Mystic Timbers was my first modern wooden roller coaster. Prior to that, the most recently built wooden coaster I’d ridden was Cedar Point’s Mean Streak which, I can attest to, was never a great ride even when it was brand new in 1991. Within a couple years it had become fairly rough. I remember very clearly riding Mean Streak its last summer before it received the trim brakes on the first hill. It shook my whole body so violently that had it gone on for one second longer it would have become very painful. It had gone right up to that line and never looked back. The next time I rode it, the addition of trim brakes had made the first drop tolerable, if nothing special, and they made the rest of the ride dull. Before it had had one good pop of air and a very quickly taken course. Until it shut down at the end of the 2016 season, it was just dull, shaky, and meandering. It’s structure, however, remained beautiful. But lets get back to the present.
One of GCI’s innovations, and likely a significant part of their success since the company was founded in 1994, is with their trains, specifically the Millennium Flyer. This is likely a factor that also helps preventing their wooden tracks from getting too rough when provided with regular maintenance (and thus, adding to their value as an investment). A few of their first coasters received Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) trains, among the most common and recognizable types of wooden roller coaster trains out there. But the word innovative and the name PTC are two things that generally don’t really seem to belong together in the same sentence. PTC went as far as creating a 2-row car for their trains in their attempt to increase their maneuverability. The Millennium Flyer, however, was quite innovative when it was introduced and continues to this day to be an outstanding design. The train’s ability to achieve tighter turns and sudden direction changes enabled GCI to compete in a whole new ball game of the design of modern wooden roller coasters. The way it is designed, each row of two seats, is essentially its own car with the riders sitting between one set of larger wheels for each individual row (minus the front car, which has both sets, but no one sitting in the absolute front), allowing a great amount of flexibility. One of GCI’s competitors, the Gravity Group, out of Cincinnati, Ohio, has their own similarly more acrobatics-capable train design called the Timberliner. You can see an example from their website here. I would be remiss to leave out Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) when commenting along these lines (you can read more about RMC and one of their amazing creations, Outlaw Run, here). Between GCI, Gravity Group, and RMC I think it’s fair to say that the general public is being spoiled with fantastic new designs, able to witness firsthand the amazing modernization of the wooden roller coaster. The only other player I’m aware of making modern wooden roller coasters is Intamin, though I don’t believe they’ve built anything in North America since El Toro was introduced at Six Flags Great Adventure in 2006.
But lets get back to Mystic Timbers. I was a bit worried about how accommodating these trains would be for larger riders like myself but everything I’d read from other folks’ trip reports should have put me at ease, as most people did not report having any issues. I can say, honestly, that the PTC trains with the seat divider and individual ratcheting lap-bars (as with, for instance, Blue Streak and the former Mean Streak at Cedar Point), were certainly some of the hardest trains to squeeze into that I encountered when I was at my heaviest. At the beginning of this season my first ride on Blue Streak, even after some significant weight loss, was still not very comfortable. The Millennium Flyers on Mystic Timbers are, on the other hand, simply fantastic.
When I arrived at Kings Island that Sunday afternoon, I went straight back to see their new (now 3 month old) hotness. The first thing that greets you as you approach the roller coaster, hidden in the back of their Rivertown area, is real theming. Actual and somewhat immersive theming is something not a lot of Cedar Fair rides get the privilege of having. Mystic Timbers greets you with an entrance to the Miami River Lumber Company and has many warning signs and announcements on its own Public Announcement (PA) system telling you not to enter the area. A nice touch, and not one dissimilar to theming at the entrance of Busch Garden’s Williamsburg’s’ Verbolten (which you can read about here), is a great old Ford pickup truck that appears to have been crashed right at the entrance as you approach.
However, it’s hard to gauge what’s really back there as most of the ride is hidden in the woods out of sight (unless you take a lap on the classic Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad, which I stupidly neglected to do). Not being able to see the ride is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing at all, but it sure makes getting a nice picture of Mystic Timbers a bit of a challenge. The warning signs, repeated alerts on the PA, wrecked truck, and the ominous unknowns of what had happened to the Miami River Lumber Company here are fitting. As the story has it, the old lumber company has been besieged by malicious tree-based spirits, and definitely does not recommend anyone going in their shed. Mystic Timbers’ steep, left-hand diving first drop is about the only part of the ride you can really see as you approach and queue in line other than the dispatching and returning trains. The trains themselves are modeled after the old pickup you see out front and that also appeared in the ride’s promotional animations. The trains, painted blue, green, and light brown even have realistic looking rust spots, which I thought was a nice touch.
My first ride experience on Kings Island’s newest addition was definitely surprising. The very quick dips, turns, and bounding airtime hills, accomplished by the very flexible trains, were stunning. The whole ride is not that long but it makes up for it in a graceful sort of intensity. Rather than any brutal examples of negative or positive g-forces or periods of intense laterals, Mystic Timbers instantly transitions from one set of forces to the other and with the effect that when a section, such as the brilliant S-turn approaches, it looks like the train could not simply make it through without breaking apart and throwing you violently from the train.
Then there is the fantastic and very fast turn-around which is in a tunnel. You blast out of it and charge back the way you came. Here you get two more great airtime hills, particularly, crossing back over White Water Canyon (I think, it was going pretty fast). You can even feel a change in temperature as you dip down, something I loved on Waldameer Park’s Ravine Flyer II. I won’t mention the shed other than to say it could probably use a fan, and is a fun way to end an ride. Simply put, I felt the ride was glorious, without being over-the-top, and will likely satisfy most people except for, perhaps, the enthusiasts seeking the most extreme ride they can find.
My Final Take on Mystic Timbers
My overall opinion of Mystic Timbers’ addition to Kings Island is that it was a nearly perfect investment. The park already has one fun terrain-hugging coaster that gives amazing night rides with the Beast. As the plant life grows back around the completed construction, the effect should be further enhanced. The closest I had to a night ride on Mystic Timbers on my visit was in twilight, but it was enough to make me pretty certain that the coaster could only be even more fun in the darkness. Hopefully soon, I can do a first time fall visit to the park when the sun sets earlier in the day. We shall see.
Final Rating: 9 out of 10 (Excellent)
What’s Your Take?
So what about you, have you had a chance to ride Mystic Timbers and what did you think?