A new retreat and adventure center opened this summer in Thaxton, breathing life into land that has been vacant for many years.
The Peaks Retreat and Adventure Center is located at 1336 Simmons Mill Road in Thaxton. After WoodmenLife Insurance Company closed the Woods Adventure and Conference Retreat at the site five years ago, the 66-acre property sat vacant until a new tenant, CustomEd, purchased the land in September 2021.
CustomEd, the company that owns The Peaks, is a non-profit organization that designs and implements educational and outreach programs for a variety of causes and organizations.
Hunter Gilbert, program director at The Peaks, said the company wanted a place to host corporate retreats, summer camps and events.
He said that turned into being able to open up to do various other things, especially in the surrounding community.
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The Peaks Retreat & Adventure Center officially opened about two months ago and has hosted two camps, Anxious for Nothing and Bias Chana, so far this summer.
The center will mainly run youth camps during the summer months, but during the rest of the year it is planned to be open for corporate events, tours, community days and festival-style activities.
Missy Morris, center manager at The Peaks, said she was excited to have a new outdoor education and adventure facility in the area.
“Specializing in camps and retreats, The Peaks also provides a great location for private events such as corporate team building, festivals, weddings and more,” he said in an email. “In the shadow of the beautiful Peaks of Otter, the facility has not only scenic beauty, but also the thrill of adventure.”
He said The Peaks offers a unique challenge course that includes climbing walls and a 400-foot gravity zipline, as well as two miles of hiking trails, a swimming pool, basketball and sand volleyball courts, archery, disc golf and a 1-acre lake. for canoeing.
Gilbert said the gravity zip line is a little different than some traditional zip lines — a person’s weight determines how far it swings down.
It is also set up so that they are brought back to the ground by a facilitator just above the platform and there is a device that the staff train them how to use and learn how to get down to the platform.
“All of our facilitators have gone through the proper training and make sure that safety is our number one concern and that everyone is prepared for a fun, safe ride,” he said.
The property also features a high ropes course and a low ropes course. The low ropes course has 11 elements, while the high ropes course has a high climbing wall, a short climbing wall and a zip line, Gilbert said. He added that new high ropes courses could be added in the future.
A 3-acre activity field on the property allows for kickball or Olympic relay games.
This fall, the center will offer primitive camping sites and six fixed year-round flash sites built on deck platforms, which will feature 16-foot-by-24-foot canvas tents, a queen bed, bunk bed, sitting area and a piece of wood. lit fire stove.
Glamping is a form of camping that includes accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
At this five-acre campground in Gilbert, there is a plan to hold events and use the parking lot for a wine festival or music festival.
At the front of the property, the 3,000 square foot main function room is set up for family gatherings, weddings or other ceremonies.
Two accommodation buildings can accommodate up to 72 people at a time during the night.
The center also has an outdoor gazebo and garden with four solo stoves and 24 seating areas for sitting around a fire at night.
The Peaks is planning events until 2023.
Anxious for Nothing, a Bedford nonprofit comprised of a skateboarding and feeding ministry, took 54 middle and high school students to The Peaks this summer.
Carla Powell, founder of the nonprofit, said the kids enjoyed the zip lining, canoes, trails and pool for the three-day retreat.
“Missy, Hunter and the staff were very welcoming, knowing we were offering this camp for free and they worked hard to accommodate our needs,” he said. “What we loved most was how close everything is to the facility, which makes it feel like a family retreat. We plan to return next year.”
Gilbert said he wants to bring a wide variety of kids to the center so they can learn in a different environment.
“The outdoor learning materials are great, but we also like to focus on teamwork and communication skills, and for kids this age, building confidence and using outdoor skills to build their confidence,” he said.
He also wants adults to be able to use the outdoor facilities and wants the center to be shared with anyone who wants to use it.
“We’re very open to tailoring these programs to make sure they meet the needs of the consumer,” he said.
Bais Chana, a nonprofit organization that runs Jewish educational programs for girls and women, also used the camp earlier this month.
“We look for properties that have a good combination of outdoor entertainment and creative arts space, and The Peaks couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Hinda Leah Sharfstein with Bais Chana in an email.
Leah Zavelevich, a camper with Bais Chana, said The Peaks felt like a home away from home and the staff felt like family.
“They were always on top of everything, friendly and flexible with anything we needed or wanted to do! And the sunsets were spectacular!” he said in an email.