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. Board Certified Master Arborist, T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, T.C.I.A. Tree Care Specialist, and G.O.T.C. Recognized Instructor, Curt has spent over 30 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.