Shadd’s birthday was last week, and I decided to plan a fun day for him and a few of our friends. My husband is a unique human being. One example-several times over the last few years he has chosen the zoo as his birthday activity, and this was even before we had a daughter. A reminder, he is 35. He doesn’t really drink, finds spending money on fancy meals a waste, and hates crowds. So many of the amazing spring offerings in Arizona this time of year like baseball, outdoor festivals and concerts, or a fun night out don’t really light his fire. So I had to dig deep.
I knew I’d hit the jackpot when I found Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Flagstaff Extreme bills itself as “an elevated obstacle course set in the tall Ponderosa Pines and securely suspended between the trees at 15 to 60 feet off the ground…features of course include suspended bridges, swings, slides, nets, ziplines and even an aerial surf board“. Sounds fun, right? And maybe a bit terrifying.
Flagstaff is about two hours north of Scottsdale and about 6000 feet higher in elevation. It’s pretty neat that you can take a short drive and find yourself surrounded by pine trees and needing to put on a sweatshirt. We shared a babysitter with our friends Corey and Kristen Cushing, dropped Gracie off at their house at 8am, loaded up in the car, and headed north!
A quick stop for breakfast was followed by another stop at a rest area for stomach problems. Thankfully, we left with time to spare. While stretching our legs and enjoying the already cooler temperatures at what I must say was one of the nicest rest areas I’ve ever been to, a cute little lizard let us catch it. Shadd, Corey, and I passed it around and posed for photos…again we are all in our mid-30s. I know, slightly embarrassing, but if we weren’t such nerds, you would never get to see this photo of me and Larry the Lizard. Totally worth it, yes? Larry was an omen-it was sure to be great day.
Fast forward an hour and we arrive, check-in, buy our fingerless gloves, and make final bathroom trips. Our friend Matt Kimes met us up there, so the trifecta of athletic man-power was complete. We stepped into and tightened our crotch hugging harnesses, and suddenly none of the men want their photos taken. So I promised to make it only a head shot.
A short, and I mean short, orientation and a quick practice run on a baby course, and they turn you loose. Literally. They send you on your way with no guide. There were “rescuers” wandering around on the ground below us, within yelling distance at all times, but you are on your own up there. You’re required to be clipped in at all times with two carabiners and hook up your own zip-lining thingy (I’m sure there is a more professional name for it, but my use of the term “zip-lining thingy” just shows how little I know, and how I probably should not have been in control of my own safety up there).
The entire course has five circuits. The first circuit is a little intimidating, but we quickly got the hang of it. Circuit two and three are a lot more challenging, and A LOT higher up. It became important to not look down, especially with the wind, which caused the trees and the tiny platforms we were standing on in those trees to sway. One of the funniest/scariest moments came on circuit three. The obstacle required you to clip on to a swinging rope, swing across a large expanse of nothingness, and grab on to a cargo net on the other side. Then you climb the cargo net to a platform. Shadd, Corey, and Matt all completed this easily.
My turn. I gave my rope a few tugs to make sure I was clipped in and swung out. And just dangled there. Apparently, my rope was tangled and it stopped the momentum that would have got me safely to the cargo net. Thankfully, Kristen was still on the platform behind me and had to pull my dangling body back to safety. I was laughing, but I was also slowly slipping down the rope towards certain death. Ok, probably not death, but most certainly an embarrassing rescue by one of the 17 year old “guides”. With Kristen’s help, I dragged myself back on to the platform, rested my burning arms and made it across on my second try. I have no shame…here’s the video. It’s worth it to turn up the volume. Please note Kristen’s concerned cries, and Shadd’s very non-concerned laughter.
We had a blast. The boys all completed the full course. Kristen called it a day after the third circuit. I’m sure she was a bit fatigued from having to pull my dead weight to safety. I quit after the fourth circuit, which included climbing a terrifyingly high ladder in a swaying pine tree, zip-lining, and some major groin-pulling rope bridge maneuvering. As Kristen and I watched the men finish the course, we talked to one of the guides. Apparently, only about 15% of participants complete the full course, and they have an average of 10-15 rescues per day. Wow! Here are some random photos from the day:
I am typing this post gingerly with my blistered fingertips, while nursing a sore back, and silently whining about my burning shoulders. But, boy, was it fun! A definite “must-do” for all my Arizona peeps. Thanks to Corey, Kristen, and Matt for helping us celebrate. Happy Birthday, Pooh Bear!
McKenzie P. “Bear”