Marcel Bieg belays Leslie Jeter as she climbs the alpine tower in January 2013.
Marcel Bieg belays Leslie Jeter as she climbs the alpine tower in January 2013. (Molly Maxwell/Special to The Daily Times )

FARMINGTON — Ever wonder what those large wooden structures are on the north side of San Juan College next to Piñon Hills Boulevard?

Maybe you thought they were an obstacle course or part of the fire training area, but, in fact, they are neither. The structures make up the High Endeavors Challenge Course, an entirely outdoor facility that can be rented and led by a specially trained staff from the college.

A short sandy path leads visitors from the college to the challenge course, and it immediately becomes apparent the course is much larger than just the 50-foot alpine tower that is visible on the horizon.

"We have 13 elements, an alpine tower, a breath-taker swing and a net leap on site," said J.D. Tanner, coordinator of outdoor recreation at San Juan College.

Tanner manages the challenge course and its facilitators.

"The mission of the High Endeavors Challenge Course is to provide valuable learning experiences to individuals, families, community groups, businesses, and other organizations through experiential, adventure-based learning opportunities," Tanner said.

There is no typical day at the challenge course. Each session is catered to a group's needs and requests. Groups range from Boy Scout troops to college classes to oil company crews.

Groups might come to the challenge course if they need help with their teamwork skills and trust issues or if they just want a day to get out of their routine work schedule.

The 13 elements each present a challenge the group must overcome together.

The Nitro Crossing challenge consists of a rope hanging from a beam. For people in the participating groups, it often represents passage into a new phase of life, such as graduating high school. An instructor presents a situation in which the group needs to traverse, one-by-one, from one side of an imaginary obstacle to the other, swinging by the rope. The people in a group find that they must work together to get everyone across. The goal is learning to accept help from others, which has real-life implications.

Groups also can climb the alpine tower. Each climber wears a harness and helmet and is tied to a rope that comes from the top of the tower. Ascending the tower, climbers can challenge themselves with swinging logs, a large net and the "corporate ladder," whose rungs are spaced just far enough from each other to force some pretty big moves to climb it.

After reaching the top, the climber's achievement is rewarded with a panoramic view of Angel's Peak, the Shiprock pinnacle and everything in between.

The challenge course has facilities to accommodate groups for a whole day, including a large picnic shelter, charcoal grill and composting toilets. A group visiting from out of town can even camp overnight.

Molly Maxwell covers outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at mollykmaxwell@gmail.com.