Sunday, August 25, 2002
Learning the ropes
By Shannon Russell, email@example.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer
In honor of the summer's last adventure column, it's only natural to broach one of the most sensitive subjects of the season: Why You Should Be Nice to your High School Guidance Counselor.
Shannon Russell knows the ropes.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
It's no secret that guidance counselors live in tiny offices in every American school, and they have access to the most important career files in world. If you're nice to them, they will evaluate your grades and designate your suitable profession.
My counselor, who must have awakened on the wrong side of the bed so many years ago, decided my intellect and brawn were best suited for a career as either a.) a bean counter or b.) an extreme sports athlete. After years of trying option a.), I decided to test out my extreme talents Thursday afternoon during Summer Adventure No. 12, a high ropes course.
I traveled to Wildwood Camp and Conference Center in Milford, where aspiring adventurers can case the course year-round for $25 per person.
Willing adventurer and Hyde Park resident Danielle Boal also agreed to the challenge, and we met with Wildwood program director Scott Thrasher and facilities manager Andy Moore.
This course is what we call "Challenge by Choice,' Scott said. It's designed to give you perceived risk, but really it's filled with safe obstacles.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS |
Can you believe summer vacation is over?
I, for one, am so shocked that September is upon us that I've composed dozens of letters to prominent officials and international figures in hopes of prolonging the break for another 52 weeks.
But with the new school year's dawn, the sun must also set on an exciting season of summer adventures. The goal of this project was to find recreational opportunities available to local residents, try them out and share my experiences.
In three months I have explored a dozen thrilling activities, from sea kayaking and lawn bowling to horseback riding, fishing, rock climbing, the game of Cornhole, boxing, archery, fencing, tae kwon do, badminton and a ropes course.
And, after doing hours of reflective research, I have come up with some staggering statistics.
Number of summer adventures: 12
Number of adventures requiring life jackets: 2
Number of encounters terrifying leech: 1
Number of adventures requiring protective headgear: 3
Number of near-death experiences as a direct result of personal clumsiness: 12
Number of estimated responses from Cornhole players: 56,345,657,182
It's safe to say that Adventure No. 6, or Cornhole, was the biggest hit of the summer. And you know what I found out? People take their Cornhole VERY SERIOUSLY.
For example, in the article I casually mentioned that cornhole boxes have a surface area of 2 to 4 feet with a grapefruit-sized opening situated close to the back. Within minutes, I received a flood of e-mails demanding to know just how big this grapefruit was, what its precise diameter measured, exactly when it was harvested and whether or not it was ripe.
(Note: For the record, an official cornhole diameter is 6 inches, the size of a freshly shipped grapefruit.)
The adventures' difficulty levels ranged from very easy (lawn bowling) to difficult (boxing) to very scary (ropes course). With the close of the adventure season, I plan to implement a nine-month offseason schedule packed with training, mental preparation and let's face it recuperation.
So lace up your tennis shoes and stay tuned! I'll be back with a bigger and better list of adventures, and you're invited to come along, too.
What exactly is a high ropes course? I asked, imagining the end of my soon-to-be extreme sports career.
It's good for team-building, risk-taking and dealing with fears and stresses, Scott said.
This was a very good answer. But what he meant was: IN 10 MINUTES WE'RE GOING TO ATTACH YOU TO A CABLE AND LEAVE YOU DANGLING 35 FEET ABOVE GROUND.
As we made our way to a secluded clearing in the woods, Danielle and I saw our fate. Situated in front of us were several fully grown trees joined by a series of thin ropes and wires. And you know what? There was not a single elevator, escalator or lift device that indicated how we were to ascend to the starting point.
Danielle summed up our destinies in four words: We are SO dead.
Scott and Andy, who paid no heed to our ashen expressions, said that kids as young as 7 and adults as old as 50 have successfully completed the course.
We donned harnesses and helmets and attached two long nylon ropes to our midriffs. At the end of the ropes were hooks called carabiners, or in Scott's words, lobster claws. When we reached the top of the course, we were to hook the claws onto a cable directly over our heads, which in turn would support our weight and keep us from falling to the ground.
A straw ballot revealed that I, the world's newest daredevil, was to be the ropes-course guinea pig. When Andy lowered a 30-foot cargo net, I almost wished I were a guinea pig, because I had a hunch they were much better at climbing rope ladders than I would be.
I promptly became tangled in the net like a wayward bug in a freshly woven web. This was quite entertaining for a good six minutes, until I took note of a serious problem: my complete lack of upper-body strength. Everyone cheered me on as I miraculously stepped from one rung to the next, but I knew it was only a matter of time before my arms snapped like two pieces of celery.
There's no way I'm going to be able to get to that platform! I said, nodding to the two-foot plank I was supposed to hoist myself on.
I paused. I waited. I weighed my options, finally deciding that one last lunge would bode better for my bones than a death-defying plummet.
I closed my eyes reached for the platform, and ... I made it! There I was, more than 30 feet off the ground. Hurrah!
I had only one question: How can I get down?
This comment inspired much laughter and was largely ignored as Danielle began her cargo-net ascent. Hmmph!
I decided to move on to my next task, which was a tightrope walk. After attaching the lobster claws to another overhead cable, I shuffled sideways for 20 feet while holding on to a parallel length of rope.
Sometimes people even do this blindfolded! Scott said from his post on the ground. Such people obviously are deranged, but I couldn't contemplate their lunacy for long. Danielle had zipped up the cargo net with the agility of a centipede and was right behind me.
That's when I reached the Leap of Faith, where I was instructed to jump three feet from one platform to the other WITHOUT HOLDING ON TO ANYTHING. After a long bout of contemplation, during which I considered the effects of missing the second platform and smashing headfirst into the adjacent tree, I executed an enormous leap.And to my surprise, I made it! Double hurrah!
By this time I had weathered six panic attacks and four heart attacks, and had abandoned all hope of an extreme sports career. Danielle, ever so slightly more confident, was attempting to hang upside in free suspension.
The last task, a roller-coaster descent on a 300-foot cable called a zip line, was the easiest part of the afternoon. Wow! That was fun! I yelled to Danielle as she breezed down the line after me. We checked all our appendages to make sure they were intact, then collapsed on nearby picnic tables. The brunt of the stress was in my arms, but my legs were also jelly after the hour-long course.
It's safer than crossing a street, Andy said.
This may in fact be true. While the journey improved my team-building and risk-taking skills, and also addressed my fears and stresses, it clarified one important thing: I should have been an accountant.
So if you still have time, make peace with your guidance counselor. Bring that person cookies and an apple, because someday he or she might point you in the right direction. In the meantime, I'll be counting beans.
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