Sometimes I feel the need to do unexpected things. Generally, these surprising things are just off-beat, but sometimes they get a little wild.
Like on Sunday, when I headed up to Savage, Maryland, to do a ropes course — on my own.
If you’re wondering what a ropes course is, think Outward Bound. Think awkward team building exercises on sitcoms. Think slightly nuts three stories in the air.
Essentially, you put on a helmet and a harness and then you climb up to these platforms and then walk across a variety of ropes/cables/logs/seemingly insubstantial items to the next one. Eighteen times.
Or, if you’re me, you do the first level fine, and then the second level okay, right up until you get to the final crossing on that level — the ship rigging part.
It will be at this point (or, rather, halfway across it) when you realize that you did not eat breakfast or lunch before heading out on this crazy adventure (because you were running late) and you’re feeling a little light-headed because it’s sunny and humid and 90 degrees outside, and, gosh, you should really have worked on upper-body strength exercises, because this is a lot of work, and maybe you should wrap your arms around the ropes, because you aren’t all that sure you aren’t going to fall (or, at least, dangle from your safety harness and force someone to come rescue you). I did not fall. I did tell the girl running that section of the course that I needed to rest, and clearly I looked like I was going to pass out, because she suggested rather urgently that she’d like me to do that from inside the platform, rather than draped over the top of it like I was when I said it.
Realizing that food was in order, I became possibly the first person in the history of ropes courses to pause during the process for a tea break.
Refreshed, I returned to the course, and climbed back up to the third level to finish it off. I ran into a few problems on this top section, such as where I picked the wrong rope to walk on and had to switch to a different one halfway across the biggest drop. Also, the top level shakes quite a bit, which is disconcerting, even though intellectually you understand what’s happening and why you’re safe.
Next up was the giant swing, where you get winched 40 feet up into the air and then the winch lets go and you slingshot dooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwn and foooorrrrwaaaaaaaaaaaaaard before you head back uuuuuuuuuuupppppppppp. This was fun, except that I had to pull the cord that disconnects the swing from the winch, and I was not expecting how long it takes to grab back onto the bar with that hand. I don’t think I screamed, but, honestly, I couldn’t swear that I didn’t.
And, finally, on to the zip line. You have to cross another cable to get there, but this one is only 15 feet off the ground.
My apologies for all the deserted pictures. By the time I finished, the zipline was the only thing still running, and they discouraged you from taking a camera out on the course with you (for fear you’ll drop it), so I had to wait to snap shots until I got back to the car. And anyway, since I was by myself, you wouldn’t have recognized anyone in the shots anyway.
I don’t know that I feel any more self-confident (a claimed side effect), although I suppose I am proud of myself for heading back out after I ate, when it would have been easy to skip the top level. And I do have this rather fetching set of bruises (and lots and lots of aches today) on the inside of my arm from where I hugged that rigging.
I’m not ruling out doing a ropes course again, but I probably wouldn’t bother doing it by myself again. It seems like people who had a buddy with them were enjoying themselves a lot more than I was. Also, don’t skip meals before you go, no matter how late you are running!
Finally, I leave you with this video. It has nothing to do with me, except you can see the swing in action and some of the high ropes course I did.