Blog Dan the Bearded Builder

Arborist Scott Johnston partners with The EDGE

Scott Johnston partners with The EDGE’s Facilities Manager, Dan Nellis, to ensure the safety of our clients and our trees.  Since 2009, Scott has logged 144 hands on volunteer and consultant hours.

An arborist muses on a 35-year career high in the branches

(Adrian Higgins/The Washington Post)

By Adrian Higgins Gardening columnist

Scott Johnston has his feet on the ground but his heart in the air. Day in and out, he trusts his life to a harness, coils of half-inch rope and 35 years of knowledge gained by working in trees.

“Do you want me to rig up and climb a tree?” he asked. That’s all right, I said, clinging to my notebook. I’m not sure my nerves could take it, even as a spectator. Johnston, who is 58 and looks like a maturing matinee idol, thinks nothing of getting high into an 80-foot oak or tulip tree. As an independent certified arborist, he has devoted his working life to trees, is passionate about them and, if you scratch below the cambium, is vexed by the way we treat them.

Blog Dan the Bearded Builder

Challenge Course Update: Fall 2012

Facilities Update by Dan the Bearded Builder – It’s been a little while since we posted a facilities update.  Too long!  I guess that’s the downside of working outside on the course with limited wi-fi access and my hands filled with tools rather than a computer (well, not really much of a downside for me).  In any case, I wanted to alert folks to some of the recent happenings outside on the course. 

First, we now have a Trust Fall Platform.  Not only does this activity help build trust, but it helps teach the importance of both giving and receiving support, building self-confidence, and conquering challenge.  This activity will be used selectively in advanced teambuilding programs. 


We also built a 360° Whale Watch.  Real boats don’t just rock forward and backwards, they bounce and roll in all different directions.  So, we want to make an advanced Whale Watch activity that is as realistic as possible.  The only problem is, how do you replicate the feeling of rocking on the waves while standing on dry land?  And, more importantly, how do you make it safe, long-lasting, beautiful to look at, and not too expensive to build or maintain?  After much experimentation, I finally came up with a solution – a bowling ball in the ground that serves as a fulcrum, with a custom built platform resting on it.  This is another great new challenge for our advanced teambuilding programs.

Finally, I wanted to mention something that’s extremely important to me that no one will even notice or see – custom-made sheaves.  You may ask – What are sheaves? What do they do?  What do they have to do with experiential learning?  They are part of the pulley system we use for the Total Team Challenge.  When I observed that the existing pulleys were causing wear on the cables, I knew I had to come up with a way to reduce maintenance and improve the longevity of this incredibly special teambuilding tool.  Nothing but the best would do.  So, I turned to to have custom-designed sheaves made.  This Connecticut-based company makes equipment for Cirque du Soliel, The U.S. Navy, Boeing, and now The EDGE.  These “Made in the USA” products will help us ensure our equipment continues to rise far above the industry standard.

Now, back to that new bench I was building . . .

Dan the Bearded Builder

Class Up Your Course!

Facilities Update by Dan the Bearded Builder – I don’t want to give away all the secrets of our success, but, I am excited to share the presentation to the 22nd Annual International Challenge Course Conference & Expo I gave in February 2012 about how woodworking techniques and ingenuity can enhance your course or camp.  See what makes our course special:  How to Class up Your Course