This is the true story of an acrophobic sent to master a high ropes course 

Tweezle Dee and Tweezle Dumb

Meet Svӱrne. We met Svӱrne on the Wild Blue Ropes course while she was getting some quality hang time with her family of traveling magicians. A student at the College of Charleston, Svӱrne plans on majoring in biomolecular nuclear astronomy whenever the science world finally gets around to discovering that line of study. In her free time, she enjoys painting the toenails of small birds in fantastic neon patterns reminiscent of the day-glo '80s. But her true passion is spending her free time as an amateur restroom attendant because, as she says, "There's no better way to make new friends and meet interesting people than in the middle of an awkward moment." Svӱrne is wearing our Summer Basics burgundy legless unitard, which is designed specifically with rope climbing in mind. Her button-down plaid Explorers Top features pre-rolled sleeves and ultra-lightweight material that allows her to get noticed even when it's perfectly warm outside.

Perched atop a platform at 35 feet hugging a wooden pole was not how I pictured spending a recent Monday night. Nor did I expect to be told to jump off that very same platform, catch a rope, and land on a two-by-two foot platform. But that evening, I pushed my fear of heights aside and leapt into the air — screaming like an 8-year-old at a One Direction concert.

I missed my target.

And so I ended up dangling in the air like a half-witted spider in zero gravity at the Wild Blue Ropes course on James Island. The course, which opened in May, sits off Folly Road and offers 60 different challenges, or "experiences," with varying difficulty levels. Charlestonians Hugh Corcoran and Gary Ladd, along with Ron Hite from Boca Raton, Fla., worked with leading course designer U.S. Challenge to open the park. It's a beaut.

Although the aforementioned dangling ended my experience, the start was much more pleasant — at least as pleasant as the prospect of prancing about high above the ground can be for an acrophobe. Fortunately, the folks at Wild Blue are all about safety. The staff gave me a harness and a helmet, and offered a brief instructional, which mainly focused on the proper use of the dual-belay system and the tweezle, a device that keeps you attached to the ropes.

After successfully passing a safety check, I started the course, which is broken into three levels: green, blue, and black, just like skiing. Since I'm far from an adrenaline junkie, I decide to go with the easiest one — the green — but after seeing a six-year-old adeptly handle the blue course, I decided it was time to put on my big girl pants.

ropes2.jpg

Well, that small child showed me — seriously, she must've been part lemur or something. The first challenge: a twisted, wooden ladder. While it was a seemingly innocuous obstacle at the start, I had scarcely made it halfway across it before the ladder and gravity conspired against me and I turned over. I screamed and flailed and screamed and failed. Damn that kid.

After that, the tasks just got harder.

Next up: I had to cross a series of wobbly wires and safely make it to a platform. Mission accomplished. But then I was presented with a choice. Should I try the Tarzan swing, which would have required me to swing from rope to rope like a six-year-old kid/lemur, or scurry across a gigantic spider web? Since I have the upper-body strength of wilting daisy, the swing wasn't going to happen, so the web it was.

It was a workout.

Maybe it was the idea of being 35 feet in the air, grasping on to a rope that wasn't pulled as taut as I would've liked or my fear of falling — who knows — but I was glad to reach the end even though I sweated more than an Ohio tourist in cargo shorts, a fanny pack, and knee-high socks strolling down Market Street in the middle of August (Protip: the trick is to stay high and move quickly). I then made it through another challenge where I had to step and swing across a set of U-shaped ropes. Perhaps I was getting the hang of this ropes course after all.

I wasn't.

After all, those challenges led me to my sad fate dangling in the air, as helpless as a Spain in their World Cup opener. As I hung there, I recalled the portion of the training where I was told about a tool the Wild Blue staff would use to rescue someone if he or she got stuck in the middle of a challenge. As I sat in my harness, unable to pull myself back up, I pictured a Vaudeville-style hook being used to pull me to safety. Suddenly, I found the will to move. I wasn't going to be snatched from the Wild Blue stage like a ventriloquist with a case of Tourette's. I managed to shimmy my way across the ropes. Very slowly. Little did I know the real challenge was ahead.

Melissa Tunstall stares death in the face at Wild Blue Ropes - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Melissa Tunstall stares death in the face at Wild Blue Ropes

When I finally made it to the platform — which was above me, mind you — I was still too weak to pull myself onto it. It was then that I feebly looked at my instructor and whimpered "help me." But it was useless. I was going to have to do this one on my own. So like Wonder Woman, I summoned my inner Amazonian princess, pulled myself up, and threw myself on the platform with all the grace of a giant bag of potatoes.

If only that had been the end. There was one last element keeping me from solid ground: the trust fall to end all trust falls. All I had to do was sit up and push myself off the platform into a quick free fall before my feet could touch the ground again. And at that moment, that's all I wanted. So with a quick look back, I threw myself off the platform, shrieking the whole way down.

Despite all my screams and fits of terror, I just had one question: When can I do it again? 

Paintball

Mt. Pleasant Paintball
2637 Clements Ferry Road, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 696-9930, mtpleasantpaintball.com

Paintball Charleston
7100 Cross County Road, North Charleston
(843) 552-1115, paintballcharleston.net

Disc golf

Disc Golf Course at Trophy Lakes
3050 Marlin Road, Johns Island
(843) 559-2520, trophylakes.com

Park Circle Disc Golf Course
4800 Park Circle, North Charleston
(843) 745-1028, parkcirclediscgolf.com

Tidal Creek
3589 Mary Ader Ave., West Ashley
(843) 819-6126

Hiking

Awendaw Passage of Palmetto Trail
5821 Hwy. 17 North, Awendaw
(843) 887-3257

Caw Caw Interpretive Trail
5200 Savannah Hwy., Ravenel
(843) 889-8898, ccprc.com

Charles Pinckney Walking Trail
1254 Long Point Road, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 881-5516

Charles Towne Landing
1500 Old Towne Rd, West Ashley
(843) 852-4200

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
3550 Ashley River Rd, West Ashley
(843) 571-1266, magnoliaplantation.com

West Ashley Greenway
30 Mary Murray Drive, West Ashley
(843) 724-7321, westashleygreenway.org

Camping

Buck Hall Recreation Area
Buck Hall Landing Road, McClellanville
(843) 887-3412

Charleston KOA
9494 Hwy. 78, Ladson
(843) 797-1045, koa.com

James Island County Park
871 Riverland Drive, James Island
(843) 795-4386, ccprc.com

Mt. Pleasant KOA
3157 Hwy. 17 North, Mt. Pleasant
(800) 562-5796, koa.com

Oak Plantation Campground
3540 Savannah Hwy., Johns Island
(843) 766-5936, oakplantationcampground.com


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