Extreme athletes banded together to design Spartan Races' intense courses orchestrated over standardized distances, each strewn with natural and man-made obstacles to test mind-body fitness, resilience, stamina, and strength, designed to leave participants exhausted and exhilarated. In waves of 200, runners collect smudges and stains as they perform box jumps, haul heavy sandbags, and juke feral linebackers. Depending on where in the world they're participating, the course may be as short as 3 miles or, for extremely practiced athletes, as long as a full marathon.
Motivated by a passion for climbing and an understanding of how the sport enhances both mental and physical strength, the architects of Inner Peaks designed their gym to challenge climbers with 13,000 square feet of continuous, molded climbing walls boasting an altitude of 25 feet. With the addition of 50 rope stations, terrain for every skill level, a bouldering area, and training courses for ages 16 and older, they created a facility that fosters development of the skills needed to climb natural rocks or trim Lincoln's nose hairs on Mount Rushmore. The gym's team of expert climbers is headed by husband and wife owners, Doug Cosby and Page Lee, who both have many years of experience in sport climbing and climbing-gym management under their belts. The passionate staff is always dangling somewhere nearby ready to assist or offer instruction as burgeoning climbers scale an unparalleled lead cave, negotiate three long, aesthetic cracks, and maneuver around arches, roofs, and routes that are altered each week.
Carolina Adventure Guides doesn't let geography get in the way of a good time. The adventure outfit leads trips in its own backyard, as well as in far-flung destinations such as Alaska and Hawaii. Closer to home, its guides teach introductory climbing classes at Crowders Mountain State Park, where students learn techniques such as how to rappel down the rock-face and when to ask an eagle for a lift. The guides are also certified in first aid and are members of various climbing groups, including the American Mountain Guide Association, and have worked with other organizations, such as Charlotte Outdoor Adventures.
When rock-climbing couple Christy and Scott Thrift got engaged, Christy was dangling off the side of Stone Mountain. The same adventurous spirit that elevated their engagement informs their married life, which they spend running their wilderness guiding service, Thrifty Adventures. While some of the duo’s trips require previous outdoor experience, most welcome all participants, and range from ice climbing adventures to rock climbing and backpacking trips. Along the way, Scott and Christy teach safety basics, climbing techniques, and strategies for preserving natural surroundings, such as refraining from nibbling on the mountain.
The treetops are traditionally the playground of winged beasts and tiny, furry climbers. So it's not unnatural to do a double take upon seeing humans flying from tree to tree—at heights of up to 50 feet—with all the grace of a forest native. Today, 15 treehouses peek through the leaves of the sprawling wooded area, serving as resting points and educational outposts for visitors soaring on ziplines. The Beanstalk Journey at Catawba Meadows came to fruition to fulfill its builders’ goal of providing fun and physical activities for families to enjoy. Now the park is open year-round, supplying adrenaline-pumping recreation to all who seek it.
Like veins coursing through the forest, swinging rope bridges and covered rope tunnels run through the foliage alongside ziplines of varying difficulty levels, enabling visitors to soar from tree to tree and finally assuage any regrets about not being born with hollow bird bones. For an extra challenge, the 32-foot beanstalk climbing tower and a massive multidirectional climbing web put upper- and lower-body strength to the test, and educational stations at each treehouse challenge minds with lessons on nature and local history. In addition to the standard attractions, outings can also be catered to visitors with special needs.
Combining the park's adventure opportunities with educational pursuits, the staff occasionally runs an adventure-photography workshop, nighttime zipline tours, and Birds of Prey Journeys. Continuing the mission to foster outdoor education and physical activity, the beanstalk's building team continuously erects new courses at other locales, ensuring that all are family friendly and none require hand braking.
Lisa Underwood is an artist of many and diverse talents, as her online portfolio attests. Her pieces range from three-dimensional sculptures to graphite drawings of colonial homes, the latter accomplished with such vivid detail that one begins to imagine the graphite families inside, sitting down to eat a graphite dinner and watch a scary graphite movie, such as Eraser. Mainstream Creative’s therapeutic workshops and seminars give Lisa a regular outlet through which to share her abilities with individual students and groups. In classes open to artists of all abilities, Lisa cycles through exercises that stimulate creativity, hone drawing techniques, and enhance students’ awareness of the world around them.