LANSING - Whitewater rafting isn't your typical boat trip, and TimberTrek Adventure Park isn't your typical jungle gym.
The park, Adventures on the Gorge's newest attraction, combines its already successful zip lines with a treetop obstacle course for children and adults.
"It's a challenge course on steroids," said Dave Arnold, vice president of communications for Adventures on the Gorge.
TimberTrek features 61 "elements," including rope ladders, tightropes, giant nets, wobbly swinging bridges and zip lines. The challenges are spread over five courses, which get progressively more difficult and higher off the ground.
"There's a trick to every element," added TimberTrek manager Geoff Elliott.
Figuring out those tricks is half the fun, so guides won't help guests unless they're having a really hard time.
The courses are color coded according to their difficulty: yellow, blue, green and black. They also have names. "Firefly" is the easiest course. The hardest is called the "Black Diamond," another nod to ski resorts.
Elliott said climbers must work their way through each course before graduating to a more difficult one but they can stay on the easy courses all day long if they prefer.
Climbers can even hook onto one of several "escape zips" if they start a course and find it too difficult.
"We allow you to descend with dignity," Elliott said. "It makes it something where you can stay in your comfort zone."
"A canopy tour is linear. You enter and you go," Arnold said. "This thing is not linear. It's a series of loops."
He compares it to a golf course. You tee off, sink your shot and move on to the next hole.
Arnold says the adventure parks is more like a ski resort: skiers can head down one slope, take the lift back to the top and go to another slope, or run the same slopes all day long.
TimberTrek allows customers to negotiate only the courses that are within their comfort level. If timid climbers want to spend three hours doing "Firefly," they'll still have plenty of fun.
TimberTrek won't have guides stationed throughout the courses, either, thanks to a high-tech harness system imported from Germany.
Called the Bornack SAFElink, the system features two carabiner clips connected by a cable. That cable works as a brake, so one of the clips is always locked shut.
Climbers begin each element by clipping onto a guide line. They clip their unlocked carabiner onto the line and then use a small wrench called a Tweezel to unlock their other clip.
Once they've reached the end of the challenge, they hook the unlocked clip onto a safety line. Climbers use another Tweezel to unlock their second clip, still connected to the guide line, and proceed to the next element.
Since one carabiner is always locked shut, Elliott said climbers would have to intentionally break the system to fall.