An Epic Outdoor Anniversary
Ziplining and wakeboarding make for an adrenaline-filled Pasco celebrationBy Robin Draper
For this year’s wedding anniversary, my husband, Mike, and I decided to do something really special, unique and fun. Friends told us about an aerial adventure park in Pasco County named TreeHoppers. Instead of a fancy dinner out, we opted for a day of outdoor adventure.
From Tampa, we drove north past ranches and pastureland to the heart of eastern Pasco County and soon found TreeHoppers, nestled within a shady, oak-canopied forest. We arrived for check-in, picked up our equipment and then participated in an instructional briefing. Stepping into harnesses with various safety clasps was initially intimidating, but we quickly realized that all of this was designed to create a safe environment so we could immerse ourselves in a day of fun.
As Mike and I walked into the amazing tree-lined aerial camp, we noted that the park is designed much like a wagon wheel, with the starting point high above the center on a large platform. From there, participants choose a “spoke of the wheel” depending upon the level of difficulty. We began with an easy course. We walked, crawled and climbed through swinging nets and hoops, across tight wires and boardwalks, over logs and branches and between each trek, found a landing on wooden perches. All around us families, children and groups of friends were enjoying the experience and the spectacular vistas high above the treetops.
I was thrilled to feel our courage and confidence grow with each level. Then came the real moment of truth when we harnessed ourselves to ziplines for the ultimate adrenaline rush. We took a leap of faith as we jumped off the platform, feet dangling and wind rushing, flying carefree through the air. The exhilarating feeling from letting go made it all worthwhile. After each trek we cheered each other with high fives and did the same with other adventurers we met along the course. The feeling of accomplishment permeated the air with lots of smiling faces—especially ours.
Testing the waters
After a full morning of fun, we opted for a more relaxed afternoon on the beach. Thirty minutes away from Treehoppers, in western Pasco County, is SunWest Park, the county’s newest beach park. Only there’s a twist, it’s not on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s in an old Florida limestone mine now transformed into a swim park with all the amenities that are found at the beach, maybe even more.
As we arrived, sounds of Caribbean music floated through the air. We followed a walkway to the lake with a wide white sandy beach. We found a perfect spot amongst the brightly colored umbrellas and claimed it. Nearby, volleyball players were enjoying a lively match as seagulls soared overhead. Under palm trees, a line formed at a sno-cone truck. Yes. We were definitely at the beach.
We dipped our feet in the water and then enjoyed our picnic lunch while watching kids and families play on a huge inflatable island anchored a few yards away from shore. This Aqua Park of inflatable rafts tethered together was much like an obstacle course with slides, climbing towers and diving platforms. We later learned that it’s the biggest Aqua Park in the US.
We also watched people wakeboarding. This is a popular water sport, much like waterskiing, that involves standing on a wakeboard while being towed, usually behind a boat, but not here. That’s what makes Sun West Park different; here there is a cable system that pulls boarders with a towrope attached to a giant overhead mechanized pulley system.
Mike and I looked at each other and said “Why not?” After all, we were feeling pretty confident after successfully completing the morning zipline adventure.
After receiving safety instructions, we strapped in for the ride. Mike went first, stumbling a bit at first before sliding swiftly on the water while holding tightly to the towrope, looking like a pro along the course. For a finale he performed a beautiful 360-degree turn. He returned with a huge grin that broadened when I showed him the video I took of his perfect maneuvering.
I was next. I started from a crouch with the board in the water. As the rope pulled me, I stretched out my arms, leaned back and began rising to a stand. It was exciting riding on the water enjoying the gentle breeze on my face. I fell only once. But the towrope met me where I landed, and I was able to make the turn for the ride back to the beach. What a rush! The first thing we did once I got back to our beach towels was fist bump each other, filled with the sheer coolness of this experience.
What a day, full of outdoor fun and adventure. It made for an epic anniversary celebration and one we will remember forever.
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