Editor’s Note: This story is part of Good Times’ annual Santa Cruz Visitors Guide 2019. Read the full publication here.
High above the floor of the Santa Cruz Mountains’ redwood forest, I’m jogging across flimsy wooden bridges, scrambling across nets made of rope and shimmying from one log to another.
The ropes course at Felton’s Mount Hermon Adventures is a surprisingly good lower-body workout. After a few minutes, I feel my legs start to tremble—less from the fear of heights than from the effort of trying to maintain my balance as the tightrope below me wiggles back and forth. The sight of the ground far below me is unsettling at first, but any anxiety eventually evaporates, like a morning dew in the hot Felton sun. Thankfully, I know that a tether running from my waist to a cable near my head is more than enough to prevent me from falling several dozen feet and becoming coyote food. That tether almost comes in handy, when I slip leaping across a gap between two logs on the course’s uppermost level—the most difficult portion of the Sequoia Aerial Adventure course. I have to grab the overhead cable a few times to maintain my balance.
Just a 15-minute drive from Santa Cruz, the course is a true escape. Around every corner, I expect a troop of Ewoks to pop out with spears and take me to their leader, as they did with Luke Skywalker and company on the planet Endor in Return of the Jedi.
The ropes course is one of two attractions at Mount Hermon Adventures, which also features its own Redwood Canopy Tours zip-line course. That course takes guests across wide gaps between redwood trees and over long bridges, at heights up to 150 feet in the air. While still exhilarating, zip-lining is a more passive experience than scrambling across funky bridges made of wood and rope. The ropes course, for its part, has two zips as well.
Some guests might prefer to amble across slowly, observing the calm forest from high above, a decision the supportive guides will happily encourage.
On my tour, one of my fellow guests was an Army veteran. “So how does this compare to basic training?” I wanted to know.
The Army’s obstacle courses were more about measuring brute strength, he explained. The Felton course is more challenging from a balancing standpoint.
The guides are knowledgeable in staying safe, how best to get from one tree post to the next, the ins and outs of forest ecology, and even where to grab a burrito after the tour. The course features a wide range of options, from simple bridges to more advanced monkey rings. The guides also have special tips on how to intensify individual crossings—for example, “See if you can do this one with no hands,” and, “Try it with your eyes closed!”
Uh, no thank you. I have to look out for Ewoks.