Wilderness Camping - 1983

When we stopped this tale last week in Ken’s Korner from the summer of 1983, our junior high wilderness camping group had just finished rappelling and had moved to Greensfelder Park not far from Six Flags west of St. Louis, Missouri. We were going to be led that day by Jim Monteith, a dear and beloved friend, brother in Jesus and adventure seeker. Jim would take us around the team challenge course this Tuesday of our week-long wilderness experience.

The team challenge course consists of a set of obstacles which were all different and could only be conquered by the TEAM working through them. Each challenge had a story behind them to add to the fun like the tire pass-through. The team had to get all members through the car tire suspended from a tree some four feet off the ground WITHOUT touching the tire, OR the person would be temporarily stunned and had to return to the beginning side. The first and last person through had to be chosen carefully and handled very carefully.

Then came the high ropes challenge course. Each person would put on a seat harness just like when they rappelled. To enter the course, each person had to walk up an incline board six-inches wide. This led to another six-inch-wide board stretching some twelve to fifteen feet between two trees. You were now some eight feet off the ground. There was a rope bridge, a cargo net, two-cable bridge (one cable over your head, one under your feet) and more which were some fifteen to thirty feet off the ground.

There were two ways down: a giant’s ladder and a zipline. The giant’s ladder required you to leap out into the air to grab the ladder which appeared too many feet away from you. Anyone over five-feet tall only had to jump up a foot and out maybe three feet, but it was the twenty-feet off the ground that made this intimidating. Anyone six-feet tall or taller would lean out and grab it with very little effort. Then you had to climb down the giant’s ladder which took some work, all while tied into a belay rope.

The zipline “crow’s nest” was some forty feet up in a large oak tree. You left the crow’s nest, dropped about five feet then started speeding down the one-hundred-fifty-foot-long steel cable. For this and the entire high ropes course, you used “rabbit ears” or a special rope with two points of contact over your head (the “rabbit” ears) with a central figure-eight knot attached to your seat harness. For the zipline, one rabbit ear attached to a steel biner onto the steel cable. The other rabbit ear clipped into the very heavy-duty pulley on the cable. Once clipped in, you were ready for the ride.

This twenty-something hates to fall, so the zipline used to really mess with me, especially the first time. After saying a prayer, I left the crow’s nest and recited John 3:16 LOUDLY while zipping down the cable. Yes, everyone laughed, but it helped me overcome an irrational fear to complete the course and have a great time doing it. Ziplines do not scare me anymore!

Once done with this incredibly challenging Tuesday, we were back on the bus for an hour or so to our next location. The next part of our adventure week involved following a handwritten map. Once off Interstate 44 we followed a two-lane blacktop road south over a river, then turned right onto a gravel road with no name. We went down to the second left, then the third right or vice-versa.

This place was out in the boonies.

But, the editor is telling me I am out of words for this Ken’s Korner. Please find the conclusion of my first wilderness adventure in next week’s Irrigator. You know, 1983 sounds like a LONG time ago these days. Thanks for reading, neighbor. Enjoy the day!

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