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Good morning…and what a beautiful morning it truly is. I have to say that I feel clear and refreshed this morning, yet just a little bit sore (not a bad thing), after our evening jaunt in the trees yesterday evening. What an amazing time we had. I brought my 7-year-old daughter, Abby, for her first ever visit to TreeRunner West Bloomfield Adventure Park. I thought that I would share with you how much fun we actually had.
This was my second visit to this park, as late in the season last year, my wife and I visited for the first time. Then, it was just called The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield. Just this year, they have created a brand and have taken on the name of TreeRunner.
I can’t lie when I say that I was a bit nervous as to how she would take the whole thing in. Well, maybe not as nervous as some parents would be, as I am The Outdoor Soul and my kids are definitely taking after me in their enthusiasm for all things outdoors, their eagerness to explore new and exciting experiences, and their passion for adventure. Abby is definitely not afraid of putting herself out there to explore, to experience, to live. Allie, my almost-two-year-old is looking up to her big sister and following in her footsteps as well. She has already been on multiple through-the-woods hikes with me, hiking as much as 3 1/2 miles on her own, without me really picking her up on my shoulders much at all.
After seeing the new junior park addition, I can’t wait until Allie turns 3 to be able to experience TreeRunner for the first time. The junior park is the newest addition this year, built for kids ages three to seven years old. It offers a perfect opportunity to get the little ones involved with climbing in the trees early, at only 2 to 3 feet off the ground. Even the rug rats can get to zippin’ now. This is a great opportunity to begin sharing nature with your kids at such an early age, which is very important these days instead of just plopping them down in front of the boob tube all the time. According to the TreeRunner website,
The junior park is made up of two courses with a mix of zip lines and climbing obstacles, just like you would find higher in the trees.
With the new addition of the Junior Park, they are now also offering a Junior Park Birthday Party Package into the mix. I think I am going to keep this in mind for one of Allie’s parties in the next few years.
Now, onto Abby’s first TreeRunner adventure. Before we arrived, I could see the wheels spinning in her mind about what to expect, how high the obstacles would be, how big the park would be, if she would be scared or enjoy herself. For days now, she would constantly ask me questions about the park and how I thought she would do when we finally got there. I saw the anticipation in her face through the rearview mirror in the truck on the drive there. She was ready. This alone put a giddy feeling in my belly just seeing her awaiting our arrival to the park.
When we first walked into the park, I could see her eyes grow as big as saucers and just light up in complete awe of the entirety of it all. The lined-up gear hanging from the stock. The obstacles in the trees. The zip lines strung from platform to platform. The climbing ladders and hanging ropes. Her expression seemed as if I had just introduced her to Disney World for the first time.
After signing in and handing our slips to get our harnesses, the staff immediately pointed us in the direction of the demonstration. Abby took the gearing up and safety demonstration very seriously and took to using the equipment very quickly; even quicker than I did my first time. At seven years old, she acts much older than her age, and I am a proud father at that. I was surprised at how well she did, even just practicing on the practice platforms and lines.
We began with one of the purple courses to get her feet wet. Abby wanted to try the one named Firefly. Not even halfway through this course, she looked at me and said, “Daddy, this is really fun but kind of easy. I think I’m ready for the next level up.” This made me feel really good, as I could see other kids older than her struggling a bit on this level. Her bravery and grit were shining through.
Next, we conquered both of the yellow courses pretty quickly. First Sunflower, then Sunshine. There wasn’t even a moment of hesitation in her, as if she had done this many, many times before. She was a natural.
After the Sunshine run, I could tell right away that she was ready for the next step up. Onto the green courses, it was. We climbed the steps of the main platform, and Abby chose to begin with Forest Run. I have to say that you can definitely feel the difference in the difficulty levels between yellow and green. I could sense a bit of hesitation in her on a couple of the obstacles that we were faced with. However, all I had to do was remind her that the equipment will not allow her to fall, and a reminder of how brave she is, a little “you can do it” from her father was all it took for her to take a deep breath, steady herself, and conquer it.
The next green course, Mountain Trail was no walk in the park. To me, it seemed even a bit tougher than Forest Run. Again, she handled it like a champ. We laughed together as we both were having the time of our lives. After the second green run, I was getting hungry and running out of energy. We only had about 30 minutes left of our allotted time, so Abby chose to do the remaining unexperienced purple course, Cricket, on her own while I stayed below to catch some photos. I was amazed at how quickly she completed obstacle after obstacle, even passing 2 older boys ahead of her on the same course.
She had now completed every single Beginner course they have to offer here. We had an opportunity to check out the rest of the park on foot and watched from below as others experienced the Intermediate and Expert courses. It was a bit daunting to her, seeing how high up the tougher courses take you, but I noticed a twinkle in her eye and a slight sneer on the side of her lip as she watched intently. I could almost hear her mind saying “I will conquer you next time when I return.”
When we were all done, she couldn’t get the ear-to-ear smile off of her face and kept telling me that she can’t wait until she turns 10 so she can try the blue courses. Maybe we can get her onto the blue courses sooner than that. We will see.
It was only 5 years ago, in 2013-14 that this park was built and operated by a Connecticut-based company. It was originally named The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield. It was just this year, 2018, that they took on the name TreeRunner. TreeRunner also operates 2 other park locations; Grand Rapids Michigan and Raleigh North Carolina.
There is a current build happening as I write this, in Rochester Hills Michigan on the Oakland University campus. Shhh. This is a secret I am only sharing with you. Get excited, as they are planning to open sometime next year, in 2019. They are also identifying new sites for certain growth as well.
A little birdie also told me that there are plans to improve and expand the West Bloomfield park as well. I have heard that they are building green trail extensions, adding 20 new elements, which will offer climbers a choice on each green trail. This will make things very interesting.
TreeRunner has also begun offering team building. They take participants out of their typical day-to-day lives, help to break down barriers and help them to work with new team members. They have specific activities that focus on targeting specific goals such as conflict management, trust building, communication development, creative problem solving, leadership development, and time and resource management. This is a great opportunity for businesses to improve the skills of their employees and working teams. There is a questionnaire on the TreeRunner site that is filled out so they can cater to the specific needs and requirements for the participants. Then, you will be contacted to walk through the details of the experience and to plan and design the perfect teambuilding adventure for the needs of the group. At the end of the Classic Team Building Program, they go through a debrief, which is key to connecting the challenges experienced to everyday life.
Aside from the group teambuilding, TreeRunner also offers opportunities for birthday parties, school and camp outings, youth groups, scouts, athletic teams, and corporate outings. Catering can be set up right on the website. Season passes can even be purchased.
TreeRunner has an open season during the spring, summer, and fall, and is closed during the winter. During the spring and fall, they are only open on the weekends, but during the summer, it is 7 days a week of fun, excitement, and adventure. They are planning to close this year on November 4th, but I have heard that if we happen to have a warm and unseasonal fall, they may extend that.
If you happen to be lucky enough to have time on your hands during specific dates as specified on their site, you may be able to experience the park during one of their special events. Such events include Beach Bash Glow, Water Wars, Superhero Glow, Labor Day Party, Zombie Apocalypse Glow, or Scout Night. You can see further details on the events page here.
During our visit here, our experience ended during evening time, when it started to get dark outside. Abby had pointed out how the lines in the park were beginning to be lit up with LED lights. It was really neat to see. I think the next time we come back, I am going to try and book a later time to be able to see the entire park lit up at night, as they stay open until 10:00 pm with the latest start time of 6:15 pm. I have seen photos on the website of the park lit up, but I am sure that the in-person experience is out of this world and a completely different experience.
Overall, we had such an amazing adventure climbing and playing in the trees at TreeRunner both times we have visited. I still have yet to experience the Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond courses myself, so I know that we definitely plan on returning in the near future. It is such a different experience every time you go, and with the changes planned in the park, it looks like we will be able to have new and exciting experiences in the future as well. If you haven’t already, you need to check this out for yourself. Make sure you keep in mind, TreeRunner Adventure Parks are not just for kids. It will challenge adults of all ages as well. So make it a point to book your treetops adventure at TreeRunner as soon as you get an opportunity. Remember, they currently have 3 locations; West Bloomfield Michigan, Grand Rapids Michigan, and Raleigh North Carolina. You won’t be disappointed. See you in the trees.