It's Saturday morning, the sun is barely above the horizon and - like the rest of the world - I should be in bed. Instead, I'm clinging to a small tree fifty feet in the air, trying not to look down at the swamp which lies below. A thin metal wire is all that separates me from a lifetime of paralysis, or worse, becoming breakfast for a hungry alligator. This is not at all what I expected to find at the Tallahassee Museum, especially before I've had my morning iced coffee.
|Beautiful day for some ziplining|
The words "zipline" and "museum" don't collide very often, if ever, in the same sentence. Then again, the Tallahassee Museum is not your traditional cold, sterile building filled with various artifacts. By contrast, the museum is spread amongst a 52 acre preserve, and invites guests to connect with nature, wildlife, and Florida's rich history. The recent arrival of the Tree-to-Tree Adventure, however, is sure to turn upside down the very definition of a museum.
|The Tallahassee Museum|
As the name suggests, the Tree-to-Tree Adventure is a series of obstacle courses and ziplines set amongst the grounds of the Tallahassee Museum. The courses used the natural characteristics of the museum's 52 acres to create a unique and challenging experience, which sends adventurers climbing, soaring, and even surfing among the treetops. There are two different courses to choose from depending on height and whether you hold membership in the Evil Knievil fan club, plus a separate course for smaller adventurers. Naturally, we chose to tackle them both... Further evidence that I shouldn't be allowed to make decisions before my morning coffee...
|The grounds of the museum|
After being fitted with the harness on which our life would depend, there were a few safety instructions followed by a test course for us to get the hang of the equipment. While each group has a guide that follows along, they remain on the ground leaving safety 100% in your hands. So unlike the pre-flight safety demo on an airplane, I'd suggest paying attention to this one.
|MJ all suited up|
On the test course, braking on the zipline seemed to give MJ and I problems at first. She ground to a halt in the middle of the line, while I went careening into the platform at the end. This made me a little nervous because unlike our first experience with a zipline in Las Vegas, there is no one at the end to catch you. Our guide assured us that we would eventually get the hang of it, although I couldn't help but wonder if by "eventually" he really meant "after you crash into a tree."
|And so it begins...|
Ever the gentleman, I let MJ take the lead on the first course, although she interpreted the gesture to mean I was a fraidy cat. She had a point. The obstacles started out fairly easy - swinging bridges with holes in the planks - and increased in difficulty as we went along. By about the fourth obstacle my legs and abs were twitching uncontrollably, an early sign of fatigue from muscles which hadn't been worked in decades. After plodding through the course, and mastering braking on the ziplines, we climbed back down to solid ground for a much needed breather. Our guide added a little insult to injury by informing us that this was the easiest of the courses....
|These are the easy ones?|
|Still waiting for that easy part...|
Right about now was when my neurotic habit of arriving to places before they open actually paid off. We were the first people on the Tree-to-Tree course and the next group behind us was no where in sight. This came in handy the further along we got into the adventure, because as the obstacles increased in difficulty, so did the amount of time it took us to complete them. With no one around we were able to take our time, and fully enjoy the experience without the added pressure of people waiting on us to finish. Plus, I'm sure the sight of me flailing around on a tightrope is far from a good look.
|MJ on the tight rope|
|Flying through the trees|
The second course of the Tree-to-Tree Adventure is dubbed the "Soaring Cypress" and it was clear from the start we were in for something special. The climb up the first pine tree seemed to go on forever, before eventually reaching one of the highest points of the adventure. We navigated the ziplines and obstacles - which were even harder given the additional height - before making our way to the final platform of the adventure. At over 700 feet long, the last zipline of the course soared fifty feet over an expanse of good old Florida swampland.
|Keep climbing..we're only halfway up...|
|Yes, let's not fall in the swamp shall we?|
|The final zipline|
As our feet hit the ground once more, a look of satisfaction came to both of our faces. The Tree-to-Tree Adventure was one of the most challenging, yet incredibly fun things we've come across in our travels, and we found it in the most unlikely of places. The Met, Louvre, and 'Orsay might have Pablo, Vincent, and Leonardo, but the Tallahassee Museum has ziplines, and that makes it cooler than all of the others combined.
If you go...
- Arrive early, especially on weekends - I can't stress this enough. By the time we finished the adventure, the line for those waiting to begin was about 20 people deep, and the course was packed. I'd imagine this made for a long afternoon.
- Visit the rest of the museum first - The temptation when you arrive to the Tallahassee Museum is to dive right in to the Tree-to-Tree. The problem is you will likely be an exhausted shell of a human being that's in desperate need of a shower when you finish. I'd suggest seeing the rest of the museum first, otherwise you'll probably want to skip it later...
- Don't worry about your fear of heights - I get vertigo just looking down from a 2nd story hotel balcony, nevermind standing on a tiny platform 50 feet up in a tree. What we found, however, is that the obstacles requires the use of so much focus that there aren't enough spare brain cells to activate the fear of heights.
- Have your morning coffee.
Special thanks to the Tallahassee Museum for hosting our Tree-to-Tree Adventure. All opinions and overstated embellishments are entirely my own.