Have you been enjoying the winter? I am fortunate as I have to get out and about each week in order to look at trees.
This month I decided to take you along for a glimpse into tree inspections, and to share a couple of issues that may be of interest for anyone who owns property with trees.
It has been rather chilly, but I think I was able to finally get my ideas across before frostbite set in!
Your confidence has a major impact on your level of happiness.
Confidence can determine how much you achieve in life.
When I lack confidence in myself to handle a specific task, I find myself immobilized by fear, uncertainty, and feelings of anxiety. My mind says things like, "I can't", "I don't know how", and "I haven't done this before". The view forward is obscured and the task appears overwhelming.
Have you experienced this? Have you seen it in your children?
Confidence plays an important role in everybody’s life. It is so powerful that confidence early in life has strong influence on a person’s success when they enter the work force.
Fortunately, as it is with most skills, we can maintain and build confidence through regular practice.
Learning new guitar pieces, working through rock-climbing problems, and climbing trees are not only hobbies I enjoy, they also provide opportunities to work on building my confidence.
Working through the challenges I face in these hobbies can either build or diminish my level of confidence. Since tree climbing is a hobby I share with others, it provides me the additional perspective of watching others work through their own challenges.
In working with many climbers through the years, I have noticed that there appears to be three important steps to building confidence: overcome self-doubt, split a hefty goal into a series of smaller goals, and focus attention inward.
Overcoming Self Doubt
"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right."
Negative self-talk is the first thing that must go.
As the case with most challenges, if you are to have any chance at successfully climbing to the top of the tree you will need to overcome self-doubt. This doubt tends to be triggered by fear.
Each of us has our own fears to work through. Fear of heights. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of failure. Brand new experiences can be scary.
Simply taking the initiative to try something new may be enough to help you overcome your fear, thereby giving you a boost in confidence. Once paired with the know-how, you are able to pursue your goal for the day.
For others who are still working through their fear, self-doubt creates an obstacle.
My role as a facilitator is to aid you on your journey to reaching your goal. I can show you the technique yet I cannot climb the tree for you. Once you are on rope, my words are all I have to help you. They are more than enough.
Our fears express themselves in the words we use. The words you use have a profound impact on how well you will perform. "I can't" seems to be the most common and inhibiting phrase I hear people say.
These words are typically uttered within one minute of trying to climb. This leads me to believe they are spoken more out of reflex or conditioning.
In order to move forward, we must stop the negative self-talk. We then replace them with positive words like, "I can do this" and "I am doing it." Speaking and thinking positive words and thoughts instills confidence.
Building on a Series of Smaller Goals
"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"
Sometimes our goal is so lofty that we have no idea how to achieve it. In order to reach the goal, we will need to break it down into smaller steps.
There are many reasons why this approach leads to success, but I think a primary driver is that it allows us to realize success at each step. This gives us a boost in confidence. With each successive step our confidence continues to grow.
Thomas came to climb with us earlier this summer. When he first arrived, his sight was set on climbing to the top of the tree. He came with confidence.
As he began to ascend, his focus appeared to be strictly on reaching the top. Focused on that goal, he began to struggle because he tried to skip some of the steps involved in the climbing technique.
The sit-stand method is the foundation of the climbing technique. Given the struggle, he naturally resorted to trying alternative methods like pulling with his arms and kicking his legs out. He then realized he was not getting higher. His frustration began to build while confidence plummeted.
When trying to help a person build confidence, they must be allowed to work on their challenges. Personal growth happens through personal experiences of trial and error. Constantly telling a person how to do something or doing it for them robs them of these invaluable lessons.
By having Thomas turn his attention back to the climbing technique, he was able to focus on the fundamental steps. The steps necessary to reach his overall goal.
With his focus back on using his legs versus his arms, he began to regain some of his confidence. After repeating the process a few times, he was able to realize and acknowledge that he had ascended to 15 feet on his own. In a short period of time, his smaller goal of reaching the first branch was achieved. Eventually, his ultimate goal was only a few feet away.
Thomas' goal of climbing to the top was unachievable until he broke it down into smaller attainable steps. With each success, his confidence grew. With each boost to his confidence, he was prepared to take on the next challenge. Gradually, his ultimate goal came into focus.
Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
"It doesn't matter what others are doing. It matters what you are doing."
Building confidence in yourself has nothing to do with other people. Confidence is understanding and knowing what you are good at or the value you provide.
In order to build confidence, you must be focused on yourself and your own experience.
When Thomas began to struggle, his frustration was further compounded when he noticed that others were higher than him. He lost confidence when he confused his ability to perform as well as the others as a reflection on his ability to succeed.
His ability to climb had absolutely nothing to do with how well the other climbers did. Comparing himself to others only allowed negative self-talk to return and diminish his confidence.
Almost like a light switch, when he returned his focus to his own progress, his confidence returned immediately.
Hobbies That Build Confidence
“The more risks you allow your children to make, the better they learn to look after themselves.”
I value activities that challenge me and provide opportunities for growth.
From April through October, I am surrounded by people. My weeks are filled with facilitating tree climbs 6 out of 7 days. With this comes the ability to climb regularly. Together they keep me focused on maintaining and building my own confidence.
With winter rolling in, I will not be in the trees as often. My other hobbies like rock wall climbing, learning guitar, and training for half-marathons take on a bigger part of my weekly schedule. These activities provide many of the same benefits that tree climbing does. They help me remain aware of and practice the 3 steps to building confidence.
The confidence I gain from these hobbies further benefits me when I take on new challenges and pursue new goals in other areas of my life.
I have experienced the power that having confidence in myself provides. I have seen the same in many of you who have climbed with us.
April 14th is the first day of our 2018 climbing season. Until then, I encourage you to seek out other hobbies and experiences that can help you and your children continue to build confidence.
With confidence, happiness and success follow.
When we first met, it was likely as we clipped you on rope and had you sit back in your saddle during one of our Recreational Climbs.
Do you remember how you felt after the first time you climbed with us?
Most new climbers experience feelings of excitement paired with apprehension. Like you, we have no idea how you will do nor what challenges you may face. We discovered those together as you began ascending on your own.
The climber we take off rope once you’ve returned to the ground is a changed person.
The excitement is still there, but now glowing with pride. The short time you spent in the tree was enough to have a profound impact. The feeling of accomplishment is a boost to your self-esteem.
I hear the benefits in conversations and comments made by climbers in the tree. The interactions between climbers and those on the ground are revealing. The feedback from climbers and parents is enlightening.
Each of these speak to the value of tree climbing.
What’s the Next Step
As I wrap up the final recreational climbs and stow the gear for the winter, a lot of fond memories and faces run through my head.
Many of the people we met this year were looking for a unique experience, and found it.
How did her friends respond when your daughter told them she had climbed a large tree over the weekend? Were your friends and family amazed when you shared the pictures of your son in the tree?
During the busy climbing season, we are focused on giving this experience to as many people as possible. Now we are offering some additional opportunities to those who are interested in taking their experience to the next level.
Learning To Climb
Many people are perfectly happy to let me set everything up and facilitate their climbing experience.
Others, however, long for the freedom to head out and climb on their own. With proper training and experience, you can begin your journey into the trees and become part of the international community of recreational tree climbers.
Do you remember how it felt to get behind the steering wheel of a car for the first time? Getting a driver’s license was a rite of passage. With driving lessons and the ability to drive under supervision, you were able to learn the rules of the road and develop safe driving skills.
Our Beginning Tree Climbing course is the entry point into this exciting and rewarding hobby. It is designed specifically for the recreational tree climber. While tree climbing does not require a license, successful completion of this course might remind you of how you felt when you finally got your driver’s license!
We pack a lot of value into the 16 hours of personalized instruction along with a copy of the Beginning Tree Climbing reference manual. One of our goals during class time is to expose you to a variety of equipment in hopes of helping you find the gear you like when it comes time to purchase. The wish list for a new climber quickly adds up!
Many new climbers find equal value in the 6-post class climbs we offer.
My goal is to get you climbing and practicing your climbing skills. For some, these 6 climbs provide a level of comfort in having a coach on site. It also allows you to spread out the cost of your initial investment in personal gear. The cost of climbing gear pales in comparison to buying your own car. But, as with all hobbies, there is an expense all the same.
How Can We Help You Continue Your Journey
I view tree climbing as a place to be. I can spend hours sitting in the canopy. Meditating. Journaling. Swinging. Drawing. Relaxing.
Trees provide an essential energy source. Sitting in their presence exposes you to this energy, thereby reducing feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety. Tapping into this source helps me find balance in my life.
Hopefully one of our offerings will touch you in the same way.
For those ready to take control of the wheel, our next Beginning Tree Climbing class is rapidly approaching! It will take place on November 11&12th. Learn more here and sign up to join us!
Fall is my favorite season.
Tending to the final details in preparation for this weekend’s canoeing/climbing excursion, I find myself trying to figure out what I enjoy most about this time of year.
Part of the excitement is the anticipation of a scenic drive through northern Wisconsin. The further north we drive, the closer we will get to peak color. However, my love of fall goes far deeper than scenic drives, a trip to the apple orchard, and cooler weather.
Fall overwhelms my senses as each one is stimulated simultaneously.
The colors of fall are beginning to pop up around our area. The color contrast is striking when the yellows, oranges and reds of the leaves are set against the green grass and blue sky. The colors are further enhanced thanks to the lower angle of the afternoon sun.
Fall’s approach is announced with the sound of crunching leaves beneath my feet, chatter of the chipmunks and squirrels preparing for the winter, and the sound of geese heading south overhead.
The smoke from backyard campfires wafts throughout the neighborhood. The earthy smell of the fallen leaves during a stroll in the woods sends chills down my spine.
I am tantalized by the feeling of cool breezes brushing against my skin. Inhaling the crisp autumn air, my thoughts turn to reflection and contemplation.
A few weeks ago, it appeared as if fall had arrived. This recent heat wave was like summer’s last hurrah.
We experience a wide range of weather patterns in Wisconsin, many times in the same week and sometimes even the same day! It is this variability in the weather and the change of seasons that I enjoy.
This period of transition triggers a feeling of excitement for the one ahead and a sense of closure on the one we are leaving behind.
That said, fall is still my favorite time to be in trees.
I spend time reflecting upon the experiences of the past year. I am tuned into Nature’s rhythm, which puts me at peace. I feel a spike in my creative energy as I look towards the future and begin identifying ways to enhance my life energy in the coming year.
Falling Leaves & Climbing Trees
Getting my feet off the ground and the freedom of being on rope heighten my sensory perception. Simple pleasures I enjoy on the ground are enhanced while climbing trees. Come fall, they turn into bursts of energy felt throughout my body.
Laying on a branch in a sugar maple allows you to bask in the tree’s red-orange-yellow aura. Sitting within the pool of light emitted by the surrounding leafy mosaic, it is easy to get a sense of why John Muir referred to trees and forests as Nature’s temples and cathedrals.
Your view is obscured when a tree is in leaf. The foliage acts as walls between the rooms and levels of your climbing tree and those of neighboring trees. As the balance of leaves covering the ground increases from those remaining on branches, your depth of visibility increases to reveal the structural beauty of scaffold limbs.
The sound of crinkling leaves carries across the distances, enabling you to envision the playful nature of squirrels even if they are out of sight. If you sit long enough, the leaves may signal the approach of deer. It is a neat experience to sit above and watch grazing deer meander by without being alerted of your presence.
Despite the lower temperatures, the physical nature of climbing warms your body. Even a slight hint of perspiration is enough to energize you when a cool breeze passes by.
Once the leaves have fallen, you are able to enjoy shades of brown, gray, and black. You can focus your attention on the details and variety of leaf shapes strewn about below. The ground provides a canvas as the shadows cast by the trunks and branches convert the three-dimensional world into a dynamic line-drawing.
Enjoying this abstract art work of shadows and leaves, you’ll eventually find your silhouette projected on the ground.
The realization of looking down upon myself is a type of out-of-body experience that brings me back into the present moment and my sensory system back into check.
On a Friday evening in late August, I headed out early in order to get an hour of personal time in one of my favorite trees before I had to set up for the evening’s climb.
As I pulled up I noticed a woman sitting at a picnic table beneath the tree. In order to install the ropes, I need to have people out of the area, so I was going to have to ask her to move.
This tree and its nearby companion are a pair of mature white oaks that have a special presence about them. Their large size and branching structures are quite a contrast to the younger neighboring walnuts and hickories. It is no surprise to me that someone else enjoys time beneath these trees as I do.
In walking up to her, she appeared to be at peace and had a positive energy about her. I paused for a moment with reservation given I had arrived early solely for the intent of spending personal time in the tree. I thought maybe I should hike a nearby trail and allow her to enjoy her time with the trees until it was time to set up for the climb.
While these thoughts ran through my head, the woman turned and greeted me with a warm smile and cheerful, “hello.” In front of her a wooden flute lay on the table. With pencil in hand, it was apparent I had interrupted her in the middle of journaling.
We were immediately engaged in a conversation about what I was up to, as I was carrying a colorful rope and wearing my climbing helmet.
I was there to enjoy time in the tree. She was there to enjoy time under the trees. That was enough for us to form a bond.
Bonding Under The Trees
For the next hour, we shared stories from our lives. I found myself sharing topics I seldom discuss with anyone other than my closest friends and family. She talked about her life experiences and valued memories. Together, we enjoyed conversations about family, hobbies, life and dreams.
The reason we had met was simply due our appreciation for the two trees above, which is why I think the conversation kept returning back to them.
Together we found that their energy has provided comfort and aided in self-reflection in our both of our lives.
I told her what the trees have meant to me for the 2 years I have been coming to visit. Some of my encounters were from above. I pointed out the branches which cradle my head as I lay back to gaze upon the branches and leaves above. I shared stories of climbers who had successfully challenged themselves at different places in the tree.
She has been coming to these trees for many years. Journaling and playing her flute in their shade, she too has formed a bond with them. They have become close friends to the both of us. It was enjoyable to hear her perspective and memories of the trees.
Given how private I am with my own journaling, I was touched when she opened her journal to me to share a story and a hand-drawn picture of the night’s climbing tree.
With colored pencils she had captured the character of the tree in her drawing. Without ever climbing the tree, she noticed and had detailed some of my favorite branches. Two people from separate generations and backgrounds, yet we appreciated some of the same details of this amazing tree.
Giving Them A Name
I like to name trees once I get to know them. It was time to name these two oaks, which is what I was hoping the day’s climb would reveal to me.
We name trees because they are living beings and companions, much the same as why we name pets. It is a display of respect, gratitude and connection. It takes a special person to not only name a tree, but to tell other people that you talk to trees by name.
At the conclusion of our conversation that afternoon, she shared with me that she had named the trees years ago. The Grandfathers. Our climbing trees had already been named.
This encounter reminded me of the beauty and role trees play in people’s lives. I appreciate my personal relationships with individual trees. She gave me insight into what these two trees mean to her.
We can all look at the same trees, yet they will reveal the different aspects of their personalities to people who are ready to listen.
As our time together came to an end, it was time to prepare the tree. My intention that day was to get to know this tree better through time in its branches. I gained a greater appreciation and connection to The Grandfathers thanks to my new friend sharing her private time with them.
There are an amazing number of things you can discover in a tree: tiny details of the tree, organisms which live in and on and around the tree, distant views, personal insight.
As an amateur photographer, I love taking pictures of our climbing adventures. Many times I'm on the ground helping others experience it for themselves. But when I have the chance to be up in a tree, I like to capture some of the things we discover up there.
Last week I headed to the top of a white oak, where I was able to find a place to stand with my head just feet below the top of the tree.
From that vantage point, I could look across the tops of the neighboring trees and peer through windows in the forest’s skyline. I explored the entire crown, and the view stretched far off to the horizon, which brought on a sense of peace and self-reflection.
Clouds strolled across the sky. Their shadows danced and rays of sun sparkled throughout the canopy. Songbirds sang all around and squirrels gnawed away on walnuts in a neighboring tree. The afternoon culminated as a hummingbird decided to join me, zipping around the tree in pursuit of an afternoon meal.
While it's not exactly like being up there yourself, here are a few moments I caught on film to give you a sense of the things you can discover...
Life in Transition
Insects are typically easy to spot. As we move through the seasons, we can find them in their different life stages if we know what to look for. Occasionally, we find them in the brief moment of transition from one life stage to the next! Here an adult cicada emerges from it pupal casing and pauses while its wings dry out in preparation for flight.
A Fresh Start
As trees resume seasonal growth in the spring, their buds open up to reveal the fruits of their labor from the previous year. Miniature leaves emerge, appearing to be perfect and without flaws before the elements of nature have a chance to impact them.
By the end of the season, many leaves will be tattered and discolored in response to the numerous stresses they encountered during the year. Reading the leaves can help you gain appreciation and understanding for what your companion has been dealing with. Leaf spots, insect activity, nutrient deficiencies, and various environmental stresses work together to create living works of art.
Window on the World
Standing alone at the top of a tree, your body is buzzing with adrenaline. Blood is pumping into your muscles. Your vision tends to focus on the details at hand. Your spirit is in tune with the living being which is holding you high above. Eventually, your vision broadens and becomes aware of the incredible world around you. At this point, you find peace.
Circle of Life
The female gypsy moth, even though it is an invasive insect often causing severe defoliation, is an attractive moth. We often find the caterpillars, with their vibrant red and blue spots, climbing on trunks or even our homes. Not everyone is fortunate enough to see the adult moths, especially in the process of laying eggs!
A gall is a swelling in plant tissue, most commonly caused by a tiny parasitic wasp or mite. These young insects and mites develop inside the swelling protected from predators, yet seldom cause health issues for the tree. Often times, these galls can take on incredible shapes and come in a variety of colors. Often times we can find them in abundance. Other times it is like finding a gem stone in a pile of rocks, like this spiny oak gall.
Trees Have Many Stories To Tell
Sitting with my 92-year-old grandmother, I am treated to stories and insight into what it was like to live during the times I’ve studied in history class. Houses without running water. Home life during the Great Depression. Her time in the work force when Grandpa was overseas during WWII. What has this tree seen in the years it has been growing since the mid-1800’s? Trees can give us a new perspective if we are willing to see it.
During one of our climbs last May, we had people from 7 years to 76 years of age in a tree at the same time. There was a family of 2 children, mom, dad, and grandfather who all had time on rope. There was a father and son as well as a mother and daughter climbing that day. Like most climbs, we also had a few siblings as well as a handful of single climbers.
Growing up in a house of 6 boys, many of our back yard activities involved sports. That was a lot of fun; if you were the oldest. It was hard to get a fair game of 3-on-3 football going when dealing with an age span from 7 to 19 and height difference from 3 ½’ to 5 ½’.
Gatherings with my brothers and their families these days presents us with an age span of 5 to 50. Probably the same as your family, we see the different age groups splintering off to play with each other.
That all changes when Uncle Curt shows up and the ropes are set in the tree. Everyone comes wandering back together for an afternoon of family fun.
Individual Challenge, Joint Experience
With tree climbing, each person climbs on their own rope. There could be twelve of us in the tree at any given time. While climbing the tree together, you get to face your own challenges, set your own goals, and have your own successes. And I get to have mine.
At the multi-generational climb in May, a fear of heights was the challenge for two of the climbers. One successfully reached the first branch at 15 feet above the ground. The other was able to push until she could sit on a branch 25 feet up.
One person was challenged with the technique, yet he persisted and reached his goal of climbing high enough to see out across the park.
With the father and son, we were able to help the young boy reach the height he was most comfortable at. Once he returned closer to the ground, he repeated the ascent process. When he discovered the sensation of being swung through the air, we could not swing him high enough! Once the father realized the son was able to climb on his own, dad was able to focus inward and head for the top of the tree. Pushing himself ever higher, he too reached his goal as he stood on a branch near the top of the tree.
A young girl’s face glowed with excitement as she watched her parents and grandfather climbing the tree with her and her sister! Her lack of fear and inhibition led her to higher points in the tree, all the while encouraging her family to continue their journeys and join her. Three generations playing together.
The mother and daughter were able to ascend ropes next to each other and approached the climb similar to a casual hike. The bond they shared was apparent in their conversation during their time together that morning.
Two of the observing parents commented on how focused their children were while climbing, that they never asked for their electronic devices which were left back in the car.
For those who had never visited the park we were climbing in that day, most were unaware that a river flows by only 30 feet from our climbing tree as it is screened by tall grass along the bank. With the elevated perspective, the river came into view for the climbers. At one point, all climbers were able to catch a glimpse of passing canoeists and shout out a cheerful greeting to the bewildered paddlers. I would have loved to seen the faces of the paddlers, or better yet, had their view of people hanging in the trees on a seemingly secluded stretch of the Fox River.
While all of the climbers enjoyed the same tree and views of the river and park, they each came away with something completely different. Every ascent is a new venture, a new challenge, and an opportunity to reach a new goal. We spend the time together, yet it is your personal experience which provides the greatest impact and long-lasting memories.
Afterwards, climbers often continue the conversation over lunch or on the ride home in order to share personal experiences, observations, and successes during their day in the trees.
These kinds of climbs, with diverse groups and even my own brothers, nieces and nephews at a family gathering are what make me treasure activities like tree climbing. Activities that open up an experience that can be enjoyed by individuals, families, couples, friends, clubs, and a variety of groups or teams. The bond that is created is real.
What diverse group are you part of that could benefit from being in a tree together?
Do you often think back on your childhood with fond memories of seemingly endless summers being spent outside? Do you remember family vacations in National or State parks? Did you enjoy exploring the nearby woods? Did you have a favorite climbing tree?
I remember the impact the Smoky Mountains had on me, with their ever changing shades of green fading to blue as the ridgetops seemed to pop up endlessly into the horizon. I can still picture the vast amount of sky surrounding us on an airboat ride through sawgrass marshes in the Everglades. Even with these neat adventures, no summer was complete without our family’s annual camping trips.
A large part of who I am today was formed and influenced by these experiences, and possibly more so through my time simply playing outside and spending time in nature.
Benefits of Being Outside
Growing up, my 5 brothers and I spent most summer days outside. Even in the heat and humidity of southern Florida, we’d much rather be riding our bikes around the neighborhood, exploring the field behind our house, or hiking to the nearby lake to play along the shore and cool off in the water.
We often pitched our tents in the backyard simply because we enjoyed the simplicity and freedom of spending time detached from the television and electronic distractions inside (and I am talking about the 1980’s!). If it weren’t for my parents’ willingness to let us ‘rough’ it in the back yard and insistence that we get outside and play, I am unsure where my life’s journey would have brought me to today.
When we were younger, we knew that spending time outdoors was the key to a happy life!
Countless studies support this notion, explaining how crucial outside free-play is for us and our children. Free-play allows us to foster our creativity and decision-making skills. Children, in particular, benefit as they are developing motor planning skills and trying to discover their interests.
Studies have shown the benefits of spending time in nature is even greater than simply being outside. If you are one who enjoys hiking, camping, hunting, canoeing, or time in nature, you are probably already aware of nature’s power to make you relax.
Reduced stress, improved short-term memory, reduced inflammation, improved concentration, sharper thinking, immune system boosts, and improved mental health are some of these benefits that I have experienced firsthand. Not too surprising to me were the studies I’ve read that show the relationship between children who spend less time in nature and the likelihood they experience attention disorders and depression.
I have worked outside for a living most of my life. Even if your job has you indoors through the day, neither of us can escape the fact that we need free-play and time in nature.
Making Time To Play Outside
In the typical progression we call life, things get more complicated. A brief outline of my life is likely quite similar to yours.
Now, enjoying our careers, it is quite easy to put in the extra hours. Home repairs pop up. There’s a lawn to mow, meals to make, dishes to clean, garden to weed, and so on.
If you have kids, this list expands ten-fold, which can make it seem more difficult to send the kids outside for hours on end. Their schedules are filled with structured activities. You may face pressure from people who have different priorities and approaches for their kids.
Kids aside, how about your own well-being? I am sure you still find time for fun, entertainment, and getting outside; but, what does your outside time look like these days? Does it most commonly consist of yard work, relaxing on the back patio, at the kids’ soccer game, or attending one of the many festivals throughout the summer?
How much time do you spend in nature? Whatever happened to play time? Do you not have time for either anymore?
While I do not play and spend time in nature nearly as much anymore, I know it should be a priority. If the opportunity escapes me for too long, I make time as it is as important as proper nutrition.
I had many favorite climbing trees when I was a kid. In Puerto Rico, there was a magnificent rubber tree (Ficus elastica) at the school playground whose aerial roots and large limbs demanded I swing in the canopy like Tarzan. There was also a rubber tree in our neighbor’s yard in Miami which catered to my later fantasy of living a life like I saw on Swiss Family Robinson.
Those who have climbed in or even tended to the more moderate house plant, know how sticky the sap of a rubber tree is. I don’t think my mom ever quite understood that swinging through the trees relied heavily on having sap-layered hands and feet for grip. The sticky arms, legs, clothes and hair were a small price to pay for safety!
I had a number of favorite climbing trees through the years. Every one of them provided me a place I could go to be alone. I could read a book, challenge my nerve, take a nap or simply lose myself in the serenity of the treetop.
Even today, the benefits I receive from tree climbing often exceed that of other activities primarily because I am outside, breathing fresh air and inhaling the essential oils and compounds emitted by the trees and other components of the natural environment. The further away from concrete & asphalt and the larger the forest ecosystem the tree is growing in, the greater the effect.
The climbing process itself heightens your senses and has a profound impact on your brain. You will feel energized once your feet leave the ground, yet you will find peace when you sit back and take in the views. Negative emotions, anxiety and stress will fade away, ushering in positive emotions and a boost in self-confidence and creativity.
Feel Better. Be Happy.
As much as I love hiking and playing in my gardens, much of my free-play during the summer is climbing trees for fun. Even though I can get in a personal climb during some of my work days, it is the climbing I do outside of work which impacts me the most.
There is no right or wrong way to climb a specific tree, which means you are free to explore as you desire that particular day. One rule: stay tied in on rope at all times…the rest you just make up as you go. Nothing compares to how I feel when I am playing out in the woods, high in a tree. Everything comes into balance. Physically, mentally, emotionally.
For me it is climbing trees. For you it may be hiking. Don’t wait for a doctor to prescribe it to you. Spend a few hours playing in nature this weekend.
We were right all along…playing outside is the key to a happy life!
Running a climb at Strawberry Fest in Cedarburg, I had a mother thank me for providing the opportunity for her son to try tree climbing.
The other activities were fun and enticing, but she was moved by the opportunity to give her son not only a unique experience, but an activity which required him to exert physical energy and challenge him mentally. Something that bumper boats or a train ride could not provide.
I am positive that day will last in his memory for weeks and months because of the extraordinary way climbing allowed him to approach a challenge, problem solve, and achieve success all under his own abilities.
Why This Experience Is Different Than Others
There are lots of activities and events you can choose for your kids and your family in the summer. But not all of them are able to both excite and challenge young people the way tree climbing does.
When you are standing on the ground, our explanation of the climbing process is quite simple and easy to follow. As soon as you are clipped on rope and sitting in your saddle with feet off the ground, everything changes.
By entering the three dimensional realm above the ground, your sense of balance and stability is uprooted and causes a flush of hormones and adrenaline to cloud your thinking.
Adventure and Experiential Education opportunities provide measurable benefits which is why they are a part of some of the most successful education programs around the world.
With the developing minds and bodies of younger climbers, experiences such as tree climbing have the ability to greatly enhance their cognitive development. We open our climbs to children at 7 years of age and older.
Patience Is The Key
Of course we all want to see our children and students succeed. So much so that when we see them struggle, we are quick to offer advice and guidance.
Unfortunately, by doing so, we are actually doing them an injustice. All too often, well-meaning bystanders, parents and teachers undermine the benefits by taking the mental processing out of the picture.
As we saw above, once on rope, the simple climbing process takes on a new level as the nervous system is energized. By the time I leave a climber to themselves to work on their technique and personal style, they have demonstrated the basic understanding. They still need time to work through things on their own and develop the muscle memory necessary to make progress. It is actually quite simple to derail this process.
Tell them what to do.
When a new climber pauses or processes slower through the steps than what an observer on the ground deems reasonable, it is common instinct for the observer to shout out the next step in the process. Unfortunately, that alone is enough to shut down many people's mental processing.
Without the opportunity to think it through on their own or learn from personal trial and error, the powerful impact and benefit of learning the process on their own is lost. Why process when someone will just tell them what to do?
Something Adults and Kids Can Both Enjoy
The same holds true regardless of age. The young developing mind is greatly impacted, yet adults of all ages benefit. This is why I love to see parents climb with their children. Everyone is on the same level.
You are having the same experience, yet learning and growing on a personal level. By its nature, tree climbing allows many people to be climbing at one time, yet each person is on their own rope, therefore facing their own challenges.
Obviously the title of this article is tongue-in-cheek, but what better way to have your child engage in a fun, non-electronic activity while gaining tremendous benefits without being aware of it!?
Better yet, join them! We tend to each climber we have on rope. What does that mean to you? A pretty inexpensive baby-sitter!
You are free to climb away and sit in the top of the tree. It is quieter up there.
Let us take care of the kids.
So much of our lives is about doing things faster and more efficiently. We run around like we are in a race to do as much as we possibly can. In truth, we often run ourselves ragged. Can you relate?
We understand the value of being able to do things quickly, but there is also tremendous value in slowing down.
Have you ever noticed that each year goes by faster as you get older? As we age, our careers demand more time, we are running kids from one activity to the next, and we find ourselves rushing home from the gym to make dinner.
Setting The Pace
Tree climbing is an exciting and engaging way to slow down. The simple fact that it helps me focus inward and be mindful of my existence is what drives me into the trees on a regular basis.
There was nothing quick about my first ascent into a tree on rope.
It was a mature white oak on a beautiful estate in western Illinois. We were on site as the sun was rising, given we had numerous trees to tend to that day before our return back into St. Louis. Having my line set by my trainer, I suited up and began the arduous task of climbing up to the first branch.
I was very much aware of my surroundings and progress during that first ascent. Having worked ground support on a climbing crew, I had watched in awe at the ease in which our climbing arborists moved through the trees. They made it look so much easier than what I was experiencing that morning.
Finally being able to climb into the canopies of these majestic trees was one memory I doubt I'll ever forget; especially considering that my trainer had set my tie-in point to allow me to make a 20' swing to another branch. I gained the ability to explore the world of trees beyond what I had ever done as a kid. What a rush!
Life By The Clock
As rewarding and invigorating as that first climb was, it was also the beginning of my journey into climbing trees under the clock. Get up, get done, get down. Production tree care is extremely rewarding, but in order for any business to be profitable they must work efficiently and safely.
This is true in many areas of our lives, and probably sounds familiar to you.
After 20 years of climbing, I had conditioned my mindset to approach every climb with the view of how can I best access the tree and return to the ground within a reasonable time. My attention needed to be completely on the tasks at hand and the people and obstacles below. Of course you can steal a minute here and there to sit back and take in the view... like Clark Griswald taking a brief moment to enjoy the view of the Grand Canyon before rushing the family back in the car in National Lampoon's Vacation.
Even when I climbed trees for fun, I had the learned tendency to perform as if I were being timed.
Enjoying The Journey
A couple years ago, I finally made the deliberate effort to enjoy the climb.
Stop racing to the top. Take pause on occasion to take in the experience, the tree, the view. Like I did that very first time I climbed.
These days, I get to help many people experience the excitement and beauty of climbing trees. We climb for many reasons and reap many benefits. One of these is to slow down and enjoy our time.
Before a climber descends, I try to remember to have them pause and take in the distant view from where they sit. They worked hard to get to that point, and should enjoy their just reward of the views, which very few people will ever get.
There are many things I love about my time in the trees. Making acquaintances with the ants, preying mantises, squirrels, orioles, hawks, and cicadas I encounter is as enjoyable as inspecting lichens, moss, tree seedlings, mistletoe, or Spanish moss.
I often find myself within reach of the highest leaves of the tree or looking back down the living being I have scaled at its firm foothold, maintaining my connection to Earth.
Try Slowing Down A Little
Climbing trees is one way people are able to slow down and revisit the days of their childhood when days seemed to stretch on endlessly. Our Open and Private Climb events are designed to provide you this opportunity.
Please treat yourself this year and make time to join us for one of our Open Climbs. Discover for yourself the power of “tree time.”
As an I.S.A. Certified Arborist, T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, T.C.I.A. Climber Specialist, and GOTC Recognized Instructor, Curt has spent over 25 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.