Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to your Regularly Scheduled Blog, Soaring in the Colorado Rockies

Before we could begin our soaring adventure in the Rockies, we first had to make it to Durango. On the map, it really looked easy. Turn south at Montrose, then go through Ouray and Silverton and you're almost there. Reality was another matter. It's a good thing I had had a warm up on Pike's Peak earlier in the day, or I'm not sure I would have made it. Below is a video the daughter found on YouTube. It will give you some idea of the drive, but I don't think it quite conveys the sense of sheer terror driving along those sheer cliffs engender.



Is anyone surprised that I found my way to the Irish Embassy Pub in downtown Durango to relax with Arthur Guinness after the harrowing drive down the "Million Dollar Highway"?


The next morning, it was up bright and early for our ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for our Soaring Tree Tops Adventure.


The scenery heading back up the Animas River Valley was spectacular, and much more relaxing to do by train than by car!

The railroad not only skirts the canyon along sheer cliffs, but at times crosses the river on trestle bridges.

On some of the steeper grades, the engine makes a lot of smoke to get the train pulled over the hill. It's not really clear in this picture, but some of the train cars are open-air. I don't know how comfortable they would be if it's cold, and the smoke may get in, but the view has to be spectacular.

Upon arriving at Soaring Tree Tops, we're given a safety briefing, then hitched into the harnesses that will allow us to zip through the treetops. I need to give a shout-out to the fantastic staff of Soaring Tree Tops Adventures. They are wonderful - friendly, professional, courteous, and highly skilled at what they do. They eagerly follow the directive of the company to learn each person's name, and to make polite conversation during the lull between landings and take-offs. My daughter and I did our best to remember everyone's name, but I know we missed a few. So thank you to everyone at Soaring Tree Tops - Emma, Laurel, Kelsey, Evan, Simon, Noelle, Mark, Kyle, Amanda, Jamie, Montana and Emily and everyone else on this terrific staff. By the way, all of the staff, whether it's the kitchen staff, or the desk staff have guest safety as their number one priority - each of them gives your safety equipment the once-over every time they encounter you. Also, FYI, they are known as Sky Rangers - super hero kind of stuff!

The best description of Soaring Tree Top Adventures has been put together by the company itself on their website:
Soaring® Tree Top Adventures, a canopy tour zip line attraction in the Durango Colorado Mountains is the first of its kind and scale in the United States. The all-day zipline course allows guests ages 5-91 to traverse cables that make them feel like they are gliding through the air like birds from tree to tree, on a network of stainless steel platforms high in the Ponderosa canopy. The canopy tour eco-adventure consists of over 24 zipline spans through alpine mountains, Aspen forests and across the beautiful Animas River. Soaring Canopy Tours® is a fun and safe zip line adventure for the whole family, and is a great outdoor activity for kids, families, corporate groups and adventure seekers looking for a unique Colorado adventure.

Soaring® Tree Top Adventures boasts the largest, highest and safest zip line canopy tour course available, with over a mile and a quarter of zipline spans through spectacular scenery. This Colorado zipline attraction has quickly become one of the top tourist destinations in the state.

Soaring’s® zip lines are designed to offer excitement that is safe and accessible to all ages, with the help of friendly Sky Rangers (guides), who assist at every tree. Soaring’s® canopy tour course has won raves from Petzl climbing gear owner Paul Petzl, who has enjoyed Soaring’s® zip line course and has complimented Soaring® Tree Top Adventures on the ingenuity and safety of their ziplines. Arborist David Temple is also excited about Soaring’s® patented system of suspending its stainless steel platforms in a completely non-invasive way to the old-growth Ponderosa pines it uses without need of penetrating the trees with hooks, bolts or screws, making Soaring® a unique, eco-friendly outdoor adventure as well as a thrilling day long adventure.

Soaring® Canopy Tour’s amazing zip line attraction is remotely located on 180 private acres surrounded by the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado, and is accessible by the Durango & Silverton Railroad. Guests must take the Durango train to access the Colorado ziplines, as no roads lead to the pristine old-growth forest where guests will find this unique outdoor activity.

Soaring® Canopy Tours has been rated the #1 attraction in the United States, as well as the #1 attraction in Colorado in Durango on tripadvisor.com.

I really encourage you to go to their website and see the video available there. These still photos just don't do it justice.

After a little more instruction, we're ready to head out on our first Soaring Adventure.

This is one of the most beautiful sections of the course - it cuts right through the middle of a huge aspen grove. As we were told by one of the Eco-Rangers, an aspen grove is one of the largest living organisms on earth - each individual tree actually being a shoot off of the main root, so they are actually all the same tree. Kind of cool, huh? The Eco-Rangers filled us in on all kinds of nature info throughout the day.

As you can see here, the girl took to soaring like a duck takes to water.

It may appear that I was a little more cautious, but later in the day I did manage to let go and fly, even soaring upside down on one of the longer courses later in the day.
All of this adventure really takes a lot of energy, and Soaring Tree Top Adventures really comes through at lunch. Just look at this gourmet spread, all served high in the trees over the Animas River.

Many of the longer courses criss-cross the Animas River, which makes for some very exciting soaring.

And here's another shot of the beautiful Aspen Grove. I think if you enlarge the photo one of the two of us is gliding down the line.

We were incredibly fortunate this day. Soaring Treetop Adventures is located mid-way between Durango and Silverton, and is only accessible by train or by helicopter. After dropping us off for our adventure, the train continued on to Silverton. Unfortunately for those passengers, it broke down in Silverton, and was more than a couple hours late reaching Soaring Tree Top. However, it was good for us, as it allowed us to Soar over the second half of the course another time!

The final course of the day is right at 1400 feet, and we reached speeds of up to 40 miles an hour while flying down it. Exhilarating best describes the feeling.


Even with the delay, the day was over much too soon, and we boarded the train for our return trip to Durango. Not surprising at all, we slept most of the way back. More of our Colorado adventures to follow!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

ShareThis