What it means to work the Canopy Tour

I began my journey with Common Ground with the first cohort of guides, and have had the pleasure of watching both clients and employees grow during their time at the canopy tour. We’re currently in the midst of our third season, and I am excited to share with you a bit about the Canopy Tours and how the mission of Common Ground is reflected in our program.

More than 7,000 people from over 30 countries have experienced the Canopy Tour, each with their own story. Ranging from ages 10 to 87, they have challenged themselves to a unique experience: some overcame fears while others spent quality time connecting with family, friends and co-workers. It is true, as guide Crystal described “…it’s about getting out there in nature and feeling all it has to offer. The way the adrenaline flows when you’re up there in the canopy makes you feel alive!” Feeling alive in nature. Have you been on the canopy tour yet? I am curious about your experience. I would like to share a couple experiences from our clients:

Rappelling at the Canopy Tour

Mary participated in her nursing home’s Second Wind Dream Wish and chose ziplining. She wrote in a card “Tuesday, November 11, made an indelible impression of joy in my 85-year old life as I was treated to your zipline tree “huggers” tour. Adjectives in our language cannot begin to express my Second Wind Dream Wish, or Bucket List, fulfillment.”

It is not always simply joy and smiles that our canopy tour caters to. Personally, I have seen more emotions on tour than anywhere I have worked. A specific tour comes to mind, which I would like to share:

A couple was on vacation at the Lake Erie Islands, and it had been raining and chilly for the entirety of their time there. It was her first vacation in years. Forlorn and defeated, they were leaving their hotel to head home and picked up our brochure. They called as we were wrapping up the day and ending a meeting, but luckily, they caught us just in time. They arrived, lady in flipflops, and I let her borrow a pair of shoes so she could participate. We weren’t far along into our course as they began to open up and share a bit about themselves as we had one-on-one time at the various platforms, both participants shedding tears. The man was trying to treat this woman to a vacation because she had been working day in and day out nonstop for 2 years since the back to back death of her parents, and she was struggling to support her younger siblings. In 2 years, he had not seen her smile. That is until about halfway through our course. Perhaps it was timing, perhaps it was the magic of being in the treetops, but something allowed this woman to tell her story, shed tears she had been holding in for years, and finally smile and enjoy a little slice of life after tragedy and hardship.

That is, in part, what is so powerful about our Canopy Tour. It may only be 3 hours in someone’s life, but there have been many experiences such as this couple’s that make it about much more than the adrenaline rush – truly a chance to experience being in nature, being oneself, sharing space and time with others and connecting…

If a 3 hour tour can have such a beautiful impact on individuals, I implore you to consider those that participate in 3+ months of working here. As participant reviews continuously reiterate, our guides are what make Common Ground’s canopy tour exceptional; the impact of our mission is greatly reflected by them. I can go on for hours about the impact Common Ground has had on myself and every individual I have had the pleasure to work with, but I will attempt at keeping it concise here.

Walking in the Trees

To date, more than 40 individuals have been employed by Common Ground to work at the Canopy Tours. From college students figuring out what they want to be when they grow up to former military figuring out what they want to be now, no single one of us has walked out the gate the same person as when we first walked in.

A word from Ethan, junior at The Ohio State University: “Working at Common Ground has changed my life by setting me on the path that I am on now. When I started working here I was in my freshman year of college [at LCCC] and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life at all. After my first summer was over I realized that I really enjoyed working out in nature and helping people on the canopy tours. This made me start looking for programs in the environmental field and now I’m working on getting my Bachelors in Natural Resource Management. Common Ground is an amazing place and it definitely changed my life for the better.” Ethan was with us our first 2 summers, and though he didn’t return this summer, we are excited for him. He has received an internship in his field of study, and we know he is continuing his journey. Ethan is just one example of “realizing potential” through the “transformational opportunity” all of us here at the Canopy Tour have been given.

We take pride in what we do, and just as our guests feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a tour, our guides do too. As guide Quinn says, “We are much more than guides. We’re educators, coaches, and at times therapists… As a guide, it is very rewarding to see the transformation take place from the beginning to the end with individuals – fear [of heights] in the beginning and the huge smile at the end. Throughout the tour, we get to know our guests. Sometimes they come out to take their minds off a personal matter. Whether from a divorce, death in the family, or terminal cancer, they always seem to have a smile on their faces after the tour.”

Getting ready to Zipline

So I guess I just wanted to share with you a bit about us over here across the bridge, invite you to join us any day this summer, and thank you. This is a wonderful community to belong to, and I hope you’ll feel it as well.

Hope to see you in the trees soon,
Kathryn L. Hertzel