There are no mountains in sight, but, dammit, I need a neat word for this bug I’ve caught 25 feet above the ground in Pasco County.
How does swingineer sound? Wait, no.
Obstaclineer? What about ziplineer, or maybe the all-inclusive climbineer?
No matter how you identify, TreeHoppers caters to all types of fun-seekers off Dade City’s Saint Joe Road, even those who’ve never done anything close to standing on tree-flanked platforms in the middle of an old Florida forest. I took my first jaunt last weekend.
The family-friendly adventure park, which opened back in September, is a mix of aerial obstacles and zip lines with a side of self-discovery. Before geared-up guests are permitted on any of TreeHoppers’ eight courses, they undergo a 30-minute briefing on the basics of equipment and safety. Folks get familiar with terms such as “elements” (the zip lines, rope bridges and other obstacles that make up a course) and “tweezle” (a fun-to-say safety measure that keeps your harness secured 24/7), then apply what they’ve learned on a ground-level practice course.
It didn’t take long for my partner-in-climb and I to make our way to the actual your-existence-is-really-in-your-own-hands-here-so-don’t-screw-this-up courses. Unlike similar attractions, in which a guide leads you through each element, TreeHoppers allows guests to explore its courses freely (this was super-intimidating at first), building up their difficulty tolerance and going through this solo summit of challenge and achievement as they move from level to level. You’re instructed to call out “Staff!” if you need help from park monitors or guides as you hop among the grove of live oak trees.
The courses — color-coded as yellow, green, blue, black and double black like ski slopes — range from easy to very difficult. While we chose the simpler routes as first-timers, we came across elements that included an unexpected ladder (I wasn’t planning on climbing any higher than we already were), stand-up swing, zig-zagged log-to-log bridge and multiple tightrope-like obstacles.
There’s not a set technique for crossing each element. You figure it out as you go, albeit shakily, and, sometimes, well, sometimes you come close to falling to what feels like your death (see sidebar) — but it’s all for the love of the outdoors.
Seriously, give it a go. This place could become your new summer obsession.
Video by Chris Fasick