On his last birthday, my youngest son finally reached the height required for the full adult ropes course at Zoom Air (up by the Sanford zoo). It was something he’d been anticipating for a long time, so naturally we bought him tickets as a birthday present.

Then we had a run of illness in the family, school started, and my wife tore the tendons in her knee.

Yesterday, finally, the boys and I managed to get up to Zoom Air to have the birthday adventure.

As we harnessed up and listened to the training, it hit me that neither of the kids looked terribly excited. They were happy, of course, but I didn’t see any jitters, no sense of nervousness.

We started the course, with the birthday boy leading the way, and it was every bit as fun as I remembered. We climbed across rope bridges, balanced on logs suspended by ropes, and rode zip lines from tree to tree.

Still, I felt like there was something missing.

There’s a lot of overlap between “fun” and “adventuring”, but this was feeling more and more like regular old fun.

We finished the first course, and continued on to the bigger one. It was larger and more extreme, but basically more of the same. The boys and I joked our way through it, and had a great time.

At the end of that second course, a guide met us to take us to the third course.

“You’re going to want water,” he said as we walked. “Because there’s none over there, and keep an eye out for snakes. I had one drop on me the other day.”

The boys and I glanced at each other. Over the years, we’ve come to be able to recognize the difference between “ha, ha, I’m going to scare these tourists” and “watch out for this.”

“It was just a little pine snake,” he continued. “Not poisonous. Well, here we are.”

A wooden framework towered over us, rising higher than the trees. A sequence of narrow ladders were bolted to its side, leading up to a small wooden platform that was so high up it was difficult to see.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that high – but it sure looked like it.

“Okay,” the birthday boy said. “Really?”

A metal zip-line ran from the top of the tower, over a small lake, to some distant trees.

“When you get to the other side, wave your hands,” our guide said, “so the next person knows it’s time to go.”

“And you’re not coming with us,” my son said. He said it very matter-of-factly, as though he were commenting on the weather.

“Shout really loud if you get in trouble,” the guide said, gesturing to the ladder. “Someone will hear. Now, who’s first?”

“That would be me.” The birthday boy clipped onto the safety line on the ladder, then glanced back at me.

I gave him a reassuring smile. “I’ll be right behind you.”

The adventure had started.

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