words: Marcus Coker
images courtesy: Locoropes, taken by Michelle Edmonds
I felt like Tarzan. In training. I wasn’t swinging from the treetops just yet, but I was standing in them. I had a bird’s eye view of the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, Arkansas, and it was breathtaking. For a moment, I felt myself relax and I thought I heard God speak. Time didn’t exist. I was one with creation. I was free.
As the wind picked up, I looked down forty-five feet and reconsidered my newfound freedom. Time may not exist, I thought, but gravity does. Tarzan was crazy. It was then that my legs began to shake. I told them to stop. They didn’t listen.
Just one hour before, I was standing in the Locoropes parking lot. I knew any activity that began with a legal waiver of liability had to be exciting. As I completed the paperwork, I noticed a gray-haired woman who had just finished the high-altitude ropes course that lay before me. She appeared to be alive and happy, which seemed promising.
I couldn’t wait to get started climbing trees, but safety comes first at Locoropes. I was tossed a harness to attach to my waist and legs. I stepped into the nylon belt, pulling the straps to make the fit tighter. One of the Loco Crew pulled the straps even more, and I gasped. Apparently, snug equals secure. The device gripped my waist and thighs and bunched my jeans in places you don’t want your jeans to bunch. Things that keep us safe, I thought, are often functional but rarely flattering.
I shrugged my shoulders and followed a family of seven to orientation. Our instructor was outfitted with a bandana, a walkie-talkie, and multiple carabiners, spring-loaded metal rings used for fastening ropes together when climbing. He had a ponytail and facial hair, and I imagined he ate a lot of granola. Standing in the middle of the forest, he looked like he knew what he was doing. He told us we would each be equipped with a personal protection system that would always be attached to something steadfast. He walked us through a miniature ropes course, which stood only a few feet off the ground. It allowed us to become familiar with the safety equipment and the course procedures. I was the last to finish, and as my feet returned to the earth, I was sold. I knew the afternoon would pass too quickly. I was so eager for the real thing, that I later forgot his advice: “Don’t look down, look forward.”
The adventure that lay before me was a mid-air obstacle course, built dozens of feet off the ground. My challenge was to move from tree to tree via tight ropes, cargo nets, and suspended logs, among other things. Still the last in line, and I could barely wait my turn. I wasn’t the only excited one. The first of our group to start scampering through the trees was a four-year-old boy. That’s right, I said a four-year-old was dancing amongst the branches — like one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys. It was his third time to complete the course. As I watched him move quickly and confidently, I knew I had to keep up.
Heck, I thought, the oldest to complete one of the Locoropes courses was a seventy-nine-year-old man. I was not about to be outdone.
For the most part, I wasn’t outdone, unless, of course, you count Andrew, who was in line behind me, and took my place as last in line. He joined our group late, never seemed off balance, and sometimes didn’t even use his hands. Granted, he was the owner’s son, but by comparison, I felt like a grizzly bear trying to play ping pong.
While I was busy getting my legs twisted amongst the ropes and wires, several other adventurers were shimmying across cables and leaping off tree-supported platforms. All the course elements are tree-to-tree, a feature that sets Locoropes apart from many other challenge courses, which often use telephone poles. Locoropes offers three treetop courses, totaling thirty-two different elements. Each course increases in difficulty, and all end with a zip line — a thrilling way to use a pulley, a cable, and the power of gravity to return back to ground level.
Farther away, several other adventurers were at the climbing tower, a rock wall with several difficulty levels. From the top of the tower, which could also be reached by stairs, a young girl was celebrating her birthday as she shot 320 feet across the forest, suspended from the Flying Pig Zip Line, a motorized pulley and cable system. A balding man stood ready to experience the Hot Shot Free Fall, which is one step off a forty foot platform and four seconds of gravity before reconnecting with the earth. Don’t worry, his landing was soft, thanks to a cable that slowed down his rate of dissension.
The courses, from “mildly cautious to seriously adventurous,” are set up in the lush hilltops of Mountain View, and bring in visitors hoping to spend a day with nature, and expand their horizons. The season runs from March 1 through November 30, and is open every day but Easter and Thanksgiving. All ages show up, and groups, like sports teams or academic clubs, often travel here together. While it’s certainly an adrenaline-charged day of fun, it’s also a way for organizations to learn skills like team building and leadership.
As you begin to get the hang of what you’re doing, your confidence begins to grow, and that happens whether you’re naturally athletic or someone who sees Locoropes as a big challenge. One of the best stories of the day was about a woman who was brought to the course by her son, who had a season pass and wanted to share all this fun with her. She made it to the part called The Runaway, which is also known as the Tarzan Swing, and she just didn’t have the nerve to go any farther. A few days later she came back and made it all the way through, thrilled that she had decided to take a second chance.
While being up so high can seem startling, each climber wears a double-lock security system, which means you’re unable to unhook from one safety cable until you attach to another. And if you do need to come down for any reason, the staff is there to help you.
Driving home, I considered the amount of time I spent in front of my computer, on my cell phone, how little time I spent outside with the people I care about. I made a note to change all that. I realized how much I’d learned in just one exhilarating day. And there was something inherently satisfying about feeling my legs shake beneath me — and continuing to move forward anyway. Despite the involuntary quivering of my legs, I felt like Tarzan. In a safety harness.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO LOCO!
Tower Adventure (No reservations needed)
(Flying Pig Zip Line, Hot Shot Free Fall,
or Planks Peak Climbing Wall)
Cost for Adults and Kids $ 7.50 – tax included
Treetop Adventure (Reservation encouraged)
End of the Line: Loco Lines 1,2,3 Under 18 $40 / Adults $50
Short Line: Loco Rope 1 $15
Jump the Line: Loco Line 2 or 3 $20
Tower Power Pack
Buy 4 Tower Adventures, Receive 2 Free
Four hours, one way, from Fort Smith
1025A Park Ave, Mountain View, Arkansas 72560
10am – 5pm, 7 days a week, March 1st – November 30th
(closed only on Easter and Thanksgiving)
minimum age / height:
43″ for Treetop Adventures. There is no minimum age to participate. Children may trek the Treetop Adventure Loco Lines unaccompanied and be supervised from the ground, provided they are at least 12 years old and 58″ tall.
30 pounds for Tower Adventures
290 pounds for Treetop Adventure and
250 pounds for Tower Adventures
For more information, visit LocoRopes.com or call 870-269-6566