Amy Roberts: Looking before you leap |

Amy Roberts: Looking before you leap

Park Record columnist Amy Roberts.

I managed to squeeze in one last trip before summer’s unofficial close. Had to is more like it. Last Christmas, I promised my niece, Addison, that every summer I would take her on a trip. Even better, she gets to pick the destination. There were a few caveats — three to four days max, and anything Disney is for her mom, not Aunt Amy. But aside from that, it’s her choice.

The promise came about because Addison (and I) were annoyed by her mom’s over-protective nature. I had offered to take her roller skating and my sister, Michele, initially said no; it was too dangerous. Something about needing a special helmet or maybe it was the rink’s dodgy location, perhaps Covid related. I don’t remember her excuse. My sister is not a helicopter parent; she’s a drone.

Eventually, Addison and I got our way and hit the roller rink. When we do things together, she comments that she has more fun with me because there are “no rules” and I remind her about the “don’t tell your mom” rule. But for the most part, her assessment isn’t wrong. Generally speaking, when I’m in charge, Addison is allowed to take risks, get dirty, and skin her knees. Which is why Montana was the perfect first trip for the two of us.

For being just shy of eight, Addison’s pretty well traveled. She’s had a passport since she was two years old and used it most years since. But still, her understanding of geography is very much aligned with that of a second grader. Namibia or Nevada — they both might as well be the same distance.

So I coached her a bit on the location. Enticed, really. I had an assignment to write about The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana and suggested that’s where we go. I showed Addison the website and the long list of exciting activities offered. The picture of s’mores was all it took.

So that’s where we spent Labor Day. And the kid is still talking about the trip. I know this because since our return, my sister has texted me daily asking things like, “Did you really let Addison throw knives?” And, “Did my child really walk next to a bear?” Also, “What’s this I hear about her jumping off a 60-foot platform?”

And that’s just the stuff she knows about.

The adventure options at Paws Up are nearly limitless — we could have stayed for a month and hardly scratched the surface. 

But we did our best to squeeze them all into the three days we had. Horseback riding, four wheeling, archery, hiking (which turned into bear spotting), river rafting, and yes, knife throwing — under the watchful supervision of the resort’s survivalist guide.

Addison also opted to try a ropes course, so we signed up to make our way from tree to tree while navigating obstacles roughly 30 feet off the ground. Four other adults were on our tour, she was the only kiddo. They were impressed, if not a tad concerned, when Addison chose the most difficult course for our group. I think we would have all preferred the “intermediate” option, but no one wanted to be shown up by a second grader.

The last obstacle was to climb a tree to a platform 60 feet off the ground, which you were then expected to jump off, freefalling for a few seconds before the safety cables caught and slowed your descent.

Every one of us peered over the edge, knees shaking, taking several minutes to work up the courage. Everyone except Addison. She was the last to climb and the quickest to jump, waiting no more than the few seconds it took for the guide to give her the go ahead before launching herself into the air.

I’m not sure if I should be proud… or terrified of what’s next. At this rate, I’ll be swimming with crocodiles or walking across hot coals next summer. Then again, she’s already told me she doesn’t want to go anywhere new next year, preferring instead to return to Paws Up, “Every year until I’m afraid to jump like you were, Amy.”

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