A Falcon’s Last Flight

16 01 2015

 It happened on a dark and stormy night…Falcon's Fallen

Occasionally during the winter months our community receives wind storms that blow through town and for the most part damage is mild.  At least it only feels mild when it happens somewhere else.  This year the Spencer Butte Challenge Course; located at Spencer Butte Park, was at the center of the effects of nature and a beloved element was damaged.

Falcon DownOne tree fell during a gusty windstorm and in turn brought down another tree.  Element cables were snapped, bolts bent, and when it was all over nature created a spectacle of what gravity is capable of in a short amount of time.

Falcon’s Flight is a giant swing activity.  A universal element enjoyed by groups of all ages and ability levels; Falcon’s has provided a teachable and thrilling addition to the Spencer Butte Challenge Course since it was installed in 2004.  A participant is attached to a cable suspended 12’ off the ground and gets connected to a haul rope.  With the help of their team the group pulls the participant into the sky, as high as they want to go.  The participant can be pulled up to a height of over 50’ off the ground where they sit in their harness, looking around the forest from a new perspective, listening to the quiet, or hearing the encouraging words from their teammates; taking their time before the next step.

FlightWhen ready the participant releases themselves from the group and soars, swinging through the air.  The only sound they hear is the wind rushing past their ears, maybe the cheers from their group, or their own vocal response to the rush of falling then swinging a distance spanning over 75’ in just a few seconds; a literal interpretation of the word breathtaking!

It’s a great experience, a thrill, and for most people so much more.  People who have never done an activity like this describe their experience as terrifying and yet doable.  Others who have never been more than 10 feet off the ground, and never thought they would do something like this, experience that we are capable of more than we think.

In gratitude of the many groups that have experienced this element over the years I thought I would reach out to a group that utilizes the challenge course anywhere from 1-3 times per year; Mobility International  USA.  (MIUSA)    MIUSA works to provide delegates, both students and adults from around the world, experiences, resources, and knowledge to improve the rights of people with disabilities.  They utilize the Challenge Course and other River House Outdoor Program activities to create experiences where people can achieve more together than they thought possible.

Upon hearing of the recent damage to Falcon’s, staff from MIUSA sent us quotes and pictures of what former delegates shared after participating in the Falcon’s Flight activity:

Mariam at SBCC“this program was about enabling disabled young people to truly discover their capabilities and learn how to reach to the very top of their potential and, in many cases, exceed such potential -literally achieving what they perceived to be impossible. This concept was given physical embodiment at the Spencer Butte Challenge Course on July 22. When Jack reached the top of the trees he quite literally soared above the limitations that his disability presented him with and, in the most spectacular of fashions, showed us all and most importantly himself that we was capable of just about anything.” Conrad Will (UK Youth delegation)

2014 UK Delegates talked about how meaningful it was to see Sam participating in the falcon’s flight (especially Sam himself). The link below has a story about it, and here is a quote from Sam:

“Swinging and flying high up through the trees was definitely one of the best moments of my life. I was a bit concerned about how the organizers would adapt all these things for me but they always had a trick up their sleeves. How they got me up there I never knew but everyone was going to take part, no matter what!” Sam Waddington (UK Youth delegation)


“For many people [the challenge course] showed that disability is not inability.” – Stella Tiyoy 2012 High School student from Kenya

2014 MIUSAWhen asked about the most important skills, knowledge, or idea gained at WILD: “Swinging in the trees, even though it was my first time, at the end I became very happy because it gave me courage that I should also train my fellow blind women in our country” Emeldah Mapulanga (WILD 2013 woman from Zambia)

IMG_0437Falcon's Fallen2

Clean up of Falcon’s and the rebuilding process are already underway!  The fallen trees will be reused around the course and in the park to create seating space for future groups to discuss what they are experiencing or learning from the activities.  Other work to install new cables and belay systems will begin in the Spring.

Thank you all for your support of the Falcon’s Flight element and other Challenge Course activities that provide a rich learning resource to the community and others around the world that visit us on the course.

Written by:

Robert Brack; Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director 

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