By Jeff Nations
Care to try your hand at climbing up a sheer rock face?
How about rappelling back down that same imposing height?
Not your taste?
Ever tried a caving trip?
To a novice, activities of the sort mentioned above understandably might seem a bit daunting to undertake.
Not to fear -- Lester Zook is ready and willing to help. Zook, the proprietor of Wild GUYde Adventures based out of Harrisonburg and a life-long active outdoorsman, will soon be leading more outdoor adventure trips sponsored by the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation Department.
Zook's latest upcoming trip, a climbing and rappelling adventure scheduled for April 21 at Hidden Rocks near Bridgewater, is geared toward novice climbers looking to acquire basic skills in the sport.
"The trips I do with Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation are beginner level because we just cast the net out and don't know who's coming," Zook said. "I'm a teacher. I love to see people develop skills."
Zook, who chairs the Department of Physical Education and Recreation at Eastern Mennonite University, teaches primarily in the Outdoor Ministry and Adventure Leadership program at EMU. Through his Wild GUYde Adventures business (www.wildguyde.com), Zook has offered clients trips ranging from rock climbing and rappelling, canoeing, caving and hiking expeditions. Zook tailors the trips, based on clients' experience level, and interest but focuses mainly on beginner to intermediate-level activities.
"People come with all different sorts of motivations," Zook said. "A lot of people see these activities depicted on TV or hear about friends and relatives who've done them and decide it's something they want to try to do."
Zook views his trips as an alternative to the more static, predictable experience of visiting an amusement park. His clients learn skills that matter and help "put more control in your hands."
Kelsey Kennedy, the SCPRD's Recreation Programming Director, said she's worked with Zook for several years to expand the variety and scope of her department's recreation opportunities. Along with the periodic Zook-led trips, the SCPRD will be offering a river rafting trip on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River (April 20) and a kayaking trip on the North Folk of the Shenandoah (May 4) in the coming weeks. In the summer, the SCPRD annually offers an Outdoor Adventure Camp for participants ages 10-17 that has featured events like caving, rock climbing, geocaching, zip-lining and canoeing.
For the trips led by Zook, the SCPRD allows only a limited amount of participants. If trips don't attract at least five participants, they are cancelled or rescheduled for another time.
"We never know with these trips," Kennedy said. "Some days we'll have a full group, and other times just don't seem to match up with peoples' schedules."
Zook recently led an SCPRD group through Kees Cave in Franklin, W.Va.
His upcoming climbing and rappelling trip through the SCPRD is open to participants ages 12 and over. Participants will learn about harnesses, knots, helmets and the belay system, followed by some warm-up climbs and more difficult climbs, culminating in a rappel back over the edge.
Zook, who regularly leads groups ranging from families and friends to organizations like local Boy Scout troops, said the SCPRD trips offers added challenges and benefits for intrepid participants.
"It's different with a parks and recreation trip," Zook said. "It's an opportunity and also a challenge. Right away, you're meeting brand-new people and doing these things in front of other people and learning together."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>