Jason Boyes brings out your inner Bear GryllsJason Boyes is what you might call a confidence-builder. For several years, the 39-year-old outdoors enthusiast has been teaching ordinary people like you and me how to meet challenges and overcome our basic fears as we try things like rock climbing, ropes courses and, most recently, ziplining 190 feet above the ground.
Boyes has brought his background in "experiential education" to Mountain Springs Lodge, home to one of the Northwest's newest zipline adventures and a lot of other forms of outdoor recreation. The Plain-area resort opened Leavenworth Ziplines on its forested property in 2014 and Boyes is the person in charge of making sure everyone has an amazing -- and safe -- experience.
But before you get the idea that Boyes is some sort of Bear Grylls that will make you wrestle a crocodile or eat maggots to quell your innermost fears, the zipline adventure at Mountain Springs is actually tame enough for our most senior senior citizens such as the 86-year-old who has completed the Mountain Springs adventure, along with a whole host of people well beyond retirement age. Ziplining is as simple as clipping your harness onto a line and letting gravity take you high across the forest canopy.
It's a thrill ride, but not the kind that leaves your stomach turned inside out. The lines are at a slight downward angle with just enough gravitational force to keep you moving at a decent clip, but not so fast that you're out of control. When you reach the other side, the system automatically brakes.
There are eight ziplines at Leavenworth Ziplines and you can do all eight, or do five out of the eight for a shorter adventure. Figure up to three hours for the longer version, about half that for the five lines. Prices range from $85 for an adult on the longer tour to $55 for a child on the shorter tour. Kids just have to be at least seven years old and a minimum of 70 pounds while adults can't be over 270 pounds.
Boyes will make sure you're comfortable with the whole procedure by having you try it first on a shorter line close to the ground. Your confidence will start building pretty fast, Boyes says.
"People in their heads may think it's scary and talk themselves out of it, but once they get up there they see we take safety seriously. Then they step out and really start enjoying it," Boyes explained.
The end result, of course, is spectacular. It's the feeling of soaring like a bird through some of the prettiest mountain scenery anywhere. For some it even can be a feeling of accomplishment, although the only real challenge here is accepting the idea that you are high above the ground suspended from a cable.
The ziplines have surpassed all of the resort's expectations in terms of customer interest -- the lines have been busy ever since opening last year. They close down during the winter months, generally late October, and resume operation in May depending on the weather.
When the lines aren't operating, Boyes takes his confidence-building skills over to the resort's snowmobiling operation. Mountain Springs has 10 miles of trails right on its property and access to 150 miles of trails through Forest Service land.
The snowmobile tours allow guests to drive their snowmobiles rather than ride on the back, and Boyes takes the time to carefully instruct new riders about the do's and don'ts of riding snowmobiles through the gorgeous backcountry of North Central Washington. Up to 80 percent of the people taking these tours are first-time riders.
Riders are outfitted in snowmobile suits, gloves, boots and helmets and are instructed how to start, stop and lean into their turns. They also are asked to follow in a single line.
"Corners are where all the problems happen," Boyes said. The solution is to keep the sleds in line traveling at the appropriate speed for the terrain, he says. There is a minimum of one guide per five customers.
A lot of families take the snowmobile tours, as well as couples. It turns out that riding a snowmobile with your significant other or extended family members can be a really fun shared experience that is unique, but not difficult, while allowing everyone to participate.
Boyes is a Southern California native who especially enjoys getting out in the Northwest mountains on a pair of cross-country skis, or hiking in the summer. But he says he's really come to appreciate the convenience of getting deep into the backcountry very quickly on a snowmobile.
You might think a SoCal boy would get a little cold on a snowmobile, but he says the equipment they provide keeps it comfortable.
"And," he adds, "I really do love the seasons up here."
(You can have Jason help build your confidence by visiting Mountain Springs Lodge where you will find Leavenworth Ziplines. Find them on the web at www.leavenworthziplines.com or phone Mountain Springs Lodge at 800-858-2276.)
PHOTOS: Jason Boyes at Leavenworth Ziplines
RECOMMENDED LODGING: Leavenworth lodging
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