Some Time in the Trees

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For a bunch of years I worked on challenge courses. I was an instructor, I managed a program and I helped to build and design courses. It was great stuff. One spring day a colleague and I were hanging from cables, adjusting an element high off the ground and she shouted over to me “Hey, we’re at work right now!” Not a bad office.

I still miss that work. I gave it up to have more time in the summer. My wife was a teacher so had summers free. I had winters free. That was tough, so I found other interesting work. Today, however, I got a taste of that outdoor world. I headed to Stowe Mountain Resort and tried out their TreeTop Adventure challenge.

I was there with my children and a friend of my daughter’s. We had experienced courses like this before so it was not totally new to them. After checking in at the lodge, and taking the short gondola ride across the road, we found the place to get an orientation. With harnesses strapped on and our primer completed, we headed to the woods.

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The course includes four smaller courses with increasing difficulty levels: yellow (small people only), green, blue and black. After each course climbers have the option to head to the ground and to be done. Smart. We did green through black. The elements were indeed increasingly challenging. It was a lot of fun.

While the kids were focused on the physical aspects of what they had to do, I paid some attention to the course itself. I was curious about how the platforms were constructed, the specifics of each element, the safety systems. I asked myself more than once “Why didn’t I think of that?” New ideas have clearly come about since my days out there.

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The other thing I enjoyed was simply being up in the trees. It was a perfect day, the sun dappling the forest floor, a light breeze. We moved about at the level of the leaves. I felt at ease up there. Years ago I spent hours on platforms like that, helping others through their own physical and mental challenges. Even today, I felt like I could stay up there all day.

After a couple of hours we all zipped down the last cable to end our adventure. We walked back to drop off our harnesses (harni?), feeling a little more tired than when we started, feeling good about challenging ourselves and succeeding. I was a tad envious of those folks in the red STAFF shirts on the ground, but only a tad. I had a good run with that work. Today I was happy to walk back to the car with three happy teens, lunch around the corner, plus a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s factory. Challenge courses have changed, and apparently I have too.

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A Little Skiing

It’s not like I get out there that much these days.  My spouse and I used to get out at least once a week to ski, often long days in the backcountry.  Of course, we lived in the mountains.  We could walk out the door and access hundreds of acres of wilderness.  We also could walk out the door and ride the lift to ski or snowboard.  We used to sled on the groomed ski trails.

I’m not saying “Oh those were the days” or anything.  I’m no sentimental sap.  Living there was amazing but it also was pretty much impossible to walk out the door in the winter and safely go for a run.  A five mile steep road, covered in snow and hemmed in by snow banks is the place to run if you want to get back home.  But we did get in lots of skiing.

Yesterday I had one day at least of the kind of adventure we used to have.  I went with a handful of other gentlemen, poking around for some slides in the Adirondacks.  We found the snowmobile trail, skied up that, the puttered about looking for some access in the woods.  It was thick, filled in with hobblebush and birch saplings that had sprung up from the ice storm ten years ago.  Eventually, however, we found the slopes.

There were a couple of steep slopes, covered in powerdery snow.  There was a little ice underneath, but hardly much.  We were in there, we sweated, and we earned out turns.  It was great fun.  We sat for lunch at the top of an open slice of moutain, snow falling like crazy, with our backs a frozen waterfall and ate lunch before dropping down.  It was pretty dang good.

In the past week five feet of snow has fallen in the mountains.  Tomorrow, school on break, my wife and I both off, we will get into those mountains and, hopefully, link some turns.  I got in a little skiing.  I hope to get in much more this week.