On the Saturday before Thanksgiving week we did something for the first time ever: an Outdoor Challenge as a couple. Our friends Matt and Brandi recently celebrated their birthdays, and so their spouses coordinated a surprise activity at the UNC Outdoor Education Center for a group of friends. Marcos has done similar activities with the boys as an Assistant Scout Master and he was so brave and agile. I, on the other hand, am afraid of heights and looked like this most of the afternoon:
In preparation for this day, I had spent the week thinking up all sorts of disasters, usually culminating at the scene where I, as the overweight and unfit member of the group, was stuck trying to scale a wall with one leg dangling down either side, and nobody could push me over. Luckily, there were no walls at all, and things ran fairly smoothly. The weather was absolutely perfect for mid-November (mid-60s), we really enjoyed the three leaders of our activity, and they trained us very well in safety on the ropes so that our falls were few and not of the dangerous variety. Here we are with our helmets and harnesses after the safety lecture.
The main gist of the activity was that there were multiple "challenges" - steel cables connecting a number of trees in a clearing in the woods, that were all about a million feet off the ground (I like to write it like it feels). Our job was to make it from one tree to another with our partner through each challenge. Although we were all fastened to upper cables via our lobster claws attached to our harness, we weren't supposed to use the lobsters for support - we were to use the cables provided as part of the challenge. Above, the Matts practice their falling on the pretend cables, so that if it happens up in the trees, they know how to right themselves. Below, Marcos and I all harnessed up. It was my last calm moment of the afternoon.
And can I mention that if you want to bond with someone, do something that makes you feel like you might die any second? There were a lot of kissing sessions up in those trees!
The first part of the obstacle was to climb up a dangling wooden pole ladder and get to the first platform in the trees. As Brandi and Matt are demonstrating above, then we had to somehow secure a dangling stationary rope, and swing ourselves across the great divide from one platform to the other. This my friends does not feel very tricky until you see how many feet are between you and the ground.
The next challenge was to cross the log, which was my all time least favorite event. There was NOTHING to hold on to, and probably thirty feet of bridge to cross. I don't think I've ever had my adrenaline pumping so wildly for such a sustained amount of time. And then there was Marcos, who jogged the last half of it just because he's awesome like that.
The next challenge was definitely a partner challenge: steel cable to stand on, with dangling ropes spaced intermittently across the span. We have so many photos from this day, but often they were zoomed in on people, so I love that the one above helps me to appreciate how far we were off the ground. Below, Margie and Mark work their partner magic. They were a riot to watch.
Taking a break at the platform between events! Yes, we tackled the bad boy and lived to tell about it! And in case you were wondering whether my fear was grounded (no pun intended), I think the photo below captures our very high position in the trees...
Alyssa and Scott go across together, and Marcos poses for a photo. It was such perfect weather at such a lovely time of year. Fall in North Carolina is pretty killer.
Mark and Margie waiting for their turn at the platform, and birthday girl Brandi leading the way.
I don't think any explanation will adequately explain the difficulty of this next challenge. There were two parallel cables, and each partner had to make it across together, holding each other's forearms for stability. It was like dancing on dental floss, hundreds of feet above the ground.
The next challenge was fun, with loops of cable hanging down between parallel cables. Alyssa and Erianne did the splits! And just like that, the tree course ended with a zip line down from the last platform.
With a bit of time left after our high trees course, the instructor David took us to the BIG zip line, which until recently, was the longest in North Carolina. Above are Marcos and Mark racing up the net ladder to the tall platform, and below is my photo from the top of the platform. You can see that the zip line ran from the platform, down across a road, a pond and a field. For some reason, after the other challenges, this one didn't feel quite so scary! Maybe because there was nothing to do but let go.
This photo above of Brandi flying backwards down the zipline is one of my favorites. I accidentally captured her fairly clearly with the trees whizzing by. Love it! Below Erianne and Matt, instead of racing, held hands down the entire length of the zipline.
It was such a fun afternoon, with good friends and an opportunity to do something new and challenging. It may be another year or two before I forget about the log event and am brave enough to do it all over again, but I feel grateful for friends who help us get out of our comfort zones and do things that strengthen our trust for each other as a couple and reteach us how to root for each other in all situations. Happy Birthday Matt and Brandi!