Thrill-seeking in Ontario’s Blue Mountains
Featured destinations: Canada
Published 04 August 2016
Adrenaline and Ontario aren’t two words you’d necessarily put together. In fact, when the opportunity to go to Ontario first arose for me, visions of long walks in sun-dappled forests and evenings spent gazing across serene lakes while sipping a chilled glass of Niagara-on-the-Lake Riesling sprang to mind. But although this vision of blissful escapism does exist, Canadians have ensured that Ontario isn’t simply a sit-and-look destination by offering a range of thrilling activities designed to get your adrenaline pumping.
Squeezing through Fat Man’s Misery (image: Angela Griffin)
I’d been in Ontario less than 24 hours when I tried the first of these pursuits, at the Scenic Caves in the Blue Mountains. Here, the Eco Adventure Tour takes explorers of all ages crawling through dark caverns, swinging over the treetops and zipping across the Niagara Escarpment while learning about the ecology and biology of the region.
After introducing herself, our guide enthusiastically led us through a wonderfully green forest that could have been plucked straight from Lord of the Rings, complete with imposingly large moss-covered boulders and sheer cliffs. She pointed out various trees and plants, showed us a raven’s nest and told us tales of the Huron-Petun First Nation peoples, who lived here in the 17th century. After following her over the rocks, we squeezed our way through the very tight and dark Fat Man’s Misery, a small crack in the dolostone just 30cm wide. Not one for claustrophobes, this involved a bit of flexibility to get through, as it bent around a corner.
About to go zipping (image: Angela Griffin)
Zipping over the treetops (image: Angela Griffin)
The Thunderbird Twin Zipline
Once all the group had emerged safely from the darkness, we were kitted out with helmets and harnesses and hooked onto the thick wire rope that make up the Thunderbird, Canada’s longest twin zipline. To reach it, we climbed a spiral staircase that wobbled ominously under our feet. At the top, the wind swayed the trees slightly more than I would have liked and, despite having zipped before, I could feel my heart beating in my chest as I looked over the 87 metre drop below. I took a deep breath as I hung there, strapped in and ready to go, with nothing but a metal door between me and 800 metres of Niagara Escarpment. Seconds later, twisting and turning in the wind, I flew 48 metres down to the forest floor. I barely had time to take in the views of Georgian Bay and the surrounding maple trees before I slowed rather unceremoniously into the landing platform at the other end, my heart beating even faster than before. What a thrill! On the Ridge Runner (image: Blue Mountain Resort)
On the Ridge Runner (image: Blue Mountain Resort)
The Ridge Runner
Following a lunch perhaps too rich and boozy for what was to come (I was on holiday after all), we headed for the Ridge Runner, a sort-of roller coaster through the trees of Blue Mountain Resort. After watching a brief video that reminded me how to brake using the handles on the side of the cart, I climbed in, gave a thumbs-up to the attendant and was whisked up the mountain on a moving track. As I climbed, I could hear the joyful screams of those hurtling back down again as they careered by on tracks below me, and by the time I’d reached the top I’d made up my mind to ignore all previous suggestions of braking. I pushed both levers to full-throttle position and began to race downhill. Apparently the Ridge Runner reaches speeds of up to 26mph; it was certainly fast, and the forest whizzed by in a blur of leaves and tree trunks. Each turn presented me with bumps and twists to navigate, but at speed I didn’t have much time to be scared. More stimulating than scary, the ride was great fun, and one I would have loved to have repeated.
On the ropes course (image: Angela Griffin)
After the ropes course – we survived! (image: Angela Griffin)
Blue Mountain's ropes course
Next up was the Blue Mountain Resort’s rope course, which was harder than it looked. For the second time that day, I was strapped into a harness and given a helmet, and this time had to navigate my way successfully through the treetops on a selection of suspended rubber tyres, rickety wooden bridges and swings, often with little more than a rope to hang on to. Although I had a couple of moments of vertigo, I took care not to look down too often, and I made it all the way around the course in about half an hour. Despite my pride that I hadn’t fallen off at any point, despite a few wobbles, I was soon put in my place by a group of young children who practically ran around the course with no fear or hesitation whatsoever.
Gondola views (image: Angela Griffin)
Riding the Blue Mountains' gondola
Afterwards, muscles I never knew existed ached, probably from holding on to the ropes with an iron grip, and I was glad to start the more relaxing final activity of the day: a gondola ride to the top of the mountain. From the 452m summit, we were treated to far-reaching views of Georgian Bay. The blue water stretched into the horizon and merged with the sky, giving the bay a sea-like appearance. In reality though, it’s part of Lake Huron, one of North America’s five Great Lakes. It was a peaceful spot to calm the adrenaline down a notch and reflect on what had been a crazy, yet exhilarating day.Thunderbird Twin Zip in the Fall (image: Blue Mountain Resort)
Cross country skiing in the Blue Mountains (image: Blue Mountain Resort)
Year round excitement
I may have filled my day in the Blue Mountains, but there were plenty of activities I didn’t have time for. In winter, the resort throngs with skiers and snowshoers, while mountain biking, paddle boarding, canoeing and Segway riding are all popular in summer. Autumn is a good time for fall foliage watchers, and if you fancy jumping 6.5 metres into a giant inflatable bag (known as the Apex Bagjump), this is the place to do it!
Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled holiday or a relaxing break among Ontario’s lakes, give your Expert a call today to book your tailor-made Canada Journey.