So how do you like your zipline - with wine or pines?
Two distinct adventure opportunities await visitors to the Central Coast and Lake Tahoe. And regardless of which you choose, you can count on finishing with a smile.
Let's start with wine. The Santa Margarita Ranch, just off Highway 101 between San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, was already a destination thanks to Ancient Peaks Winery. But the addition of Margarita Adventures is one more reason to visit.
"Although we had gone wine tasting before ziplining, my euphoria was due solely to the CHILDLIKE GLEE that comes from jumping into the air and gliding like a bird across a stunning landscape."
The company added zipline tours of the ranch, giving visitors a unique perspective on an amazing property. The 13,800-acre ranch dates to 1774 when it was part of the Spanish mission system. It remains one of the largest private land holdings in California. Visiting is like walking back in time.
Spanish padres were the first to grow grapes there. Today, rows and rows of vines stretch out along canyon bottoms and the hillsides are populated by moss-draped oaks. The unspoiled California beauty would still be familiar to the Chumash Indians who ground acorns in the bedrock mortars still visible on the ranch.
The adventure begins with a lengthy bus ride from the office on El Camino Real in Santa Margarita. It winds across the ranch, and up a hillside to the jumping-off point for the first of five ziplines that together equal 4,500 feet of scream-inducing fun.
A crew of friendly guides immediately helped us into our harnesses and helmets. And after a detailed safety briefing, April and I were soon whizzing along the 1,200-foot Renegade run, which carried us across a vineyard and deposited us in an oak forest across the valley.
It was a perfect day to be outside. Sunny and warm, but not hot. The hills still green from what little rain had recently fallen. And although we had gone wine tasting before ziplining,
my euphoria was due solely to the childlike glee that comes from jumping into the air and gliding like a bird across a stunning landscape.
The Treetop Adventure Park behind Granlibakken Resort in North Lake Tahoe also boasts iconic scenery. Granlibakken is Norwegian for "hillside sheltered by fir trees." Modeled after European adventure courses, Treetop offers a series of rope-based obstacles and ziplines built among the trees - but without damaging them.
We booked it for the kids, and as soon as we saw what they were playing on, we immediately regretted not adding ourselves to the registration. Treetop consists of two different courses that offer more than 50 different challenges and ziplines.
Because of her size, Amber, 6, spent her session in the Flying Squirrel Zone, which employs a safety system that smaller hands can easily manage. Athletic and dauntless in the face of challenge, she made numerous laps through the course during our 2.5-hour time slot. She kept up with older kids and quickly moved ahead of more timid adventurers.
The older three kids - Laurel, 12, Drew, 10, and Brooke, 9 - took to the Monkey Zone. They balanced on logs suspended from the trees and deftly picked their way across wobbly obstacles that made me dizzy standing on the ground.
The excitement was palpable as the kids called to each other between obstacles, urging their siblings or newfound friends to try more difficult challenges.
Treetop's adventures match your craving for adrenaline. When you've mastered the easier challenges, you can push yourself higher, taking on Windchimes, with nine events and three different ziplines.
At the end of the session, the kids were all smiles. Each wore the same breathless grin that I had after gliding across a vineyard.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, where the drought has taken its toll on the trees. Maybe they need more wine.
Zip to It
Treetop Adventure Center