The kids are on Spring Break this week. I started off trying to plan a trip somewhere – or a college visit – or something else complicated and expensive and decided, fairly easily, that what our family really needed was some unstructured down time.
We had plenty to accomplish this week but none of it was a priority. All of them have been so busy with both school and their extra curricular activities that I just wanted them to have a chance for the most part, to do what they wanted with their time. It didn’t take long for me to fill in some of the days with stuff that kinda needed to be done – unfortunately most of the sports never EVER take a break and Nathan continued to have weight lifting sessions this week for football and Erin had her usual gymnastics training because she has a big meet coming up this weekend. We spent almost all day Tuesday at Arizona State University touring the campus as well as the Barrett Honors College with Sarah. She hasn’t been very interested in ASU but there was a lot to like about Barrett and I’m glad that we took the time to look at it – she might add it to her list of in-state school options. Anyway, for our family, this week has had the usual chaos but taken down a notch. Paul has quite a bit of vacation saved up so he decided to take the entire week off of work, which has been nice.
But I did want to have one family activity that was a little bit special … so we did that yesterday. We have been wanting to take a trip up to Flagstaff to do the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. The course is built into the pine trees in a county park in Flagstaff – which is about 2 hours north of where we live. The kids were all at perfect ages for us to do it together – the minimum age for the full adult course is 12 years old and Erin turns that on Monday. Paul is afraid of heights but he agreed to try it for as long as he could.
We drove up on Wednesday morning and arrived in Flagstaff in time for lunch. We met up with Paul’s cousin and his wife for a yummy lunch at Bun Huggers – a hamburger joint that we have both loved since we were kids (a bit of a Flagstaff tradition). Paul’s cousin is our CPA and I was ever-so-relieved to hand off my packet of tax preparations for him and get that off my to-do list. I also was able to show him some paperwork from the estate and get some final direction on how to wrap that up. I wish I had met with him a year ago – our families are both just so busy and I hated to bug him. But now all that stuff will tie into our taxes directly and it was time to get it all figured out. I have had that hanging over my head for far too long and the time is now to finish it up.
After a fun lunch, we headed to Fort Tuthill, where the adventure course was. After giving them an inch high stack of waivers where we signed our lives away, we were all given harnesses and the guides checked them to make sure they were on super snug. There is no weight restriction on this course but you do need to be able to fit in the harness or you can’t participate. So, your waist size and thigh size do come into play. This is definitely not an activity that I could have done prior to my weight loss – starting with getting the harness on. We received a brief introduction and then they took us over to what was the childrens’ climbing area so we could practice all of the techniques of clipping, un-clipping, and using the harness trolley for zip-lining. There is quite a bit to remember at first and this little practice course was nice. After we all ran through that, we moved over to the adult course to begin – you start on the Green course, which is the easiest and lowest and then progress to Silver, Blue, Red, then Black. There are some very serious rules that you have to follow and there are guides on the ground enforcing them. The main one is that you must have one of your 2 clips attached to a red line at all times. If you are caught “double unclipped” then you get a warning…2x and you are done climbing for the day. Also, if the guides have to rescue you at all – you are done for the day.
We moved through the green course fairly quickly and it was really fun. We got to experience a bit of just about every element and it was fun more than scary. Paul did pretty well. Almost each course ends with a zip-line that progress in both height and length as you move up in difficulty. After Green, we moved on to Silver – manageable but a bit higher and more technical. Paul had enough of the experience after that one – he white knuckled his way through the last element and I knew he wasn’t enjoying it one bit. I’m really glad he got as far as he did though. He became our photographer from the ground from that point on.
The kids and I moved on to the Blue course. It was much higher up and the challenges got more physically difficult. I really enjoyed doing this together with the kids. I explained to them, with Paul off the course, I had to be with the 15 and 12 year old within 1-2 trees the whole time. They couldn’t get ahead of me or behind – and if I couldn’t continue, they would have to be done too. Fortunately, I was able to stay with or ahead of them on most of the elements. I did really well on some of the things that took them more time. Overall, I was pretty impressed with all of us. Sarah is not particularly athletic but she really loves this type of thing and had plenty of strength and coordination – probably more than all of us. Erin, at a few days shy of 12, was super brave and strong and had no issues. She did get caught ‘double un-clipped’ very briefly and she almost cried because she got the warning. I told her that they were just looking out for her safety and we were super high and it worried me that maybe she needed more supervision. She was extra careful from then on – which we all should have been. A fall from some of those platforms could have been fatal. The kids, which bicker a lot to be annoying, were all really good with each other and encouraging. On the Blue course we had several challenging elements – the worst one was a Tarzan swing by rope into a giant rope net – and then we had to climb up and over on the net up to the next platform. It takes a ton of arm strength to do all of that! We also had a lot of swinging logs that we had to walk across and if they got going too much away from the guide rope, we had to hold on like crazy to get across…it was exhausting and scary.
I took a quick bathroom break (the courses were all in an area fairly close to their main building, which was nice – I thought maybe we’d be out in the woods too far to get back). We were running out of time before they closed and still had the Red and Black course to complete. Finishing the Black course is a big deal –
they have shirts for it and everything. The kids and I were doing OK but probably could have used a longer break – and maybe a snack at this point, over 2 hours since we started. Our arms were starting to get pretty tired. But we climbed up the giant ladder to begin again. The Red Course started with 2 really long zip lines which had ladders to climb in between. We decided we hated the ladders almost more than anything. You have to clip and unclip (2x) every few rungs and then hang on with your arms the entire time. We swore the first ladder was tilted backwards so sometimes you held what felt like your entire body weight while trying to clip to the next rung. But those zip lines were super long and fun! The first few lines I did, I couldn’t stop from spinning and it was pretty scary because when I came to the end I was backwards and would slam into the pad on the tree and go back on the line…one time I had to pull myself back to the end by pulling myself along on the wire. During one of the course changes, I talked to the guide and he taught me how to keep from doing that, and from then on it was much more fun! Anyway, the next elements on this Red course were SUPER hard. We had 2 more of those log walking things and the last one was about the end of me. Nathan looked pretty much done after that one too. I was stuck out there way to long trying to get across and it was almost primal strength and determination the last few feet. My arms were shaking and my mouth was totally dry. By the time we all got across that and then zip-lined to the end, it was after 5pm and the sun was starting to set. The guides were coming up behind us and closing the course. I just assumed that we wouldn’t be able to start the last Black course – Nathan had already said he was done. Erin was too. I guess Sarah wanted to keep going but she didn’t really speak up – we could have climbed up one of those horrible ladders to start the Black course and down one to the ground to be done. Once we got down, I had no intention of climbing up 2 ladders again just to start Black. Paul said the group that had been ahead of us had gone on and they were really struggling. One of the ladies fell and spent 3 minutes hugging the tree in fear. Sounds horrible. I did have a feeling of failure though. But watching the others try to finish the course, I knew I just didn’t have anything left in my arms to try it. Lesson learned for next time – sign up for an earlier spot so that there is time to rest and eat a bit before tackling the last 2 courses. Losing another 20 pounds might help too so there was less weight to hold up with my arms!
Anyway, I wanted to share this whole experience because it was another one of those times where I felt incredibly alive and proud of myself for getting my health back to a point where I could do something like that – with my kids too. It was just about the perfect outdoor adventure fun you could have!