“Do you want to try it?” I asked my 8-year-old daughter. We were looking up at people of all ages navigating a course of tightropes, wooden planks, suspended logs, and tire-climbing challenges.
From the ground, the obstacles that range from eight to 20 feet in the air didn’t look that difficult or that high.
“Yes!” she enthusiastically replied, and her eagerness continued as we got suited, helmeted and harnessed up.
But the moment she first stepped on the wobbly plank, the smile vanished and the tears started. “I can’t do it!” she cried.
“It’s okay if you’d like to go down,” I told her.
“But I want to do it!” she insisted, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
And she did. The tears stopped and she became braver at every platform, even completing the next two higher courses.
“I wasn’t scared at all,” she very proudly told me when she had finished.
The Woodlot Obstacle Course along with the more heart-thumping Timber Challenge High Ropes (with 75 elements as high as 50 feet in the air, including a 40-foot belay) are just two of the latest attractions at the Blue Mountain Resort located near Collingwood, Ontario, about 90 minutes north of Toronto.
Once known mostly for skiing, the resort now has almost as many visitors in the green season. This is partly because of new activities like the obstacles courses and Ridge Runner, a mountain coaster that twists and turns for over a kilometer downhill at speeds up to 28 miles per hour.
Another draw in every season is the natural beauty of the region itself.
Blue Mountain lies at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve characterized by sculpted glacial rocks and a rich eco-system. Also near the resort is Georgian Bay, a 800 square-mile bay of Lake Huron whose turquoise waters have been the muse of many of Canada’s most renowned artists.
And one of the best places to appreciate this remarkable landscape is at Scenic Caves.
Located about 15 minutes away from the resort, this natural attraction holds a spiritual connection to natives who spoke of Thunderbirds’s nest on the mountain.
With sunlight streaming through the rock formations that tower above, and seeping through to the bottom of the very deep crevices, it’s easy to understand why the site held such significance. Some of the caves were so cold that they held snow well into July, making it a naturally refrigerated place for food supplies for the native peoples who inhabited the region.
For the kids, though, it was all about the climbing. It’s easy and fun for them to squeeze through some of the tight dark crevices. The aptly names Fat Man’s Misery cave with its very narrow opening was a breeze for them, but not so easy for mom and dad who overindulged in dinner the night before.
Once finished playing hide-and-seek among the rock formations and completing the trail that takes visitors through the caves and look-out points, there’s plenty more to do, including a 413-foot suspension bridge, panning for gemstones, and an eco-adventure treetop adventure with zip lines.
About Blue Mountain:
Operating in one form or another since the 1940s, the resort offers other green season activities, like mountain biking, golf, tennis and a private beach on Georgian Bay. Year-round there’s Plunge, an aquatic center with indoor-outdoor pools, a splash pad, and hot tubs, and the village itself.
The pedestrian village hub is modeled after one of the world’s top ski resorts (Whistler) and houses more than 40 establishments to keep you entertained and, of course, fed.
Most of the pubs, clubs and restaurants have children’s menus, catering to families earlier in the early evening before revelers take over later in the night. Wild Wings and Rusty’s have a laid-back atmosphere and are good casual options for wings, ribs and all your favorite pub grub. For a more upscale choice, try Oliver and Bonacini known for their steak, seafood, pastas and gourmet burgers.
And then there’s shopping. You may want to take advantage of the supervised Kid’s Clubs (extra fees apply) if you really want to explore the shops that carry everything from sportswear clothing and ski equipment to jewelry and lingerie. If you are with the kids though, they’ll love Crock-a- Doodle a ceramic workshop where they can paint their own cups, plates, piggy banks, wizard wands and other fun stuff.
Accommodation in the village ranges from hotel rooms and suites to luxury condos. The Westin Trillium House provides excellent service for families and provides special treats for kids, including a welcome loot bag.
Rates: Expect to pay approximately $400 for a two-night weekend stay.
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