The Spencer Butte Challenge Course An experiential education program

Throngs of hikers climb Eugene’s iconic Spence Butte every year without knowing about a unique community resource nestled at its base.

Settled just above the main parking lot at the trailhead, the Spencer Butte Challenge Course is set up among the Douglas firs to provide an experiential education program for groups ranging from teens, families, collegiate groups to large corporate teams. Most who walk up the path fail to notice the unassuming elements hidden on the ground in the ferns or understand their significance.

Anyone who has spent a day testing their limits with a group, led by one of the City of Eugene’s experienced facilitators, knows differently. Through participation, groups experience success, challenge, fear, risk and collaboration. Through those experiences facilitators discuss what people observed and learned and how those things can be applied to their life or work.

“I think the essence of the course is it’s meant to encourage people that they’re capable of more than they think,” Spencer Butte Challenge Course programmer Robert Brack said. “A lot of times we don’t give ourselves credit to be able to accomplish goals or tasks or think that’s slightly out of our reach, when in reality we are capable of more than we think we are.”

Brack and his team personalize a program on the course for each group that can be tailored to what it wants to accomplish. A day could include games and solution-driven activities on the ground or off the ground using low elements built into the trees with boards, cables and logs that create challenging exercises.

The high elements are 25 to 55 feet off the ground and are focused on individuals or pairs working in the air while the rest of the group belays on the ground.

“On low elements they work together to solve problems,” Brack said. “On our high elements, it’s about groups supporting and encouraging to climb as high as they want or achieve their goal. The group rallies around that one person.”

To schedule an outing on the course for your sports team, school group or co-workers, email Brack at Robert.J.Brack@ci.eugene.or.us or call 541-682-6324. For more information on the course, visit to the course’s home page.

Story and photos by Ben Schorzman

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Benjamin Schorzman
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