There I was, 35 feet above the ground, the grip on both hands weakening, and my arms quivering.
So this is how it ends, I thought.
No, not my life. I had a harness on and was securely latched to a cable a foot above my head. This is how my son’s social life at school ended, crashing and burning in a pile of ashes as he forever became known as The Kid Whose Dad Had To Be Rescued During The Ropes Course Field Trip.
I had agreed to chaperone this field trip because I want to be there for my kids. But also because, hey, ropes course. I have twice agreed to chaperone kayaking field trips. Because, you know, to be there.
When we got to the park, I started eyeing some of the 72 different obstacles. There were three levels of difficulty. Once we were outfitted with harnesses, helmets and directions, I noticed many of the kids in the class, my son included, migrated to the most difficult levels as quickly as they could. I eventually made my way up toward them as well.
I navigated an obstacle here and an obstacle there. I am not afraid of heights, and I am fairly agile and coordinated, so I was feeling pretty confident as I made my way from one elevated platform to the next. Then I arrived at the Tarzan obstacle. While many of the obstacles have wooden slats or metal cables to walk on, Tarzan does not. It is just a series of vertically hanging ropes, each with a few knots in them. You can either go across grabbing each rope by hand a la the eponymous jungle swinger. Or you can put your feet on top of the bottom knot of each rope as you go from rope to rope.
I know my limitations. I was not going to be able to do the prior, at least not the whole way. So I opted to hop from knot to knot. First knot, no problem. Second knot. Good deal. Only 43,000 ropes to go. (Perhaps fewer than that. My memory is fuzzy.) Each rope I went to, I had to hoist myself up and swing my feet over, capturing the next rope with my feet and sliding them down to the knot. I then had to shift my right hand to the next rope, followed by my left hand. And that takes more energy than I realized.
About two-thirds of the way across, my body stopped cooperating. I moved my feet over to a rope. I tried to lift myself up high enough to swing my body over to the next rope. My arms laughed at this notion. They were no longer interested in this obstacle, they informed me.
I still had my feet securely braced on the knots. I’ll just hang here for a second, I thought, until my arms are better.
At that point, my legs informed me that if my arms didn’t have to work, then they didn’t either, and also informed me that they were about to play a fun little game called Jelly Legs.
If I let go, I was pretty sure I would be in trouble, and probably not making it back to the platform without some help of the crew. It is really not promising for your social standing for your entire class to have to see your dad get hauled to safety from the ropes courses they were navigating like squirrels.
I had to make one final stand. I looked over my shoulder. A crew member was on the platform behind me. “Just put your feet on the platform and you’re good,” he said. If only he knew about the limb revolt.
With every bit I had left in my body, I grabbed as tight as I could with my hands and pulled up as much as I could, and then launched my feet toward the platform. My heels landed solidly on the wooden stand. I was now in a sitting position. I gave the rope a little swing back and then forth, and then pulled as hard I could, digging my heels onto the platform for leverage. I let go with my right hand and grabbed the last rope. I repeated with my left. One. More. Pull. After a few seconds, I was standing upright on the platform.
While I did not complete the Tarzan obstacle in the purest of fashions, I consider it a win on my part. I went from one platform to the other and did not require rescue. That’s a win in my book. For me and my son.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.