Learning The Ropes
By Gary VanDeWalker
Building Self-Confidence at Kidder Creek
Story by: Gary VanDeWalker Photos courtesy of Kidder Creek
From the platform, the fifty-foot drop looks foreboding, despite the safety harness and person holding the rope attached to the harness below. The trapeze bar hangs just out of reach, meaning only a leap into the air will garner the prize. The twelve-year old lets out a nervous laugh before throwing herself from the safety of the tree. With gangly arms and legs at her side, her fingers reach out and grab the trapeze bar like a vise to the cheers of her friends below. In their attempts, they were left hanging in mid-air, at the end of the rope. The triumphant girl, lowering to the ground, has conquered the high ropes course at Kidder Creek Camp, in Siskiyou County’s Scott Valley.
Located on acres of forest, streams, and an apple orchard, Kidder Creek provides a host of high adventure activities on the edge of the Marble Mountains Wilderness area. In addition to the high ropes course is whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking and camp programs. The scenery and the challenges are awesome.
The high ropes course presents a test of agility, courage, and a determination to win over one’s environment. Program Director, Scott Leader says, “It’s not just the physical challenge of the elements or even completing each element. The mental challenge is huge.”
The large pines surrounding the course hold the steel cables, ropes, and planks which make up the aerial obstacle course’s elements. From the small ridge and pond above, a zip line drops onto the midst of the course, delivering the participants to their destination. The risk appears great, but is little. Participants are suited with hard hats, rock-climbing harnesses, and safety ropes attached to the belay below. A misstep results in dangling high above the forest floor and the scary descent as one is inched down by the climbing rope.
The course develops skills of cooperation, decision-making, teamwork, self-confidence, and trust in the safety of the rope. The first ascent is up a plank ladder, attached to steel cables. The rungs are four feet apart, requiring a partner to assist with the upward climb as the ladder wobbles. Once atop the course, a plank bridge awaits, overcome by short, three-foot hops from one plank to another. A more difficult bridge awaits, made only of a steel cable at the feet and cables for the hands. Without any hand supports, a tree trunk must be crossed by balance alone to bring one to the final target.
The concept of the high ropes course was developed by the French around 1900. Patterned after obstacles on a naval ship, military men trained and exercised on the course. But now the courses are used to develop confidence and faith.
The wooden platform juts from the tree, as the trapeze bar, which seems so close from the ground, appears a mile away. A short run and a steady glance ensure the capture of the bar. However, the 50-foot drop is daunting to most and makes it hard to concentrate. One by one, each participant screams out in the cool mountain air and tries to snatch the trophy. Whether they gain the bar or not, they win over their own fear as they take their leap.
The high ropes course is part of Kidder Creek Camp’s regular programs. Custom-designed events are available for groups.
Leader says, “Lots of kids overcome their fears on this course. We ask them what their goals are and then take it to the next step. The course isn’t about completing the elements, it’s about overcoming our fears and living life.” •