Some of our staff recently got the opportunity to go through Outward Bound California’s ropes course in McLaren Park in San Francisco.

It not only was a great way to get folks together in-person and get outside in nature, which is what we love to do the most. The experience was a great team-building exercise.

Camp counselor Gerry was one of the first people to make it across the wooden suspension bridge.

As you can see, this was no ordinary bridge.

In order to get to the bridge, you have to climb a tree using a ladder, then climb a few more steps on the tree just to get to the obstacle. Walking across each wooden plank requires a lot of balance and concentration because there are no handrails and each step is farther away than the previous one. Talk about a challenge!

Shortly afterward, Rainbow, our development manager, made the walk across the bridge look easy by figuring out a creative way to keep her balance.

Counselor Zeus also made it successfully across the bridge.

One of the lessons our staff took away from the bridge obstacle was that communication is key.

The main reason why each person was able to walk across a bridge high up in the trees, especially when no one had done a ropes course before, was because each person was in a harness attached to a rope and there were other people on the ground holding onto that rope. As each person took one step after another, it was important to check in with each other to make sure the person on the course felt safe and secure.

“The biggest lesson I took away was that it’s important to communicate with everyone,” Gerry said. “If you’re requesting something from someone else, you’ve gotta let them know and maybe they can help to meet your needs.”

On another part of the course, our staff had to walk across a single row of ropes that required a lot more trust in the team below.

Once each person got to the ropes, they had to place their feet on one rope while grabbing onto another rope above their head. Then, to make it across the course, they had to hold onto another set of ropes that was tied together in a triangle.

Each step was wobbly and each person had to bend down and stand back up as they tried not to look down.

The entire time, the team below cheered each person on and encouraged them to not quit. It was really great to see the teamwork and trust built with that obstacle.

Finally, the staff took on a challenge aptly called the “Leap of Faith.” For this obstacle, each person had to climb a ladder and then scale a tall, narrow pole. The pole was so high up in the air that people were saying they could hear and feel the wind rushing past their entire bodies as they tried to maintain their balance.

Once at the top, each person was encouraged to take a giant leap of faith and try to touch the blue buoy that was hanging from up above.

Despite how scary it looked, each staff member faced their fears and jumped.

Look at the hang time!

Camp counselor Peekaboo said he surprised himself when he was able to make it through the leap of faith. Naturally, he had a fear of heights and he struggled with the first part of the ropes course.

“But I just kept telling myself, ‘Keep trying,’” he said. “It’s all about perseverance. If you set your mind to something, you can accomplish it.”

It was also interesting to see how people were more motivated to take that last leap of faith when they saw others complete the obstacle.

You could definitely feel the trust at that point because, once you were in the air, the only way down was to be suspended by the rope as the rest of the team gradually released the rope until you safely arrived back on the ground.

Overall, it was great to be back outside in nature (although we still had to social distance the entire time).

We also learned some lessons that we think our campers will find useful down the road.

At the end of the day, Gerry said the ropes course wasn’t about competing against anyone else. Rather, it was about realizing that, the higher you go, the more you have to think with your heart instead of your head.

“The biggest lesson that I think everyone should take away from this experience is that you don’t have to be quick at everything,” Gerry said. “You just have to remember to take one step at a time and, eventually, you’ll reach your goal.”

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