Zip lines, climbing and more at Loco Ropes
By Kat Robinson
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
TRAVEL THE TREETOPS
Connect with nature in the treetops of Mountain View at Loco Ropes, a neat attraction on the grounds of the Ozark Folk Center. This collection of obstacle courses rises 10 to 40 feet above the ground and offers great opportunities for both self-challenges and team building.
Bob and Judy Cox opened the adventure in the fall of 2010. Their mission is two-fold: motivation and team-building.
“One of the focuses of Loco Ropes is to encourage and motivate people to get out from behind all the electronics and get in touch with nature,” Bob shares. Indeed, tightrope walking, balance beam striding and critical thinking all take place on each of the attraction’s challenge courses. Wood, wire and rope in various combinations have been assembled in the trees to create unique and complex aerial paths.
More than 30 different elements are offered. There’s no time limit to complete the course—some folks rush to see how quickly they can get through, while others take their time and enjoy the lofty views and close-up sights of being in the verdant canopy.
Bob, who started rock climbing and rappelling in the Texas Hill Country in the 1970s, says the top questions he hears are about safety.
“Everyone is in a harness,” he assures. “Everyone’s on a belay, or fall protection system. Before you start on the course, we lock you in on a safety wire. You’re locked onto it the entire time, continuously.”
The course is inspected every day by the staff, and annually by the Association of Challenge Course Technology.
“We take risk management very much to heart. Every person goes up in the trees with a trained, certified facilitator. We practice our skills during the season and recertify annually.”
COME AS YOU ARE
You might think you need a special outfit to participate on the courses at Loco Ropes, but that’s not the case.
“Dress for the weather. We have had times where there’s been snow on the ground and platforms. Dress in layers if it’s cold. When it’s hot, wear shorts or whatever’s comfortable. We recommend tennis shoes or hiking boots, but it’s whatever you want to wear, as long as your toes are covered.”
“We do have Crocs we can provide for rental, from little bitty to size 13 adults. But as long as the toes are covered you are okay. We’ve had people wear everything from cowboy boots to ballet slippers.”
In addition to the courses, Loco Ropes offers zip lines called the Flying Pig and the Screaming Pig, as well as a free fall and a climbing wall.
While the courses can be strenuous, they are open to all ages and to anyone who wants to attempt them. A 250-pound weight limit is set for Tower Adventures just because of the safety equipment, but for Treetop courses the only requirement is that each participant is at least 43 inches tall. Cox says he’s had people from ages four to 76 in the treetops and two to 93 on the climbing walls.
TEAM BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES
The second focus of Loco Ropes is team building.
“There are a lot of neat things that happen in the trees,” Bob says. “As [participants] go through the challenge, bonding takes place, and you get shared experiences with a group. I’m not exaggerating when I say that life changing things have taken place—we’ve [had] people who have never done the Flying Pig, it’s like they’ve conquered the world.
“Our Loco Ropes Leadership Relationship Development is our Team Building Area. We offer a variety of challenges over there. We’ve had all sorts of different groups participate—from school groups and teams to marching bands and chambers of commerce. Team building helps address what things we can do to have a more efficient team to work better together, or how to perform like a team. Our challenges are problems to solve, outdoors in a different environment, which gives them a chance to figure out what works. We give them these tools to take back into their environments. People can use the things we cover and teach in our team-building in any relationship in their lives, friends, family, work, play—tried and true tested things.”
After each team building exercise, the group is debriefed and Loco Ropes facilitators talk with them about what worked and what didn’t work. Programs last from a few hours to overnight.
“We like giving folks a challenge,” Bob says. “We give them the equipment, the tools and the information.”
AFTER SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS
Of course, being near the rest of the Ozark Folk Center provides ample opportunities to experience the great music, crafts and artisan demonstrations the park is famous for. Some of the best caving in the country is also nearby at Blanchard Springs Caverns—and while you’re at it, fish for trout at Mirror Lake, fed by cold water from the caverns. And be sure to stop by the OK Trading Post in Mountain View to take a piece of the Ozarks home with you.