authentic, community-based experience. People go into the park in a group and they are allowed to disperse but are encouraged to help each other out and get to know one another while inside.
Calderara says, “It’s a different way to interact with people because you don’t have your cell phones on you. A goal of Ramblewild is to get people back in the woods and put their screens down.”
Calderara does advise people to know their own ability. “When people are in a group, there can be a social pressure to keep up with what everyone else wants to do.”
Ramblewild can host special events such as birthday parties, weddings, graduation party and even recently hosted a local high school DARE program and the police department.
Planning A Visit
Ramblewild is located on 110 Brodie Mountain Road in the Lanesborough, Massachusetts, about an hour and 20 minutes away from the Northampton area. The scenic backcountry drive is almost foreshadowing of the destination.
During the peak season from Memorial to Labor Day, adult tickets are $69. Teens or anyone between 11-14 are $63 and juniors, anyone from seven to 10 are $57. During the off-season, adult tickets are $48. Veterans pay $48 Monday through Friday all-year-round and anyone on active duty is free Monday through Friday with I.D.
Reservations are strongly encouraged to guarantee a spot although walk-ins are allowed. Groups of 10 or more are eligible to receive discounts. Passes purchased are generally for three hours in the park. In that time about four courses can be accomplished although everyone has different speeds
Visit Ramblewild’s website.
Erica Garnett is a student at the University of Mass and a former intern for GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield MA.
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