A new retreat and adventure center opened this summer in Thaxton, breathing life into land that has been empty for many years.
The Peaks Recreation and Adventure Center is located at 1336 Simmons Mill Road in Thaxton. After WoodmenLife Insurance Company closed its 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 meetings, summer camps and events.
He said it translated into the ability to open up to doing a variety of other things, especially in the surrounding community.
People also read…
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 the rest of the year is planned to be open for corporate events, field trips, community days and festival-type activities.
Missy Morris, center director 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 venue for private events including corporate team building, festivals, weddings and more,” she said in an email. “Located in the shadows of the beautiful Otter Peaks, the facility has not only scenic beauty but also the thrill of adventure.”
She said The Peaks offers a unique challenge, including 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 one-acre pond for canoeing.
Gilbert said the gravity zip line is a little different than some traditional zip lines — a person’s weight determines how far down they swing.
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 to use and they learn how to get off the platform.
“All our facilitators have gone through proper training and we are sure that safety is our number one concern and everyone is ready for a fun and safe ride,” he said.
The property also features a high and low ropes course. The low rope has 11 elements, while the high rope has a high climbing wall, a short climbing wall and a zip line, Gilbert said. He added that new high ropes courses may be added in the future.
A three-acre activity field on the property allows for kickball or Olympic relay events.
This fall, the center will offer primitive camping sites and six permanent year-round glamping sites built on deck platforms that will include 16-foot-by-24-foot canvas tents, a queen-size bed, a bunk bed, a living room and a wood-burning fireplace.
Glamping is a form of camping featuring accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
At this five-acre campground, Gilbert, there is a plan to host 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 event hall is set up for family gatherings, weddings or other ceremonies.
Two accommodation buildings can accommodate up to 72 people at a time.
The center also has an outdoor pavilion and garden with four stand-alone stoves and 24 seating areas to sit around a fire at night.
The Peaks are planning events until 2023.
Anxious for Nothing, a Bedford-based nonprofit that consists of a skateboarding and nutrition ministry, took 54 middle and high school students to The Peaks this summer.
Carla Powell, founder of the nonprofit, said the kids had fun ziplining, canoeing, trails and a pool for the three-day retreat.
“Missy, Hunter and the staff were very accommodating knowing we were offering this camp for free and worked hard to meet our needs,” she said. “What we liked most was how close everything is in 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 educational materials are really good, but we also really like to focus on teamwork and communication skills, and for kids this age, building confidence and using outdoor skills to build their self-esteem.” , he said.
He also wants seniors 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 customizing these programs to make sure they meet the needs of consumers,” he said.
Bais Chana, a nonprofit that runs Jewish education programs for girls and women, also used the camp earlier this month.
“We look for properties that have a good mix of outdoor entertainment and creative arts space, and The Peaks couldn’t be more perfect,” Bais Chana’s Hinda Leah Scharfstein said in an email.
Leah Zavelevich, a camper with Bais Chana, said The Peaks feels like a home away from home and the staff feels like family.
“They were always on top of everything, friendly and flexible with anything we needed or wanted done! And the sunsets were incredible!” she said in an email.