A Tree-Umph! Triumph

By: Eric Snider in BAYPOP – I was going to write this yesterday but I was too tired. After monkeying around at Tree-Umph! in Bradenton for nearly three hours, then driving home to the ‘burg and arriving around 4:30 … like I said, too pooped to blog. Florida has a lot of attractions and it seems that most of them feature plastic made to look like rocks. That is not Tree-Umph. Southwest Florida’s first treetop adventure course opens to the public today. With five progressively difficult courses, and a children’s course for age 7 and up, Tree-Umph’s 76 total obstacles can provide the full-on, daredevil, muscle-work experience, or something requiring a bit less strength and stamina. And the circuit has plenty of zip-lines, which demand very little effort at all, but do ask for a leap of faith, at least at first. I did Tree-Umph yesterday with my friend Cliff Fischer, 46, who recently retired from the Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant. He is a man in good physical condition. I am somewhat older—I get senior rates at the movies—and am in pretty fair condition myself. I’m an athlete—basketball, mostly—but not an outdoorsman. I don’t fish. I don’t hunt. I don’t dive. I don’t hike. And I don’t climb. So for me Tree-Umph was a brand new thing. Man, it was fun. And definitely a challenge. The friendly guides walked us through the basics: putting on the harness, handling the carabiners (basically clips that keep you constantly tethered to cables and hooks). We did a whole lot of carabining. It’s safety first at Tree-Umph, so wherever you are in the trees, or on a ladder, you’re required to be attached. After a brief run-through on the small training course, we were off to the trees. We started out on the easy stuff, but even then I had to traverse the obstacles deliberately. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I looked over at one of the guides who was practically running across a wobbly set of boards from tree to tree. Humbled, I forged on. For the zip-line rides, you attach a roller-type device to a cable, then position the carabiners on the device, grab some gathered rope, sit low in the harness, push off and go go go. Zip-line is the perfect name—for the entire ride, your ears ring with a sharp zzzzzzeeeeeeee. Only once did I fully lose my purchase. There’s a modified skateboard that scoots from tree to tree. I screwed up my footwork and ended up dangling by my harness and cord, sliding back to the middle of the obstacle. A guide pulled me back to the start, where I gathered myself and successfully breezed across. (Speaking of breezes, there are some really nice ones up in those trees.) In a latter phase of the course, I was posed a choice—easier or harder. Harder took you higher and across some military-style rope lattice, and a few other obstacles that looked demanding. By now my hands were raw, my forearms were especially fatigued and so, basically, was the rest of me. Easy was an easy decision for me. Cliff opted for hard (in the picture at the top of the post), and finished, although he admitted that the phase was real tough. Tree-Umph’s grand finale is a 650-foot zip-line run, starting at about 60 feet up. (One result of doing Tree-Umph was finding out that I essentially have no fear of heights.) It provided one final ignominy. As the ride progressed, I twisted and turned backward; facing a pretty strong headwind, I puttered to a stop about 50 feet from the end. I had to flatten out and hand-over-hand my way to the platform. Cliff went last. He got low, his feet forward, keeping himself aerodynamic. It looked for a few seconds as if he, too, might stall. But here he came, slowing down, depositing himself on the platform as gently as a baby in a crib. I greeted him with a smile and a man-friendly remark that starts with F and ends with U. Link to original article: http://www.baypop.com/a-tree-umph-triumph/

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