Stability provides comfort. Dealing with feelings of instability can provide for personal growth. Come along as we look at the tree climbing experience and the ways we transfer our feelings of security and stability from rope to branch.
A discussion of Stability and Instability - how to enjoy your climb even more.
Height: 50 feet
Trunk Diameter: 33 inches
Spread of Branches: 70 feet
Approximate Age: 100-150 years old
About the Tree
Pearl is a beautiful white oak standing in the transition area between the forest and prairie. With plenty of sunlight, it has formed a full canopy with numerous branches for us to play in!
Whenever you climb a tree on a slope, it enhances your height perspective. You feel even higher than you are as the landscape stretches off beneath you. With Pearl, the view southwest across the prairie is particularly enjoyable as the suns sets lower during our late afternoon climbs.
Pearl is an enjoyable tree to climb for a few reasons. With the large number of branches, there are many places to sit, stand, lay back on, and one of my favorite places to enjoy the sunset.
Experienced climbers are able to climb into a cozy spot at the top of tree, about 8 feet from the highest leaves. Our Climbing Club had the opportunity to enjoy this experience during our June Club Climb!
Located in Mukwonago Park, Pearl is a popular selection for our private climbs for scout groups and family adventure weekends. The park has a lot to offer… a lake for fishing, an archery range, a dog park, camping and hiking. As one of the Waukesha County Parks on the outskirts of Metro Milwaukee, It’s a great place get-away without having to drive too far.
Mark your calendar for October 27 & 28, 2018 for a camping-climbing weekend. We’ll be climbing a variety of trees, including Pearl. You will have the opportunity to join us for the camping-climbing experience, or simply purchase a day-pass.
State Champ for the species: The largest known white oak in Wisconsin at this time also grows in Waukesha County. This current champion stands 115’ tall, has a crown spread of 85’, and trunk about 66” (almost 5½ feet wide!).
Feeling stressed? Looking to escape? Need a break from the demands for your time?
It sounds like you could benefit from a change in altitude.
This past winter, Jen and I spent time on a tiny island off the coast of southern Florida. The 10-acre island had a handful of cottages, a walking trail, a restaurant, and a few chairs down by the water. No television, spotty cell service, and limited Wi-Fi access.
We rented a skiff one day to get to a neighboring island to enjoy a desolate beach. We saw more dolphins, sharks and stingrays than people that day.
The week gave us time to talk, sit, read, write, nap, and enjoy our time together. It was quiet. We were relaxed.
Trips like these can be a great way to decompress and recharge. They are a small part of the life component in the “work-life balance.”
Whether it is during your return flight, the moment you reclaim your suitcase or walk through your front door, there is probably a specific moment where your mind jumps back into your responsibilities and your To Do list. Vacation is over.
Even if that line for you is blurred more than the picture I describe, and I hope it is, there comes a time when you find yourself back in your daily and weekly routine. It is a feeling similar to wading across a stream.
You start by heading into the water, eventually finding yourself in the current. You are focused on heading in the direction you’ve set your sights on, yet not fully aware of the gradual increase in energy you are expending to keep your footing and head above water. At times, the current may pull you off course slightly. Your drive gets you to the other side, but you are exhausted.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break when the current of life seems to be unrelenting? Fast-forward to the next vacation?
Thankfully the current fluctuates. Some days are easier and more productive, others are more challenging. For you, it may seem like months before the current lets up. It might not let up until summer break. Or perhaps the slow-season in your industry, as in mine, doesn’t come until winter.
Thankfully, not even 15 feet above the ground, lies the same peaceful escape.
Days Like These
I do not like to wish my life away. It will pass by soon enough.
That’s why I love having the ability to change my altitude when stress seems to be building. It only takes an hour or two out of my day to climb to a different level, and the benefits are often as great as a week in the tropics.
Up there, your mind will find peace. It’s as if the worries of ground life are restrained by gravity. As your attention turns towards the mechanics of climbing the rope, your mind is left with little room for outside worries. All of that weight falls from your shoulders relatively quickly.
By the time I reach my resting branch, it’s as if I flew back to the island.
The sounds of the palm fronds in the breeze and ocean waves lapping against the mangroves are replaced with the rustle of the oak leaves unfurling ahead of the upcoming growing season. An assortment of birds singing and squirrels chirping help me connect to the present moment.
My senses are consumed with an appreciation for the unique perspective from where I sit. The tree holds and protects me from the chaos below.
Time is of no concern when you spend time in a tree. The breeze, movement of the leaves, and connection with Nature’s energy will consume you.
The change in altitude brings with it a change in attitude.
This all happens without intentional thought. You enter tree-time as if entering a 3-dimensional field of energy. You can climb trees for something to DO, but most of us discover it is actually a place to BE.
When you return to the ground and get your land legs back, you begin to realize your worries and demands are waiting patiently. One by one, you pick them up and head back into your daily routine.
Nature is in no rush. The trees carry on about their business. They will await your return.
Most of our Rec Climbs are hosted by municipal recreation departments. More times than not, you will find these climbs listed in the youth section of their activity guides, which may give the impression that tree climbing is for children.
In reality, tree climbing is enjoyed by people of all ages. Tree climbing is for people who want to stay young at heart and of healthy mind.
Come out and enjoy the benefits of a change in altitude.
One of the more common fears people face is the fear of heights, or fear of falling. Come along with me as we take a look at ways tree climbing allows you to challenge yourself and overcome these fears.
Click below to see how to take steps to lessen your fears.
The vigorous growth of the tree indicates it is still in its prime, especially when you consider bur oaks can reach 300-400 years of age.
The size of this tree makes it a stand out when looking at bur oaks. Having its upper branches reaching over 70 feet high and spreading over 90 feet across puts this tree in a unique class of the largest bur oaks in Wisconsin. However, with a trunk that measures about 4 feet wide, it is rather slender if you compare it to the champions that have trunks 6-7 feet wide!
This large tree and its smaller hickory companion, stand prominently in the City of Waukesha’s Fox River Parkway north park. It is a photogenic tree that dwarfs climbers amongst its branches. It is an incredible experience to spend time in its branches.
Once you climb over 20 feet, you are able to peer over the shrubs and small trees that border the park and obscure the distant views for people back on the ground.
The park is surrounded by the Fox River wetlands, with fields of reeds and grasses stretching to the south. While you enjoy a quiet and peaceful rest in the branches, you can watch the river flow gently by on its way to the Illinois River, 200 miles away.
Being able to climb over 60 feet is a neat experience for seasoned climbers. There are also plenty of large branches to lay your head on and stare skyward.
Often times when we climb trees, we look down to appreciate the height we are sitting at. But it’s also really cool to look UP, and really appreciate the scope of the tree. It’s structure and size. It’s sprawling branches forming somewhat randomly. Knowing that this large, living thing grew from just a tiny acorn.
This is one of the largest trees we climb in our Rec Climb programs. We’ll return to its branches on Friday, July 13th. You can join us by registering through the Waukesha Recreation Department.
State Bur Oak Champ:
The current known champion bur oak in Wisconsin grows outside of Dousman. Standing nearly 65 feet tall, it is just shy of the Fox River Parkway oak’s height. However, the tree’s double forked trunk measures an impressive 7 feet across!
Two of the most amazing trees you could ever hope to meet are General Sherman and Methuselah. In the same day, you can visit both the largest tree and the oldest tree on the planet.
The General Sherman tree stands prominently in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Methuselah grows about 70 miles to the north, in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
General Sherman is a sequoia tree that is approximately 2,000 years old, and stands 275’ tall. It is the largest tree, measured by volume. The lowest branch on the tree emerges at 130’ above the ground.
To put this in perspective, there are only a few trees in Wisconsin which surpass 150’ in height. It is very likely every tree you have come across in Wisconsin would not even reach the General Sherman Tree’s lowest branch.
The footprint of its trunk covers almost 1,000 square feet. How does that compare to the size of your house?
Methuselah is about 4,850 years old, yet stands less than 50’ tall. The other measurements don’t mean much when you allow its age to sink in. The Pyramids of Giza were built around the time Methuselah was turning 500 years old.
What’s more, there is another bristlecone pine, WPN-114, recently found to be about 5,060 years old.
I have spent most my life visiting and interacting with trees, but the time I spent in the midst of particular trees is an experience I will never forget. These trees are in a class all to themselves. It’s as if they come from a different world and another time.
There are other impressive trees to meet around the world, but we are fortunate to have incredible trees that are a little more accessible to us.
Trees of Wisconsin
The trees and forests of Wisconsin were cleared for agriculture or heavily logged in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Trees and forests are also removed for development and growing population. This means that the vast majority of the trees we come across today are less than 150 years old.
For that reason, it is a pleasure to enjoy trees which pre-date European settlement. Some of our more notable trees reach heights over 150’ and ages near 450 years.
Ancient and big trees tend to capture the imagination of many people. Because of this, the Department of Natural Resources keeps a list of Wisconsin Champion Trees, keeping track of the largest trees in our state. The list is searchable by species or County.
I enjoy searching out these large trees. Calling attention to large and notable trees is important and plays a role in helping raise awareness and appreciation for the value of trees. In the end however, a tree’s measurements are only one aspect of its overall personality.
What Makes a Tree Great?
What is your favorite tree? Is there a tree that holds significance to you? Picture this tree in your mind.
Is it a sugar maple your grandparents planted in their backyard? Do you pass this tree on your daily commute? Does it shade your house? Did you plant the tree in honor of a loved one?
When I travel around Wisconsin, I consider the changes a tree has witnessed over the years. Some of the oaks we climb have been growing for 250-300 years. These trees were friends of the Menominee, Sauk, Ojibwe and other Native American tribes. They witnessed population growth as European immigrants continued to move into the area, and saw the territory achieve statehood in 1848.
Do you enjoy any one of the numerous lone bur oaks across Wisconsin, with sprawling branches and rising from a field of corn? Have you looked up the trunk of an eastern cottonwood shooting towards the clouds like skyscraper?
There are many majestic trees in the forests, fields and cities throughout Wisconsin.
Connecting with trees gives me a feeling of place within history and time. With the future in mind, I plant trees to celebrate certain people and events in my life. They are a symbol of future growth and prosperity. They are a tribute to the legacy of my loved ones and connect me to future generations.
Most trees will keep their stories to themselves. Those who take time to listen and observe, can draw upon the wisdom a tree has gathered during its time rooted in soil.
We may not be able to run out to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest this weekend, nor stroll through the Giant Forest after lunch; but, we have plenty of amazing trees in our Wisconsin landscapes that are awaiting your visit.
I encourage you to spend time in a tree’s shade, whether during a hike or pausing beneath on a sunny day, and take time to listen and imagine the tales it could tell.
At Treetop Explorer, we are fortunate to get up close and personal with some amazing trees. Check out our climb schedule and we’d love to introduce you!
Safety is a top priority when climbing trees. Here's an introduction to some of the safety measures we take in our climbs, including the equipment, certain parts of the climbing process (like the "safety knot"), the oversight of skilled facilitators, and even the tree itself. Check out the video and see what I mean...
Who am I? Why am I the way I am? What factors have affected me through life which contributed to who I am today?
These are questions I often ask myself.
During a parent-teacher conference, my 3rd grade teacher told my parents that I always came in with a big smile on my face. I was a little too chatty, but she loved how happy I was.
Who was that little boy? Is he still inside me today or did I chase him off?
Connecting With Kids
Today I am sitting near the top of The First. This white oak has become a trusted friend and mentor over the past few years.
The First is our primary climbing tree at camp. Sitting at the top, I am looking down on the cabins below. I have a clear line of sight to the swimming area where children will splash and play come summer. The backdrop to this end of camp is bright blue thanks to the clear sky and its reflection across the lake.
This week we have 3rd graders in camp. This is likely the first time they have experienced life in the woods. They are introduced to wildlife, plants, minerals, sights, sounds, and smells that may not be part of everyday life in the city where they live. For most, this is the first time they have been away from mom and dad for an entire week.
Sitting high above the children below, I am out of their line of sight. They are enjoying free play with each other. Digging in the dirt, building forts out of fallen branches, throwing a football, and singing songs. Their imaginations guide them.
The First and I are relaxing and taking it all in. I am enjoying this youthful energy carried up to me in sounds of laughter and chatter. These sounds take me back.
Connecting To Nature
Can you remember what you were like in 3rd grade? It seems like when I was not in school, my brothers and I were playing outside. We had a huge open field behind our house and plenty of lakes and parks within walking distance. I remember field trips to the zoo, aquarium, planetarium, nature centers, and the Everglades.
I do not recall what grade I was in, but one of our field trips took us into a mangrove swamp. Trudging through the knee-deep water, we used nets to skim the surface of the water and scoop up muck from the bottoms. We were collecting samples of the different types of animal life found in that ecosystem. I can still picture the sea cucumber we collected quite vividly. I remember the contrasting responses of “cool” and “gross” ringing above the hum of “oohs” and “eews.”
Years after I scooped up that sea cucumber, new friends were introducing me to the excitement of repelling off cliffs and climbing rock faces. Hiking and camping were common weekend getaways during my years at college. Numerous lakes and rivers in the area provided the opportunity to fish, swim, and canoe.
Is there a specific aspect of Nature you find yourself drawn to? For me, trees have piqued my curiosity.
I find both comfort and a sense of excitement when I am spending time amongst trees. For whatever reason this connection exists, it is ultimately responsible for the direction my professional career has taken over the years.
Reconnecting With Myself
Spending personal time in nature is where I tap into pure and concentrated life energy. It is essential for health and well-being.
Call it maturity or call it life, somewhere along the way, my focus on how I spent personal time gradually shifted.
Commitments, responsibilities, and other demands for my time increased over the years. These impacted the amount of time I set aside for personal time, let alone that time being outdoors. I watched this shift over the years. What used to be something I did because I enjoyed it, like spending time in the garden pulling weeds and watering plants, was now viewed as a chore I have to tend to.
As I considered the subtle change over the years, the innocence of the children below brought my younger self out of the mangroves and onto a nearby branch. My reflections back upon the beginning of my career allowed that young adult to join us.
The three of us sit together. Looking at both of them, I realize they are still very much a part of who I am. We were each part of discovering who I am and determining the direction I would move forward. Our intentions were to make wise decisions that our future self would be inheriting.
As a kid, I learned the correlation between healthy ecosystems and healthy organisms. I also knew the joy of spending time outdoors.
I still have the same joy in my heart and have continued on the journey I envisioned at each age sitting before me. I am happy with my successes and know they would be proud of the man they have become.
Spending these past few moments thinking about The First, listening to the children below, and spending time with my younger selves, I feel revitalized. My vision is clear.
I remember who I wanted to be.
Looking back, what were the experiences and memories that shaped you? Do you have a connection to nature and the outdoors that informs your values and choices? Do you want to be able to give those same experiences in the trees and forests to your own children and the next generation?
You never know what experiences will become memories or even passions in our lives. The important thing is to get out, open our eyes, and follow our hearts.
At Treetop Explorer, we love seeing the excitement people feel when they first learn to climb tall trees with rope and saddle. Maybe you saw that same excitement in your son or daughter when you came to one of our climbing events. Even if you did not climb with them, did you feel a sense of adventure and excitement just thinking about climbing into large trees?
There are many ways to experience tree climbing. Sometimes I am simply looking to have a little fun and play with my feet off the ground. Other times I work on developing my skills and technique. When I have the opportunity to head out with friends, I enjoy the freedom of heading off in search of a new adventure together. A new tree to explore.
Given the variety of possible experiences, our climb offerings provide different opportunities with the intent of making these experiences available to you.
Our Rec Climbs are perfect for people interested in trying out tree climbing, with plenty of opportunities through the year to climb as often as your schedule permits if you enjoy it as an exciting way to get outside. Our Climbing Club is geared towards those who are looking to dive a little deeper into climbing as a hobby, developing your climbing abilities and learning about trees. Our Learn-to-Climb classes prepare you head off on your own to enjoy this unique and rapidly growing recreational activity and corresponding career opportunities.
Climbing For Fun
Our Rec Climbs enable you to climb as often as you’d like, leaving the logistics, permits, equipment and technical aspects to us. It’s the way most people are introduced to tree climbing and, in fact, doing a rec climb is a pre-requisite for joining our climbing club..
In this setting, it’s all about having fun and getting that rush of excitement, without worrying about the details. Our rec climbs happen all over Southeastern Wisconsin, and many of them sell out through the local recreation program, so it requires some planning and coordination.
If you are interested in an opportunity to climb multiple times, our Rec Climb schedule affords numerous dates and a variety of trees and parks to choose from.
If you have climbed with us and felt a connection or desire to progress further, it makes sense to consider the next level of our climbing programs.
Our Climber Community
Some people exhibit a natural talent for or connection to climbing trees. Maybe you are driven to challenge yourself in new ways. Learn new techniques. Engage more fully, all the while immersed in nature.
Our Climbing Club provides the opportunity for those seeking to more fully engage in tree climbing. It gives people the chance to have multiple climbing experiences over a period of time. We will learn more about how and why the system works the way it does and about the trees themselves, exploring a new topic at each climb. We will try new techniques to develop your climbing skills, climb to higher branches, and stretch in ways that aren’t possible at a recreational climb.
Whether on your own, for your child, or as a family, the Climbing Club provides a unique opportunity to explore tree climbing beyond the sheer enjoyment of playing in trees.
Thankfully, playing in trees is so much fun that you won’t even realize you were tricked into learning applied concepts of geometry, physiology, physics, or biology!
License to Climb
I made that up. There isn’t a climber’s license per se. There is, however, endless joy for people who decide to take up tree climbing as a hobby or for use in a career.
Do you remember the freedom you gained when you got your driver’s license?
I got a taste of responsibility thanks to the ability to step on the gas and pull out from under my parents’ control. I enjoyed the sense of freedom and control from behind the wheel.
These days, freedom feels like a saddle over one shoulder and rope over the other. Hiking through the woods in search of a tree, walking up to a tree I have been given permission to climb, or simply walking out my back door, my worries fall off my shoulder with each step.
When I reach my destination, I scan the crown of the tree to see if a particular branch is calling out to me. During the ascent, I keep my mind and eyes open for whatever unknowns may present themselves.
Once I find a spot to sit back and relax, I find it quite easy to dive into my journal. My thoughts flow freely. I’d probably never be mistaken for an artist, but creativity feels almost within reach on the days I doodle and sketch at the top of a tree.
I can share a limb with a friend. String my hammock between branches 35’ above the ground. Let my mind wander. Read a book. I am on my own schedule. I am in another world.
It is an incredible feeling when you realize that you may very well be the only person who will ever climb a particular tree.
This is why I climb.
Enrollment in our climbing classes continues to grow, which tells me I am not the only nut out here!
Which Experience Will You Choose?
Climbing trees opens up a whole new frontier for your adventurous spirit to explore. We have a variety of offerings designed to help you explore them at the level you desire.
Rec Climbs make it very easy to get outside and play in the trees.
The Climbing Club dives a little deeper into some of the intricacies of technical tree climbing.
Our Learn To Climb courses provide the training that forms the proper foundation for all professional climbers, arborists and recreational climbers alike.
See you in the trees!
Hiking through Minooka Park recently to enjoy the fresh snowfall, I came across a young boy who was out for his first ride in the snow on his new fat tire bike. It looked like a lot of fun, although drastically different conditions than when I first learned to ride my bike.
I got my first bicycle for Christmas; a purple Schwinn Sting-Ray with a banana seat. We lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so I was able to head right outside and learn to ride. I was ready to take on the world, or at least the street in front of our house per mom’s rules.
I rode practically every day that winter with shorts, t-shirt and socks pulled up to my knees.
A few years later, we were living in Miami, FL. Winters were a bit different as it got cold there. More like ‘chilly,’ given my perspective today as a Wisconsin transplant. Still, it was a season that actually brought a change in temperatures.
There were days we could actually see our breath! I was mesmerized by the phenomenon. There were times I’d get light-headed and dizzy from exhaling for prolonged periods of time, just so I could see my breath.
My parents continued their northerly migration, landing us in St. Louis as I headed into high school. Right before Thanksgiving that first year, we received our first snow flurries of the season. That is my earliest memory of enjoying snow falling from the sky.
The moment I stepped off our front porch, I was immersed in the shower of snowflakes. I watched flakes land on my new winter gloves. I was able to focus on the details and designs of those flakes. The tiniest of details. I was amazed. I had never looked at one that close.
To this day, I feel the same sense of excitement when I see the lightest of flurries.
That was then, and this is now
In the years between then and now, discovering winter has provided many exciting experiences for me.
This morning, the sun is casting the shadows of our maple trees’ branches across the driveway and snow covered landscape beneath. These same trees shield us in the summer as they shade our backyard sitting area. Covered with snow however, another personality is on display.
Taking a stroll through the garden, I am able to appreciate the time I’ve spent planning and adding landscape details to provide interest in each season. Details that draw me outside regardless of temperature. After all, these details are only visible during the winter.
Arborvitae and coneflower seed heads frosted with snow. Little bluestem and lichens providing a splash of color.
In winter I spend more of my work day sitting behind my desk than I do sitting in the branches. Your work hours are probably similar. Because of this, we miss most of the daylight. If we do get a view of daylight, the color spectrum is noticeably void of the colorful splashes of flowers and greens of summer.
That’s why I keep an eye out for when the sunshine calls. I do not want to let too many days go by without getting outside to enjoy the sunshine.
I trust you too have been watching the daylight stretching longer as the days have progressed.
Although it’s challenging, one of my winter tasks includes searching out new trees for climbing programs. Whether I call it work or not, at least it gets me outside during the week to enjoy the daylight and keep me connected with Nature.
No matter how low the temperature, I cannot miss the opportunity to enjoy the sunny day ahead. Winter would not be as enjoyable if I simply hunkered down inside and waited for it to pass.
Soon enough, we will return to the trees. We have many opportunities lined up for you to climb with us this spring.
With the summer season set, I’m excited to announce that we will be climbing in a few new communities this summer. Fox Crossing, Kaukauna, and Waunakee dates have just been finalized!
Climbing begins on April 14th, and registration is open at this time! Visit our climbing calendar for the details.
I hope you can join us for one of them.
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.