The hale and hearty team of instructors at Eco Expedition Educators boast an array of titles and certifications, including wilderness EMT, combat veteran, firefighter, master scuba diver trainer, sail boat captain, and U.S. Coast Guard medic—and there are only four of them on staff.
When participants take classes at Eco Expedition Educators, they gain an in-depth understanding of how to get themselves out of Mother Nature's toughest scrapes. Each guided expedition introduces novices to sticky situations they might encounter when outdoors, then equips them with the knowledge needed to escape unscathed or at least survive long enough to whittle a cellphone out of tree bark.
Westerville Community Center's indoor cliff challenges climbers to test their ascending skills and conquer gravity in five free-form climbing sessions. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete wall soars to 30 feet, mimicking the natural formations, aesthetics, and textures of mountain traversing to give mountaineers a real-life climb without repeated dead ends at carved presidential noses. The tower's slate of nine top-rope routes pits clamberers against a range of sloped challenges, and four auto-belay units help climbers safely descend to the ground. Throughout every ascension session, Westerville Community Center's cadre of trained climbing guides strolls the facility floor to provide instruction to new wall tamers, support seasoned climbers, and ward off territorial billy goats.
Outside of saddling a flying squirrel or constructing a eagle-drawn chariot, there’s nothing quite like zipping from tree to tree through a blur of branches and leaves, hearing the fresh forest air whiz by. To bring the experience to central Ohioans, Jerrod and Lori Pingle built a network of ziplining platforms in the forest canopy of Camp Mary Orton and began leading ZipZone canopy tours. During the company’s signature two-hour tour, professionally trained guides lead guests through the sky-brush and over ravines and streams, just out of reach of leaping sasquatches. To protect the natural scenery that surrounds the 20-acre tour, ZipZone implements a number of eco-friendly measures, such as building hiking trails in lieu of roads, limiting tree intrusions, and reducing soil compaction.
Boasting a course of 18 ziplines and a high-ropes course, Hocking Peaks Adventure Park immerses adventurers of all ages in a multitiered wilderness playground sprawling through the woods and fields of Hocking Hills. Surrounded by a sun-dappled tree canopy, the ropes course combines 60 midair challenges—including catwalks, suspended logs, and rope crossings—that visitors can surmount while strapped into safety harnesses that also help them blend in with current forest fashion trends. For kids, an alternative course and zipline hang a few feet above the ground. Within the same woods, ATV rides cover 15 miles of rambling ground trails, while paintball matches storm a separate wooded area with two levels of play and built-up cover.
As they emerge from the woodland playground, guests can take on the 42-foot high inflatable waterslide, or climb into one-, two-, or three-person transparent Ogo balls to roll down a hillside course more gracefully than a classically trained hamster. Additionally, an 18-hole disc-golf course—designed by professional disc-course planners Innova—sprawls through 6,000 feet of hills, beckoning players to aim for chain-fringed baskets.
The Hocking Hills Adventure Trek team is as diverse as the wilderness they explore. Guides include living history performers who educate visitors through songs and stories and naturalists who lead outdoor adventures through the wilderness. While the performers showcase their talents at an outdoor amphitheater, guides lead visitors on year-round nature hikes through little-seen areas of the Hocking State Forest and state nature preserves. The company also leads guided rock-climbing and rappelling trips and guided fishing trips at AEP Recreation lands.
The Haunted Trail of Horror channels bone-chilling monsters, specters, and spirits confirmed by expert mediums into acres of spine-tingling woodlands. Located next to a cemetery, the trail plays out 18 different scenes that feature such haunts as headless zombies, evil clowns, and the vengeful ghosts of the ants that were slain in your childhood sandbox. Hazy fog and eerie webs drape the wooded path as visitors sneak past iconic movie haunts and cursed headstones. Upon approaching the haunted oaks, the Tunnel of Doom flashes black lights and strobe lights to warn guests of the ensuing spirits. The haunted experience is not intended for children, pregnant women, those with breathing problems, or those with evil-beagle familiars.