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Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Northwest Trek's Zip Wild adds to thrills

The last time I was at Northwest Trek, the tram driver slowly passed through the lives of bison, elk and other animals, an outing that was neither physically nor mentally challenging.
Now, however, there's been a fear factor introduced to the calm of the park.
Northwest Trek has gone wild. The Zip Wild aerial obstacle course is far more than being strapped into a safety harness and hanging like a sack of coffee beans as gravity moves you from one platform to another.
Yes, the Deep Forest challenge has six zip-lines, but it's so much more: navigating across log bridges high up in the trees, walking a tightrope 50 feet in the air, climbing a 30-foot wall, and other mental and physical challenges.
Once you've been there, done that, know that the French company that runs the adventure may install an extreme version of the current challenge.
Zip Wild is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. Reservations are required. A maximum of 15 participants are sent through in one-hour blocks. There are reservation, age, height, weight, parental supervision and shoe requirements.
It costs $39.95 to play, in addition to entrance fees. For more information and photographs, go to www.nwtrek.org/zip-line.
No permits: You're too late if you want to climb Mount St. Helens this summer. Every permit to climb the volcano has been sold ($22) through mid-September. The per-day limit is 100 climbers. Almost 14,000 permits have been sold.
Hope in numbers: Despite North American waterfowl breeding habitat continuing to decline, a record for waterfowl production was set this year.
The result of a survey taken by Canada and United States fish and wildlife agencies was that an estimated 48.6 million bird count was 43 percent above the long-term average and 3 million above last year's number.
The assessment was reported in "Trends in Duck Breeding Populations."
In terms of percentage over the long-term average, mallards (39 percent), gadwalls (10 percent) and green-winged teals (20 percent) led the way.
Lighthouse changes hands: The Point No Point Light Station, the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound, is now owned by Kitsap County. The lighthouse near Hansville was transferred from the Department of the Interior.
Sitting on the northern end of Kitsap Peninsula, the Point No Point lighthouse must be used for educational or recreation activities as well as be preserved.
No falls: A section of the popular (for in-shape hikers) Comet Falls Trail at Mount Rainier National Park recently was buried by an avalanche. While there was hope that the trail could be reopened, park officials now have decided that it would be unsafe to open the last section given the hazardous conditions.
Without access to that section, the falls cannot be seen.
Happy hikers: The North Fork Sauk (Road 49) has been reopened by the Darrington Ranger District, restoring access to Glacier Peak and Henry M. Jackson wilderness areas.
The road is one of only two major access points; the other is the Suiattle River Road, still closed for repairs.
Many of the higher-elevation trails are snow-covered, so contact the district for more information at 360-435-1155.
What next? Yes, last week's RoboSquirrel was cute and effective, but science moves on. Researchers have now created a freely swimming artificial jellyfish out of cultured rat heart muscle and inanimate silicon.
Give credit to researchers at Harvard and California Institute of Technology for reverse engineering a living organism.
The theory is that the artificial jellyfish can help unlock the secrets of the pumping done to move through water and thus help to understand the human heart's pumping mechanism.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.
Story tags » Wildlife HabitatHikingSauk RiverMount RainierMount St. Helens

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