From a platform high up in a ridge-top maple tree, Southall Outfitter Coordinator Lauren Bravoco steps off onto a skateboard, demonstrating how to ride the plank across a cable to the next obstacle. She makes it look easy, balancing her weight like a ballerina.
It’s one of 15 obstacles spread across two ropes courses tucked into the hardwoods on one of the highest points in Williamson County, offering exhilarating challenges that require strength, balance, and—perhaps most important—confidence.
“People are always surprised by what they’re capable of doing,” she says. “We call it ‘challenge by choice,’ because you have to make the decision to step off the platform. But once you do, you’ve already overcome the challenge.”
Getting to the other side is another matter, but safely connected to a lanyard in a full harness, there’s all the time in the world to navigate the obstacle, whether it’s a twisting helix, a series of swinging climbing walls or a “bridge” of vertical logs all moving independently. Guides offer tips, as do other participants ahead who figured out how best to counter-balance themselves.
The four zip lines, on the other hand, require a leap of faith—but also a welcome respite from the physical exertion. The longest is 140 feet, more than four stories above the ground.
From that vantage point, you might catch distant glimpses of mountain bikers flying down one side of the hill, or a family studying wildflowers from a hiking trail down the other.
“As guides, we get to experience these genuine outbursts of excitement — maybe someone is afraid of heights, but they overcome it through the course, or they don’t think they’re capable but they complete the challenge and feel that sense of accomplishment,” Bravoco says. “Our mission is to connect people with the land and provide them with an opportunity they may have never had, but the experience ends up being more than just a fun set of obstacles.”
There are lessons of teamwork, where coworkers quickly realize they have to work together to make it across, and moments of vulnerability that command full focus. Any other thoughts that might be clouding the mind will certainly be set aside, at least for a couple of hours.
Isaac Brann, Operations Manager for Southall Adventure Company, oversees outdoor experiences like the ropes course, along with the guides who lead guests through them. From Hawaii to Nashville, Brann has developed programs for camps and corporate outings that offer heart-pumping challenges that build relationships and impart life lessons. He says the offerings at Southall are uniquely well conceived.
“There aren’t a lot of places where two world-class courses are literally built into the woods, utilizing the natural topography and trees, and that creates a special environment for self-examination,” he says. “When we’re done, there’s always this buzz of adrenaline, where everyone is reveling in the achievement. That’s our reward, feeling that energy alongside our guests.”
The ropes experience at Southall can be booked by groups or individuals, typically in two-hour trips that allow plenty of time to traverse both courses. Anyone age 10 and up, under 250 pounds, can participate in a fully guided outing.
To book a trip or learn more about other adventure programming at Southall, please click here.