Perhaps some of our ancestors lived in treetops, and no wonder. It's a cool place to catch refreshing breezes and sway gently with the canopies. It feels safe and natural, and it affords a hawk's eye view of the surrounding landscape.
Those were some of my thoughts after finishing the Tallahassee Museum's new Tree to Tree Adventures once the "OMG that was awesome!" phase was over. And it is awesome-and a work out. I hadn't used those types of climbing and balancing skills since the last Colorado mountain I climbed. The museum's course has the added advantage of being completely safe-participants are always harnessed to a safety line-so it's a great place to work out any fear of heights.
The museum opened its groundbreaking course Thursday, May 23rd. A steady stream of users has been arriving since. "We did our homework and we think it will be a significant success," says museum director Russell Daws. "We like that it's not just zip lines, but also adventure games between trees. And it's great exercise. You see the world of nature from a different perspective."
The museum has three courses. Children 39 to 60 inches tall are flocking to the "TREEmendous" course between the farm and picnic area. Adults and young adults 54 inches and taller first start on the Canopy Crossing course that features 18 challenges and a handful of zip lines. Then, there is the more advanced Soaring Cypress course that features over 35 games and challenges and zip lines that stretch to an impressive 700 feet, with heights up to 55 feet.
The Soaring Cypress course starts behind the Discovery Center, connects to tall longleaf pines near the historic schoolhouse, and then it's onto the zoo area and cypress swamp. And no, the course doesn't dip over the panther and bear habitats where the animals can take a friendly swipe, and it doesn't soar over the gaping jaws of the museum alligator. But you do get a birds-eye view of the deer habitat, as well as some of the wilder parts of the museum. Did I already say it was awesome?
A few trees did have to be cut and trimmed to make the course of more than 70 platforms, but it is amazing how the lines and challenges have so skillfully been woven through the museum's thick canopy. The museum hired an arborist to oversee the work and to ensure that each tree on the course is healthy. Safety is paramount and the course is inspected daily by museum staff and every six months by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The museum hired about 20 new employees to work the course as well as co-managers Lucas VanSickle and Joe Mason. VanSickle has a strong civil engineering and safety background while Mason worked on a similar course at Calloway Gardens and before that, he was a member of the FSU Flying High Circus. "Eventually, when the staff becomes more experienced, then Joe or I can rotate taking a day off on occasion," VanSickle said with a laugh. "But for now, we're both here every day."
By establishing the course, the museum hopes to expand on its main demographic group of young families with children to include college students and young professionals. Active seniors are trying the course, too. Through the adventure courses, it is hoped that the growing body of participants will also take time to enjoy the museum's special events, historic buildings, habitat zoo and Discovery Center from the ground level.
The Tree to Tree Adventures is open during museum hours 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 12:30 to 5 on Sundays, although it will stay open after hours until the last person has finished the course. To learn more, log onto www.treetotreeadventures.com.