“GO APE” IN MEMPHIS’ OWN BACKYARD

Get out of your comfort zone on this zip line and treetop adventure in Memphis’ Shelby Farms Park

My husband’s mantra is “Get out of your comfort zone,” especially when it comes to encouraging our daughter to embrace new adventures. He’s fairly adventurous himself, despite his fear of heights.

A few years back, I wondered how well he’d take his own advice. Our anniversary was approaching and a zip line and treetop adventure called Go Ape had recently opened at Shelby Farms Park, the 4,500-acre oasis just 20 minutes from downtown Memphis. Go Ape seemed a fitting metaphor for relationships—I imagined challenges mixed with rewards—and I booked it as his surprise gift.

Turns out, we were both surprised: We knew to plan for a two- to three-hour experience outdoors. We knew there would be zip lines. What we didn’t expect was that we’d enjoy the activity between each zip line so much—40-plus “crossings” with names like Log Balance, which required us to maneuver across a series of swaying wooden beams, and Net Tunnel, which had us crawling from tree to tree through a 22-foot-long cargo net—all around 30 feet off the ground.

Feeling shaky? Take a deep breath and consider:

  1. You’re wearing a safety harness, attached via TWO carabiners to safety lines, every time you complete a crossing or zip line. Go Ape instructors outfit and instruct you on the ground before you head into the trees. This includes fitting you with your safety harness and presenting a thorough demonstration of how to use the safety system throughout your adventure.
  2. This makes every crossing do-able whether you’re fearless or not-so-much. Take the Tic Tac Toe, a series of wooden Xs and Os suspended by cables between the trees. Feeling brave? Skip across, or cross without using your hands—if you wobble, your harness will hold you in place. Feeling brave-ish? Sit in your harness just like you would on a zip line and use your hands to pull yourself across. Or walk across, gripping the cables for dear life. No one’s judging. Some crossings even offer two routes so you can choose an “extreme” or milder experience.
  3. My husband completed the entire course without panicking. At least outwardly. 

As it turns out, we would find additional metaphors for our relationship on the course that day—especially on more technical crossings like the Rope Trapeze, where we relied on each other’s coaching and encouragement. Yet as proud as I was of us, I was proud of myself: The experience was fun but physical, and though I don’t share my husband’s fear of heights, the course’s two Tarzan Swings tested me mentally. I loved breezing through the air on each rope swing, crashing into the safety of the waiting cargo net. But stepping off the platform to grab that rope? Not easy for me, but I did it. And it was so worth it.  
 
When our daughter asked to celebrate her birthday at Go Ape last month, we wanted the experience for her, too—the thrills, the challenges, the laughs, every single “I did it!” moment. She loved the zip lines (six total—all suspended above the park’s Pine Lake—make Shelby Farms Park’s Go Ape course unique). But her absolute favorite crossing? The Tarzan Swing. 
 
Between our two Go Ape experiences at Shelby Farms Park, we’ve seen groups of friends, families and others like us celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. Just keep in mind that the minimum participant age is 10 (with adult supervision required through age 15) and some height and weight restrictions apply. With the collaboration and cheerleading I’ve seen Go Ape inspire, I’d also recommend it for area businesses and organizations seeking a teambuilding adventure in their own backyard.

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