When I tell people that I climb trees, it triggers their own memories and stories about climbing a tree as children. Without fail, a smile comes across their face as they enjoy the memories in their mind while sharing a story with me.
I have climbed trees professionally for over 20 years now. I have climbed to prune them. Climbed to remove them. Climbed to perform other surgical tasks.
A few years ago, I learned that some people climb them simply to be in them. They use the same climbing system that we do as arborists, yet they have no predetermined reason for ascending into the tree other than to get to know the tree.
From that conversation, I was hooked. I had climbed a trees outside of work to practice new techniques for the job. I had even taken friends and family into trees so they could experience the sense of accomplishment reaching the top, and the joy of taking in the view. But it never occurred to me that it was okay to climb solely for the enjoyment. Just as I did when I was a kid.
This is how a 20-year veteran of climbing trees came to “discover” the joy of tree climbing.
The Climbing Tree is taken from an essay I wrote years ago. It describes the impact that tree time had on me as a child. Something I guess I have never outgrown.
The Climbing Tree
I do not recall the species of my first climbing tree. Ash, elm, oak, I couldn’t say. The memories, however, are still vivid in my mind.
At first, I had to ask my older brothers to give me a boost. As they hoisted me high, I stretched my scratched, bruised summer-time kid arms up to the lowest limb and pulled myself up with an “umph” to sit on the worn branch. In time I grew and was able to jump up and touch the limb. Not much longer after that, I was able to jump up and grab the limb all on my own! That was the climactic day that I could finally get myself into the tree relying solely on my own strength and skill.
By that time, I had already been climbing higher into the canopy and further out on branches. My older brothers had shown me where to hold with my hands and where to place my feet so I could discover different spots in the tree. They encouraged me to challenge myself until I could confidently reach out to the two swinging limbs- limbs you could hold onto with both hands and let yourself hang and swing and yell out wild calls into the canopy.
We had many adventures in that tree. We schemed harmless heists and mused over the standard philosophical schoolboy chatter. The tree served as our fort where we would plot our neighborhood mischief for the day. Even though it was our fort, we never used a single nail or board. The number of branches and the perfect sitting areas throughout the crown of the tree served as the ideal fort for us.
Oftentimes I'd head up alone on a hot summer day to lay back on one of the limbs that held me as if they had grown for just that particular purpose. Other times I would climb to the "crow's nest", a point where five branches emerged at the same point and curved upward to create a seat that cradled my upper body.
It was here that I could read a book, while swinging one leg lazily between limbs or doze off in the calmness and serenity of the canopy, as thousands of emerald leaves twisted and turned around me in a soft summer breeze. I had discovered 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.