Back in the early 1990s, ACE (that's American Coaster Enthusiasts) published something called Guide to Ride. It was a listing of all the operating coasters at the time with pictures, information, park locations, you name it. It was basically a print version of rcdb.com before there even was such a thing. One of the coasters listed in that book was a freakish contraption called Ice Mountain Bobsleds at some park called Enchanted Forest. It looked odd. I wanted to ride it.
Flash forward more than 20 years and it's 2013 and I'm going to find myself in Portland, Oregon as a stop on my vacation. Enchanted Forest is about an hour south of there and even though it's a kiddieland and even though I don't care about wandering thru storybook forest, I set out to finally see this thing for myself.
OK, so I guess if you have kids - LITTLE kids - this is sorta neat. While there is actually a path to get to the handful of rides, including the coaster, without having to first trek through storybook forest, the rides don't open until a half hour after the park opens, so I figured what the hell, maybe there will be something worth seeing.
The place was crawling with little children, but it didn't take long before the swarm of ankle biters was behind me, since I really didn't need nor want to look in every little window of every little house along the way. I'd already made peace with the fact that I had driven an hour out of my way to a kiddie wonderland to ride a kiddie coaster, but being surrounded by tots and toddlers is not my favorite thing, especially when they're essentially on their home turf. Outnumbered and without home court advantage? No thanks! I made use of my longer legs and lack of curiosity and was soon far ahead of them. Still no coaster in sight, though. I must admit that in spite of being more than four times the age of the park's target demographic, "seriously charming" was how I could've described the place. A fantasy-laden fake ice mountain complete with coaster would fit right in here. I started getting excited.
Wait, what? So now there's an Old West section? WTF? From storybook land to Old West, I didn't seem to be getting near anything that should produce something called "Ice Mountain Bobsleds". Still, since I was ahead of everyone now and this section was still empty, it was equal parts creepy and cool. I considered hanging out here for awhile, but the sounds of approaching feet meant that every minute spent here would mean fewer rides on the coaster before the crowds caught up. I trudged on, leaving the squeals of delight from the rugrats even farther behind me. Then I saw it.
I was simultaneously disappointed and awestruck. I was disappointed because the picture in the Guide to Ride made it look SO much bigger. It's tiny, but perched on a hill so it gains a lot of size from the angle of the photo. Awestruck because... well, because Sharknado. Let me explain:
Just prior to this trip, there was a movie on TV called Sharknado. It was about a tornado full of sharks. The sharks rained down on people and two jackasses flew a helicopter on a learner's permit right up to the sharknado and dropped bombs into it to dissipate it (because that's what you do to kill a sharknado - information filed for future reference) and some bimbo got eaten and about fifteen minutes later she was cut out of the shark's belly with a chainsaw and was totally fine. Now, if you had sat down to watch that movie expecting good acting, good special effects, a good script, a plot, character development, or any of that stuff that makes a movie good, then you were sorely disappointed. But if you watched it in the frame of mind that you wanted some silly fun without regard for quality and liked being slack-jawed that the thing even existed at all, then you had a great time in front of the TV that night.
This, friends and neighbours, is the roller coaster equivalent of Sharknado.
Check out those cars! Seriously, just look at that shit! Where have you seen anything like that before? Nowhere, that's where. This thing has one-of-a-kind written all over it and I am stoked.
I should probably explain a bit of history about this ride now. Back in the 80s, this was some sort of Alpine Slide. I have a feeling that it was kinda homemade, as the remnants of it are still clearly visible from this ride and it's unlike anything I'm familiar with in terms of Alpine Slides. For whatever reason, it didn't really work out like they wanted. So, a couple years later they came up with a plan to slap some track on it and make a coaster out of it. No, seriously. That's what they did. Sitting in a car on rails, though, makes you a lot taller than sitting on some sled on the ground, so they made the cars with lids on them to insure that you can't possibly stick your hand out anywhere. This is a good thing, because there are numerous times when those lids come within an inch or so of that mountain and the tunnels. Stick an arm out and lose it! Bonus: since you're basically locked into a little box, there's really no need for seat belts or anything like that. Where you gonna go, anyway? So you sit down on a padded rail on the floor of the car and they clamp the plastic lid down over your head and off you go.
So you're faced with having to look through the plastic Swiss cheese thing. It takes a few seconds, but your eyes finally adjust to looking past it. The camera, however, couldn't figure out how NOT to focus on it, so I ended up having to shoot through the holes. That's pretty hard to do while the ride is going, because... well, BECAUSE. Kiddie ride or not, this thing is wonky. Remember, this is basically a homemade coaster on top of an already-failed ride. Sharknado, people. Roll with it.
After a trip up the side of the fake mountain and a dark turn inside a tunnel, the ride picks up a bit of speed and rolls down the chutes of the old slide. Whatever attempt was made at making the concrete look like snow and ice is immediately lost amongst the lush green foliage and dead leaves in the trough.
Turns happen. This is where the absurdity of this thing starts to kick in HARD. The turns aren't exactly banked enough... or too much... or sometimes both. The gage of the track is very narrow, which leads to these boxcars feeling seriously top-heavy like an old Chance Toboggan ride. They rock and roll around the turns, narrowly missing the sides of the trough, tossing riders this way and that inside the padded cars. With absolutely no seat belts or lap bars, those (like me) who are in a car by themselves suddenly feel pretty vulnerable. That's when the giggles started.
A couple more turns and you've run out of "ice" though. You can see where the trough should go and there's track on that part, too, but apparently whoever came up with this crazy idea to make a coaster out of an Alpine Slide decided, "what the fuck, let's run it through the woods!" So they did. This is when the giggles turned into full-on laughing fits. Everything about this ride is just so wrong in so many ways, you can't help but love it.
As the cars twist and turn (still with improper banking on most of the turns) around the trees, bouncing over small hills (including one with some bizarre sideways airtime), and generally tossing me around in the little plastic box like a rag doll, I find that I'm having the most fun I've had on any ride of the trip so far. I'm laughing uncontrollably and I know people think I'm nuts, but I don't care. This is GREAT! After one low-level pseudo-half-helix, there's a second lift hill to get from the forest back to the mountain part.
I had intended to ride this thing a time or two, then leave before the kids caught up. That didn't happen. I don't know how many times I rode it, but I was still there long after the munchkins invaded, making the queue stack up. I know I looked like an idiot, the only guy there without kids in tow, but I saw the look on the parents' faces when they rode. They were having a blast, too. Some of them were laughing like I did. I left Enchanted Forest completely dumbfounded at how something so wrong, so ill-conceived, so low-budget, and so improbable could be so damn much fun. Sharknado, indeed.
Enchanted Forest went from being a CreHo stop to a place I can't wait to go back to. Highly recommended for kids of all ages. Oh, and if you have ACTUAL kids, bring them, too.