The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside the airport was the heat.
The second thing I noted was the dark green 'offroad' looking Jeep
that was there to pick me up.
You know you are going to be in for an adventure when that is
the vehicle that has come to get you.
I had flown to Portland to spend 2 weeks at a tree climbing school in Oregon City,
a small suburb just south of Portland.
The school is called Tree Climbing Planet and is owned and run by
instructor and self titled 'Argonaut', Tim Kovar.
(visit www.treeclimbingplanet.com )
Tim lives on the farm where his school is located for most of the summer and
spends his winters traveling the globe teaching people Tree Climbing.
His itinerary for the next few months include Tennessee, Winnipeg,
Malaysia and China with trips to the Amazon and the RedWoods following.
Tim has been instructing tree climbing for 20 years and has
helped develop the Basic Tree Climbing Course
that I have come to Oregon to learn how to instruct.
The course is taught all over the world and has its roots in direct lineage
to the origins of recreational tree climbing with
TreeClimbers International and TreeClimbing USA.
The course attracts regular folks wanting to to learn to climb,
to researchers scaling giant trees in the jungles.
I have come to learn from Tim because I hear that he has the most thorough
instructors program and when it comes to teaching others how to safely hang their life
from a limb, I don't want to take any shortcuts.
The Portland area was going through a heat wave and instead of lush green coniferous forests,
I found myself in what resembled an African savannah.
Unless irrigated, the fields rolled in light hues of brown interspersed with
groves of Oaks and tall Douglas Firs.
Oregon City is a small scenic city that boasts a waterfall and a good whiskey bar.
Minutes past the edge of town suburban neighborhoods surrendered to
rolling hills and farmland.
overlooking dry rolling fields and hilly mountains in the horizon.
The landscape is littered with Cows and their mounds of excrement
soon become a familiar hazard to avoid stepping in.
In fact, the first task I was given was to get rid of the cow patties underneath the trees
we would be using for the classes the next morning.
To my surprise and delight, my lodgings had improved from the tent
I was prepared to camp in. I was offered to stay in the
TreeClimbingPlanet tree house!
What a score! a 20 foot ladder up to a crows nest and
then a long rope bridge to the treehouse.
It had a spacious room with a camping stove and a loft with a bed.
I slept most nights in a hammock on the balcony.
City living had taken its toll on me but after the first night of silence up on the hill
in the tree house I was at peace and giddy as a 12 year old boy on a grand adventure.
Instead of sirens and trains the night calm would be broken by the sound of
coyotes or owls or cows taking a piss in the field.
days were long and the workload full.
After 10 years of climbing there were still basics that I needed to brush up on and the act of teaching is a lot more involved than learning something solely for oneself.
I quickly became aware of how thorough and thought out Tim's teaching is.
He is someone who teaches from experience and has personally come up with many of the techniques taught and utilized in recreational tree climbing.
What amazed me the most was how quick his students learnt the basics and
were able to tie their knots, get their rope set up in a tree and start doing
switchovers to move around the canopy.
It was a testament to the quality of his courses.
Aside from going into town to get groceries, ice, beer...
I spent most of my time up on the hill with the cows and the trees.
The peace and quiet suited me well and gave me opportunity to reconnect
with my self and to connect with trees.
Connection is one of the most valuable benefits of tree climbing.
When you begin to ascend up in to the canopy you leave your worries of life on the ground.
This weightlessness allows a swift and deep calm to wash over you and
suddenly you find yourself with childlike presence and awareness.
After a few satisfying exhalations your nervous system relaxes and
your senses open to the experience of nature.
The wind, the clouds, birds...
You can hear your self again.
I was tired and a bit overwhelmed with it all but felt so fulfilled.
The school was just at the edge of totality for the solar eclipse
so I extended my stay a few days to experience this astrological wonder.
A few of us climbed to the top of a tall Douglas Fir and awaited the eclipse.
What a way to end an incredible trip!
Now I am back in Manitoba preparing the final preparations
for 3 Basic TreeClimbing Courses I will be instructing with Tim here in Winnipeg.
Following dreams can be risky business and a lot of work
but I am grateful to be able to bring others into the canopy
to experience firsthand the wonder and healing of the Treetops
Spots are still available in the courses.
Click below for more details and
I hope to share a branch with you soon.