Reporting Mike Binkley
PARK RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – Nothing builds teamwork like overcoming a tough challenge together, but fear and doubt often hold people back.
That’s why corporate teams, athletes and thrill-seekers can be found climbing trees and scaling high-wires in Minnesota’s Northwoods.
The Character Challenge Course features a series of daring activities, many of them 30-35 feet off the ground.
Each element has a different twist to test participants’ confidence and level of trust. For example, the Commitment Bridge features two galvanized aircraft cables attached to distant trees, 35 feet up. Two people try to step their way along those cables to the other side as they stand face-to-face, clasping hands. The more progress they make, the farther apart the cables beneath them get, and each person’s body starts to angle down.
It requires cooperation and communication to keep from falling off the cables, and even though they’re harnessed in, it can be easy to forget that fact as they look down.
“The actual level of risk is very low but the perception of risk is very high,” said Travis Guida, the director of operations. “And that’s where you get into what keeps you from conquering your fears and what keeps you from conquering your goals in life and that’s pretty powerful stuff.”
Other challenges include the Indiana Jones Bridge –- patterned after the bridge in the movies -– and the Jungle Line Walk, where participants use a series of hanging ropes to work their way across another cable between two trees.
“We’re all about trusting each other,” said Guida, “but sometimes you’ve got to trust yourself too. You’ve got to believe in yourself that you can do it.”
Those who do it get to enjoy the rewards, like a ride along a 370-foot zip line, or a 20-foot free fall from the 3G Swing.
The course is just beginning its third full year, with counselors and coaches on hand to offer encouragement and help participants apply what they’ve learned to their lives.
It’s the brainchild of Travis and Sarah Guida, both teachers.
“It’s given us an opportunity to step back from teaching and focus exclusively on a different kind of teaching — one out in the trees,” Travis Guida said.
The Guidas are taking their own leap of faith, leaving their teaching jobs to run this course, as they raise seven children.
“Here we are,” Sarah Guida said. “We’re just ready to make a difference and make a change.”
You could go through their course simply for the adrenaline rush, but they guarantee, you’ll still come out of it changed.
“That’s our goal, is not to be a business, not to be a theme park, but to truly be an avenue for people to come and build character,” Sarah Guida said.
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