Spending a day at an aerial challenge course is not something I would have ever chosen to do on my own.
Earlier this spring, the St. Croix Valley invited me to visit the area, sending me a package of gift certificates and brochures to provide trip ideas.
One of the items provided tickets to try the aerial challenge courses or zipline tours at Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreational Area which functions as a ski resort in the winter.
I invited two friends to try the Aerial Challenge Courses at Trollhaugen. The course consists of over 100 platforms arranged in six courses ranging in five difficulty levels. Two of us were less comfortable with heights while the other was not bothered.
Because of the time it takes to gear up and learn how to use the equipment, guests should make reservations. Each admission fee includes three hours on the course. Reservations also ensure that the courses don’t become overcrowded. We arrived for the first tour slot at 10 a.m.
Having no knowledge of how to navigate a ropes course, I felt that the staff did a great job training us how to use the safety mechanisms and cable clasps. First, an employee will help you put on the harnesses and safety gear, checking to make sure you’re adequately strapped in. Then, they will teach you how to use the clasps and cables on a little practice course. You can practice until you are comfortable moving on to the real one.
An employee mentioned the courses are inspected every morning.
Although you are free to navigate the challenge course on your own, staff take many safety precautions. They make sure you are correctly hooked up to the cables at the first station. From this point, the only thing you can really mess up is not connecting properly into the next cable. This means that you would still be safely connected to the prior station and simply can’t move on to the next. From the first station to the bottom of the final zip line you are never disconnected from the safety cables.
Staff instruct you to yell “STAFF” for assistance and they’ll coordinate a rescue mission. They also watch guests closely to make sure no one needs help. Finally, they require that guests start at the easiest level before moving to the next difficulty level. One can’t simply begin on an intermediate level or jump from the easy level to the hardest.
You are presented with a new obstacle as you move from platform to platform. This could walking along a log or wiggly bridge, or ziplining into a big net that you must climb across.
Ziplining from one platform to another felt exhilarating. I’m so glad I did something different with my weekend afternoon and had a blast. Prior to our experience, I would never have chosen the ziplining tour option out of my discomfort of heights. Afterwards, I felt ready to go.
Things to know before you go (their FAQ with guidelines and waivers is located here):
- Make a reservation before you go.
- Wear appropriate closed-toe footwear.
- Wear clothing that can get bumped or snagged. We wore short sleeves and were fine.
- If it’s sunny, wear sunscreen.
- Don’t arrive in a hurry. Signing in, getting outfitted, and trained will take time. From there, the time will go by quickly and you’ll probably want to spend entire three hours exploring.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Lunch at the Vegetarian
We had intended to make some more stops in the area, but had so much fun at the challenge course that we only had enough time left for a meal.
A couple of friends recommended The Vegetarian, a vegetarian and vegan Indian restaurant in St. Croix Falls. They also mentioned this restaurant used to be located in Colombia Heights. The menu offers North and South Indian dishes. The iced chais and mango lassis tasted very refreshing.
We ordered vegetable korma, a dish we order whenever we see it, as well as the Masala dosa filled with potato and onion filling and onion and pea uthappam.
The menu describes both the dosa and uthappam being made with a rice and lentil batter. The dosa is thinner and crepe-like while the uthappam had a thicker and spongier texture. Both came with sambar and coconut chutney for dipping. We didn’t find the sambar strongly flavored but all together we enjoyed the crepe and pancake.
The vegetable korma had a fantastic flavor. One thing to know is that the portion size of this entree could have served one hungry person comfortably.
Seasoned basmati rice came with our meals. I loved the flavor. If you are looking for tasty vegetarian food in the St. Croix Valley that differs from what you might imagine you’d find in a small town in MN or WI, you might want to stop here.
On our way home, we stopped at The Drive In located in Taylors Falls. This restaurant has operated since 1956 and the owners have since expanded to two other locations Look for the big, spinning Mug of root beer. Yup, The Drive In is its name and it’s literally a drive-in. Cars can pull into parking spots and order or customers can choose a table. If you dine in your car, your server will bring over one of those trays that hang from your window.
This restaurant is very popular. It’s located down the street from Interstate Park. I imagine visit before or after a trip exploring the park.
The menu offers a good variety of savory items and appetizers. The burger prices are higher than what you might find at a typical fast food restaurant, but are made with fresh, hand-packed beef the restaurant says is ground specially for them by a particular supplier. I have heard friends recommend their burgers.
We simply ordered ice cream cones and a malt for the way home. With 90 degree temperatures, we had to enjoy them too quickly to photograph .
The bluffs and the river are beautiful. I am hoping to return to visit more places and see the fall leaves before winter.
Thanks again to the St. Croix Valley for hosting part of our visit. Are you familiar with the St. Croix Valley area? Any other recommendations for a future visit?