New Highs

Take Catamount. While aerial adventure parks have been popular in Europe for decades, the phenomenon didn’t come to America until the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course was unveiled in upstate New York in 2007. “It’s such a unique and exciting outing that I’m surprised it didn’t get here sooner,” says Ralph Selvaggi, a partner in the firm Outdoor Ventures, which designed and built the Catamount park.


The layout, he says, is based on the Swiss design that allows you to finish one course and return to the same starting platform to try another. Similar to a downhill ski slope, Catamount’s 11 courses are rated from easy to challenging, offering participants flexibility in how they choose their adventures. (Adirondack Extreme, by contrast, is based on the French design, with each course steadily becoming more challenging until you reach the end.) As the concept continues to gain popularity, Selvaggi bullishly envisions aerial adventure parks popping up across the country.

“You get a workout, have fun with the family, and are immersed in this Indiana Jones type of adventure. What’s not to like?” he says.

WHILE AERIAL ADVENTURE PARKS represent a certain capital-intensive end of the high-adventure scale, another sport becoming immensely popular in New England requires nothing more than a pair of boots and a Garmin GPS system. It’s called geocaching, and is essentially a modern-day treasure hunt on which you find objects hidden by fellow participants in film canisters, coffee cans, and other containers. After carefully camouflaging the prize under a tree or squeezing it into a crack in a rock, the person hiding the cache sends the coordinates to the website ( and the search begins.

The sport originated outside of Portland, Oregon, in 2000, when a man posted that first cache on a website, but it has its roots in orienteering and letterboxing, a common hobby in the U.K. that combines compass skills with puzzle-solving. 

“There’s a site that ranks geocachers,” explains Ken Rozzen of Warren, Massachusetts. Since he began geocaching in 2004, Rozzen (a.k.a. Tree Man) has located more than 7,800 “finds” — and is currently the fifth-highest-ranked geocacher in the state. “Three years ago, there were some 200 to 400 Massachusetts residents on the site. Today there are over 2,000 people with more than 12,000 finds in the state,” says Rozzen. Add to that 1,500 geocachers throughout New England, and another 5 million geocachers worldwide, and you begin to get the sense that the woods and hills are alive — with coffee cans.

For families, geocaching can be a great way to enjoy a hike together — with the promise of a treasure at the end of the trail. Inside every cache is some sort of trinket, maybe a marble or a toy car or a sticker. The object itself is hardly the goal — once found, the discoverer replaces it with another item for the next seeker.

Rozzen likes to be the first one to find a new cache posted online; that’s when the prizes tend to be more rewarding, like a $20 bill or a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant. The best part about the sport, though, is not merely checking off another cache, he says. It’s finding sites in New England that no guide book has ever described — often spots locals have cherished for decades and are now eager to share with strangers taking part in the activity.

“There are places that just blow your mind:  hidden waterfalls, caves with hieroglyphics, lonely mountain peaks with no other people,” says Rozzen. One of his favorite adventures was a hike in the Berkshires through a pristine pasture. Eventually he reached a hollowed-out boulder; inside was the tomb of a late 19th-century farmer and his sister, who were both afraid to be buried underground.