Dangling in the trees

People wait their turn to begin an obstacle course in the trees. There are different difficulty levels, and purple is not the easiest. After an hour or so, I actually did this purple course. You can see more people in the distant trees.

My boyfriend Pedro seeks thrills. His personality is typically calm and even and through many challenges he keeps his cool. (nice balance to my drama! ha ha!) Possibly that’s why when it’s time for fun, he enjoys the most dramatic things: to get that heartrate up! For our Fourth of July weekend together, I thought I would do my best to try and enjoy this kind of activity. I asked him to reserve us a time at a place called Tree To Tree. It’s a forest obstacle course with ziplines.

I was looking forward to it! The day was warm, yet we would be under shady canopy for hours. I had heard about these places, and had always wanted to try one. It was important to me to do something he would choose, because he’s so accommodating we often end up doing what I want to do. It’s very easy to forget to think of others when you’re as spoiled as me.

I have very few photos of the course, because we left everything in the car rather than try to carry it through the trees. On our first hike up the hill to check in, I snapped a couple of shots with my phone.

We could see these people from the parking lot. I can relate to how the person on the right is holding on and balancing, and reaching out cautiously with one foot.
The person got through that step, and are making their way to the next. Another person waits patiently on a platform. Two people are not allowed to be on the ropes at the same time. There are wooden platforms attached to trees, and people wait their turn on the stable platforms.

I should have thought to get a photo of us in our safety gear! As soon as we arrived we were provided with safety gear and a lesson about how to properly wear it and how to use it on the course. Through magnets, it’s impossible to open both clips at the same time, so even people who aren’t paying attention will never be disconnected from the safety lines. To address your worries, I’ll assure you that everyone in the air balancing on precarious ropes and wooden beams was attached by sturdy cords (about three feet long) to the courses itself. It’s hard to see in the image above, but there is a red line strung across at about shoulder level that every person is clipped to. If both feet came off the support, the fall would only be inches, and the person would dangle. We agreed that our goal was not to dangle because it would be embarrassing to be rescued.

But then it was time for me to go, and totally unexpectedly, my stomach dropped into my knees. I was scared! I was immediately so scared. It really surprized me because I had been looking forward to this for days. I couldn’t quit 5 minutes in…so I asked Pedro to go first and I watched what he did. Then I made myself begin.

The very first course. Green is the easiest level. This one had a solid wooden base and ropes hanging down to grab for stability if you need it.

Each course was 5 or 6 segments between trees. In the photo above, you can see that the first segment is short and in no time you’re safely beside a tree trunk on a wooden platform. You then look to see if anyone is ahead of you. When the next segment has no one on it, you move your clips from the last segment to the next segment, and off you go to the next tree trunk. Very quickly, the segments get more challenging. The part you walk on becomes less and less stable. Sometimes you walk on ropes, and sometimes the wooden beams are on hinges, so when you step onto them they swing erratically horizontally above the earth. Sometimes there are gaps so wide you can’t step across and must jump, using dangling ropes above you to clutch at for dear life. The green level is about 15-20 feet above the ground, and each difficulty level gets not only harder to complete, but is higher. At the purple level, I was looking down below me onto people doing the green and blue level courses.

It was SO SCARY! Each time I was in the middle of a course, I told myself there was no way I could do another one, and my whole being focused on getting to the end of the current one. I watched a woman on a course in the trees above me become paralyzed halfway through, and needed a Tree to Tree staff member to coax her to the end. The man was great, giving her awesome encouragement, and she did indeed inch her way to the end of that segment. Being in the middle of a course, however, he stuck with her and got her through the subsequent segments until finally she was out of the trees. The course she was on made my vision spin. From below, it looked terrifying.

Here’s an example of the harder segments. In front, there are short pieces of logs, dangling from ropes, and to get across, you have to walk on the logs. As soon as you step on, they begin swinging. Then you have to step from one swinging log to the next until you arrive at the next tree! Eeeek! If you enlarge the photo, you may see the segment behind the logs, which is a wire held by ropes. A person is stepping through the ropes along the wire.
This one gives a better sense of how high it is.

There were periods when I would be about to give up, and then some 8-year-old kid would come bounding up behind me, impatient for me to get going so she could take her turn. And I would clench my teeth and step off the platform, dangling in the air above the earth. I managed to control some mild hyperventilating and not look down but rather at the blessed platform ahead of me. I almost wanted to kiss each tree trunk when I arrived safely. I found myself becoming more and more excited each time I completed a course though. I was very proud of myself.

The very last segment of every single course was a zipline, and I like ziplines! No skill required. Just clip on, sit down in your harness like a chair, pick your feet up off the platform and WHOOSH! Off you fly to the final platform where there will be a ladder to climb back down to the earth.

Sadly, Pedro was not having as much fun as when he came to this place before. In the past, the safety line was above everyone’s head. He forged forward and let the line drag behind him and barely paid attention to it. Since then, the safety line has been lowered so that kids and shorter people are able to use it. Remember I said the lines clipped to the wire are only about 3 feet long? If you’re only four feet high, a line attached to your waist won’t reach to a safety line over your head. Anyway, now Pedro’s line dragged horizontally out behind him, and the angle resulted in a lot of resistance. The rubber coatings on the lines and clips tugged at each other. He would try to step forward and the lines would catch and hold him in place. It was very frustrating for him.

Like many other scared people there, I preferred to have the safety line in front of me so I could SEE it. I pushed it forward with one hand, and clung to ropes with the other hand. There was the same amount of tugging for me, and it was overcome before I even took a step, since I was pushing the clip out ahead of me. But for a person who wants to forget the safety lines and pretend they are truly relying only on their balance and skill, I can see how it would be more thrilling to leave the lines dragging behind. I was so sad that his fun was limited.

Finally we decided to take a break. Our last course was actually the same one that the woman was on who had to be coached through it. While I watched her, I had vowed I would not do that one, and yet my confidence had grown so much that I did it anyway. The segment just before the final zipline was only a single wire. Just a thin wire strung 60 feet across and 80 feet in the air. I nearly had a panic attack looking at it, but I knew it was my only way out. I crossed the space with my whole body tensed, and rather than hanging onto the silly dangling ropes that swayed all around, I clutched at the safety line itself with both arms and scooted sideways, with my feet perpendicular to the wire. My body swooped backward, then pitched forward as the wires swung under my weight, and I blocked it out, tensed up even more, and kept going.

During our break I realized my left foot was hurting. All the muscle tension and pressure from the wire must have bruised my foot. Sadly, it’s three weeks later and my foot is still hurting. Bummer.

We bought water and ice cream and rested in the shade and agreed that it was enough. We went home satisfied. I would totally do that again. I’m sure he would too, now that he knows about the lower safety wire. Pedro’s true love is bungee jumping, but I’m pretty sure I will not join him on that one. I will, however, heartily cheer him from the safety of solid land.

12 thoughts on “Dangling in the trees

  1. I’m sooo sorry that you are still hurting from this fun day. Even though you describe everything so well and vividly, I still had trouble seeing it in my mind’s eye. I’m such a non-technical person! Anyway, the trees are glorious, and even though I wouldn’t mind seeing them from closer up, I’d be gladly taking a million photos from down below. Ziplines and bungee jumping? Hmm… we’ll see what we can do. 😀

    1. I should bring a photographer for us, next time! That would be awesome, to have shots of me being brave. Pedro has one photo of him bungee jumping that is blurry. I will volunteer as you have: next time he jumps I’ll have my camera ready. We talked a little to the woman who owns the place with her partner. She described having this cautious idea and working it out as they did it, and putting a lot of effort into safety and a thoughtful design. She seemed genuinely pleased and still a little surprised about how much people love it. That was an interesting perspective.

    1. That is awesome Bonnie! I am surprised you are so ready to take it on. What a trooper. When’s your big 60? My birthday is in winter too, so maybe we can go together. I do not know if they operate in winter, but I don’t see why not. It would be wetter, so possibly things are slippery.

    1. Oh, I didn’t think of that! Most people there were having a blast, so you are right about other thrill-seekers! There were multiple difficulty levels that went above what we did. I was chatting with two guys on a platform as we waited our turn, and explained that I was afraid. “Don’t do the diamond course, then,” they both said in unison. It was likely good advice. Thanks for the best wishes for my foot. I have recently had to do many hours of driving, to take my niece and nephew home to Montana, and then come back. After two days of 12-hour drives, my foot actually is noticeably better. It might only require rest. But that is hard for me to do.

      1. You know…. I finally thought of that this morning. It suddenly occurred to me, “oh. I think he meant me!” and I came to check my comments, and sure enough. Ha ha ha. 🙂

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