Learning the ropes

Declan zooms through the tree canopy at Catamount Aerial Park, a ropes and zipline course set in the trees of the Catamount Ski Area.

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

– Gabrielle Roth


When I walk, I pretty much stride directly from Point A to Point B. When my kids walk, they skip cracks, go backwards, splash in puddles, balance on curbs, run up steps and jump back down again. When did I stop walking this way? And why?


I feel like I’m just starting to remember how much I love novelty and adventure. Before I became a parent, I wasn’t even aware of those needs because I just did things whenever I wanted, and those needs were just folded into daily life, like going mountain biking whenever my husband and I felt like mountain biking. After I became a parent, my idea of living on the wild side meant going to storytime and grocery shopping in the same day. But the kids are a little older now and increasingly able to experience the world, and I’m more in touch with what my needs are. Enter Catamount Aerial Park, a ropes and zipline course set in the trees of the Catamount Ski Area. Going to the Catamount Aerial Park with our 9-year-old son is one of the best things I’ve ever done, both personally and as a mother.

Catamount Aerial Park was our first ropes course. We had no idea what to expect, but we were intrigued by the videos that we had seen in the lodge during ski season. We were fitted with harnesses, picked up our gloves, and then we attended a brief-but-thorough training right in the lodge. Since the ropes course is self-guided, it was important that I learn how the safety equipment worked, because there wouldn’t be someone doing it for me. Our trainer Stephanie emphasized that there was a practice area for clipping in and out, which I found reassuring.

Even though there were only three components: two carabiners and a zipline attachment, I worried whether I would remember how to clip in when I was up in the trees. I was concerned that I was in over my head. But I remembered the words from the Catamount website: “Your time in the Park is not a heart-pumping activity, and you do not have to be a bodybuilder to make it through the courses.”

Soon it was time to hike up into the ropes course area and begin our adventure. The Park was so quiet down below that I was shocked when we arrived at the main platform and we were surrounded by a buzz of activity in the trees. I honestly felt like we had entered into another world.

I spent some time practicing clipping in and out on the cable, still not completely understanding how this would all work. But once we started on a course and clipped into the first element, it all started to make sense. My hands knew what to do: clip into the new cable, unclip from the previous section. Easy-peasy, and I’m always tethered to something! Got it! I felt so safe climbing up ladders, zipping down short runs, clinging along a cargo net – good times!

At the end of the first trail, I experienced an entirely different way of thinking from when I began. My hands were a little clumsy clipping in and out, but they were habituated to the process. Since I was unable to predict what element we would encounter next, I couldn’t plan ahead and overthink it. I just had to be where I was, be in the moment, expect the unexpected (our son’s favorite expression). I was no longer concerned about being able to accomplish a trail; I was simply caught up in the wonderment of it. I was in a place of sheer joy. All I had to do was get from Point A to Point B, and I used a lot of muscles to do it.

We started on the easiest trails, which are marked Yellow, then progressed up to a couple of Green trails. I had naïvely assumed that the “easiest” trails meant that they would be easy. Well, relatively speaking, they were easier than the rest of the more challenging colors: They were not quite as high up in the trees as the other trails; the distances were shorter; and the tasks were not as daunting. But were they easy? Not exactly. But here’s the thing: They weren’t hard, either.