Day Tripping - Trip III: Climbing aerial trails at the Adventure Park
BRIDGEPORT — It’s not every day one finds themselves stuck on a wooden platform 15 feet in the air in the middle of the woods. Yet there I was at the Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, having somehow locked myself onto a safety wire meant as a transfer point between obstacles of the park’s zip line course.
The Adventure Park features 11 different aerial trails, ranging in difficulty and height. Some are as low as 15 feet and as high as 60 feet. Each trail is filled with different obstacles or “elements” made of cable, wood, and rope. Obstacles include completing challenges like walking across suspended logs or across a solo wire. Climbers’ only support are two hooks and a sturdy harness attached to a wire. There are 22 zip lines interspersed throughout the courses.
One of the benefits of climbing the aerial trails at the Adventure Park is visitors are able to go through the climbing courses without the assistance of the guide. Visitors are always attached to a wire by two hooks. One of the hooks is always locked, while the other remains unlocked. In order to move from one platform to the next, you have to take your unlocked hook, put it on the next wire and then lock it into a “tweezle.” The tweezle locks the unlocked hook and unlocks the locked hook, so you can move freely while always being secured on the course.
I, of course, somehow managed to get too safe and had both of my hooks lock while attached to the wire on a platform between obstacles.
Behind me, one of the campers at the park on a field trip made his way through a large piece of netting, the previous challenge on the aerial trail. As the camper stumbled through, his sunglasses slid from atop his head onto his face.
“Pretty cool, huh?” he asked me with a grin as he climbed his way out of the netting and onto the platform.
at the Discovery Museum
4450 Park Ave., Bridgeport ;
The park is open April through November. Hours vary depending on the season.
During the summer, the park is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Age 12 and older: $53
Ages 10 and 11: $48
Ages 7 to 9: $39
Ages 5 and 6: Free (Each child must be accompanied on two purple courses by an adult. One adult per child.)
Visitors who don’t want to climb can enter the park for free. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made at discoveryadventurepark.org
The camper introduced himself as Michael. The 13-year-old Eastchester, N.Y., resident and I chatted while I waited for a staff member to get me out of my predicament. Moments later, a staffer came, climbing up a ladder and across a zip line to unlock one of my hooks so I could move onto the next part of the course. Staff members in bright orange shirts are placed throughout the courses, so should you need assistance, you simply have to call out for help.
I felt a little embarrassed, but the staffer didn’t make me feel silly about my mishap. In fact, as I jumped into the air and allowed myself to be carried away on the next part of the course, a zip line, and later climbed through obstacles like a suspended tunnel, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
It’s this same sense of empowerment that compelled the CEO of Outdoor Ventures, to bring these parks to all parts of the United States. Bahman Azarm did a course with his wife and daughter on a trip to Switzerland and saw his daughter’s confidence boost after completing a course.
“The whole idea is it’s a progressive experience,” said Anthony Wellman, marketing and communications director for the Fairfield-based Adventure Parks of Outdoor Ventures. “You’re learning as you go. It’s problem-solving.”
Outdoor Ventures designs and builds the parks for themselves, as well as clients. It opened its first self-operated park in 2010 in Sandy Spring, Md. Since then, the group has opened eight parks they have gone on to operate, including a park in Storrs.
The Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum opened in 2012. In addition to helping fund the Discovery Museum, the park allows visitors to see a different side of Bridgeport. The park takes up five acres of the 90-acre Veterans Memorial Park and allows people to immerse themselves in nature.
“Our message here is not just climbing and fun, but getting people into nature,” Wellman said.
The park uses techniques to purposely preserve the nature it depends upon, avoiding drilling holes into the trees and re-purposing fallen trees as benches scattered throughout the park.
After two of the simplest courses and an hour-and-a- half, my companion and I were surprisingly worn out, perhaps from our inexperience. But the beauty of the park is, more difficult trails and challenges await us when we return.
For $53, climbers 12 and older get three hours of climbing. Cost is $48 for 10- to 11-year-olds and $39 for climbers 7 to 9. Climbers 5 and 6 get in free and can try out two children’s courses.
Adventures close to home | Trip 3