The scene: Training
Before the Games begin, tributes receive four days of training in such survival skills as building shelters and fire, and using weapons. We take an archery lesson with Tammy Hopkins, a former park ranger who is helping form the upcoming Hunger Games fan tours in the very small but bustling town of Brevard. Shooting a bow and arrow is all about patience and control; Caiden loves it so much an archery set is now at the top of his birthday list. We practise rope climbing and get a survival lesson at the U.S. National Whitewater Center outside Charlotte, and we master ziplining in Asheville. Rope climbing is all about confidence, and I can easily see why businesses book the centre for team-building excursions.
We do an easy course six metres up in the trees, and wish we had time to make like Rue (who seems to fly, in the book at least, through the trees) and take the Canopy Tour, which includes silent ziplining and rope and balance exercises from one wood platform to another in heavy forest.
Our survival course, with Joy Shuck (who learned from a U.S. Air Force global survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor), is loaded with hands-on tips on starting a fire (How is it I didn’t know about a brace before?), finding food (Why settle for bugs? Bring granola bars!), building shelter, signalling and more. Ziplining is a huge highlight of our trip, in no small part because the instructors at Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures take such care to teach us how to brake and go faster, and about the foliage around us. This time, I come home free of nasty bruises from the gear!
Do it yourself
Hunger Game Fan Tours offers day-long and full weekend experiences from $79 (U.S.). For dates, go to hungergamesfantours.com. Find more about the U.S.
National Whitewater Center at usnwc.org. You’ll want to spend at least a full day. (For survival lessons, you’ll have to book your child into a camp – trust me, you’ll be tempted!) Call Wildwater Reservations at 1-800-451-9972 for ziplining, or go to ashevilleziplinecanopyadventures.com.
The scene: The Games
Surprisingly, some of the Games scenes were shot using man-made trees and a man-made cave in giant sets in an empty tobacco factory in Charlotte. That’s off limits. But DuPont State Forest, in Transylvania County, certainly isn’t. We joined Hopkins and forest supervisor David Brown to see the exact spot Peeta lay camouflaged, a trail Rue ran along, and the pool of water Katniss jumped into while escaping the fire.
We also saw the site of the fight scene between Cato and Peeta. Don’t remember it? That’s because despite having to truck in water to create the swamp (that had dried up after originally being scouted for the shot), the scene was cut from the movie. As was a carefully rigged shot of Katniss running across the top of a waterfall (planks were laid, actress Jennifer Lawrence was secured with wires). Remember the fire scene? It was filmed on site, with DuPont forest firefighting crew standing by, using about 100 fake trees made with hollow tubes filled with propane (the fireballs were computer generated images). What the director and crew forgot to factor, Tammy tells us, is the wildlife reaction to fire: flee. And flee they did, snakes and all, directly toward the film crew. (Chaos ensued as Hollywood city slickers react.) Remember the sleeping-in-trees scenes? The crew took a branch from one tree, attached it to another tree back on the set, and decorated it with silk leaves. Now you know why so many scenes were filmed so close up. Though snake wranglers didn’t clear the area before our tour, as they did during filming, we didn’t see any snakes. We didn’t hear any mockingjays, either.
Do it yourself