I was perched eighty feet up in the treetop canopy. Although the weather was modest, the daunting heights had oppressed my nerves and shrouded my skin with reflective sweat. I quaked as I agilely swung from one obstacle to the next. My legs, mind, and hands were all fatigued and wrenched, yet the incentive of achieving my goal of finishing the entire obstacle course was enough for me to endure the drudgery a little longer. When I began the Gunstock Treetop Aerial Adventure Park course, I was drowning myself with sparks of euphoria and hubris.
My whole family, and my fourteen year old self, agreed to challenge ourselves to the course on our summer vacation in New Hampshire. The day began with vast family enjoyment, which involved playing with our harnesses and learning about how the course functioned at a tutorial station. The course had seven levels, which progressively got more challenging and consisted of cargo nets, zip-lines, tight-ropes, and swinging steps. We climbed up a ladder to level one, making sure to fasten our belay clips to the metal supports beside us. The ladder was steep and slightly tilted towards the platform at the top.
Even though, the wood has been perfectly eroded so the rungs were spineless and sturdy, each step I took gave me a falling sensation. Once I reached the top of the ladder, I heaved myself onto the wooden deck and secured myself to the tree for support as if I was a frightened toddler. Then, I apprehensively slid over to the other end of the circular deck, to wait for my family. In the meantime to dismiss my mind from the heights, I uneasily picked some lichens and bark off the tree, which crested my nails with dirty, green wisps of bark and pinesap.
The forest smelled as raw as a petting zoo, and the tree sap irritated my hands with filth. Once the rest of my family was ready, I sprinted through the remanding beginner sections of the first level, and my sister followed behind me like a duckling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy for my mom and dad. They got stuck at the third obstacle, which was a round, wooden cylinder. My dad was caught up inside, unable to slide out onto the platform in front of him. “C’mon Jeffrey, hurry up…you look just like a bear stuck in a tree,” my mom kept repeating. I’m stuck.
Cailey and Jason how did you get through? ” He would ask. My sister and I just kept chuckling like children at a circus and whimpered over our laughter, “Dad just try to go feet first not head first. Rearrange your feet. ” Then he did. The whole tube swung horizontally just before his toes appeared outside the tube. After that, his whole body followed, and he did not speak much more for the rest of the trip. He had a realization, as I would have later, that this course is not as easy as it vainly appeared.
The next couple levels were a reflection of the first, with similar obstacles and struggles but only a few feet higher. As the course got further up in the trees, the amount of my ambivalence towards the course simply increased. It was not anymore physically demanding, but the heights were just mentally corroding. The sparks of euphoria and hubris transformed into mere wisps that were sliding out of my hands. Soon after that, once we completed level five, we were able to visit the ground for a drink. I raced over to their buckets of plain, tap water and poured the translucent, lucid liquid into cone-shaped cups.
In one momentous gulp, I drank the water and then refilled my cup to do the same process about five more times in succession. The cheap, tap water wasn’t that tasty, but it did quench my taste buds and relieved my stress of heights momentarily. Then, once everyone licked the last drop out of their cups, my mom and dad asked together, “Do you guys want to continue on to the next level? ” My mom said, “I don’t know if I am going to continue. ” My dad added, “Me too, I am a little worn out. ” “C’mon mom and dad, there are only two more levels to finish,” my sister announced with enthusiasm.
With hesitation, I contribute and say, “I will continue. ” We climbed up the ladder again, family intact. This time, since it was one of the more difficult levels, a teenage guide traveled with us. My sister now led the family, and she trucked through the first two obstacles, unlike the rest of us who barely managed. I was perched eighty feet up in the treetop canopy, and I began to abhor my ability to make it through. The next obstacle was a cargo net, made of corroding, splintering rope. I snatched the rope with my soggy fingers and somehow placed my trembling feet on the net.
After that, I latched my arms around the net and began to lurch my way across. Once I got to the center of the net, a wind gust shook the whole net and tickled the back of my neck, which only added to the discomfort. I continued and made it to the end of the level, which concluded with a one-hundred foot zip-line. Then, I waited with my sister around the final tree of the level for my parents, with the guide, to finish. They got exhausted at the cargo net and slowly crept through the following obstacles.
My sister and I discussed our intentions to continue onto the next level with each other. “I’m tired…that was difficult, and I never knew I had a fear of heights. Cailey how are you feeling? ” I asked. “I’m alright. I think I will continue,” she answered confidently. Trying not to be a wimp, I responded by saying, “Yeah I think I can make it. ” The rest of the group arrived and my mom and dad immediately say, “We are done…that was way too much work. ” They also added and asked, “Cailey and Jason are you going to continue? ” Cailey quickly responded and stated, “Yep, we are both continuing.
The guide pulled out a walkie-talkie and tells his co-workers that there are two customers going to the last level. All I heard in response was muffled, chalked noises and a brief “Yep, Got it. ” “Good luck Cailey and Jason…have fun,” my parents said. I passively chuckled and began to climb another thirty feet into the forest. This was finally my time to fulfill my ultimate goal of completing the entire course. This level would have brought me over one-hundred feet above the ground; but once I peered up the ladder and took five steps upward, I simply quit.
The tall ladder and the first obstacle were mocking me, and it was enough for my will to succumb to the pain. I climbed all the way down to the forest floor, and my legs and mind were revitalized. My legs grew back to their normal feeling, but my mind only experienced disappointment. I witnessed my sister finish the course with ease and focus, which only reassured my speculation that I could have finished the level and accomplished my goal. I let my mind contradict with my goals, which concluded my summer day journey by going down a ladder rather than up one.