A very tall tree....
Me in a very tall tree....
and how I got there:
On our trip to Richmond a couple of months ago I was very impressed to meet Bob Wray of Blue Ridge Tree Climbing, LLC. He teaches recreational tree climbing just four miles south of here on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I immediately thought of what a great article his business would make for the Blue Ridge Gazette magazine. But he was talking about an article for a national magazine so I didn't say anything at that point. A little while later we corresponded on another matter and I timidly asked if he would be interested in having me do an article about tree climbing in BRG. Mr. Wray seemed delighted, and he graciously invited me over to see what recreational tree climbing is all about. And to climb a tree! Since the previous reporter didn't make the climb, I really thought I had to!
We arrived at the lovely site just off the Parkway to be greeted by three cheerful dogs and Mr. Wray, who invited us in to show us new T-shirts with his wonderful logo and to explain a little about tree climbing. Then we headed out to the edge of the woods where a tall poplar tree stood in a convenient location for climbing. Fortunately my young nephew came along and volunteered to climb first, so I could watch them work with the equipment. There wasn't a great deal: a harness and some ropes and a special pair of gloves. Hunter went up the tree calmly and they both made it look so easy. NOT, I discovered, when it came to my turn.
I'm terrified of ladders, but climbing the tree didn't frighten me, oddly enough. The big problem was that I am SO out of shape, despite walking and a bit of gym over the winter. The climbing technique Hunter learned involved a lot of upper body strength, which I really don't have, so Mr. Wray showed me a different technique that involved pushing up with one leg. That took more coordination than I seem to possess, but I finally managed to struggle up to the first limb. I'm not good at judging distances but it was maybe fifteen or twenty feet up. Hunter went to the next limb, much higher.
Mr. Wray was an excellent instructor, patient and quick to see what needed correcting in movements and technique. He was also interesting to talk to; he has climbed trees in so many places and told us about one expedition that involved taking a trampoline into the trees to sleep on. The idea of sleeping in a tree is awesome to me. On the way back up to the house we stopped in at his teepee, just set up last year, with an outdoor classroom under a canopy.
I can really see the attraction of tree climbing, particularly after watching Mr. Wray. He spends hours in the trees and it is a delight to watch him climb with such ease and tranquility. He has a great respect for the trees and seems to consider himself a caretaker his lovely property. We're hoping to get him involved in Sue's festivals here on the farm; having a tree climber in town is really, really cool!