Nestled in southern Oregon’s Illinois River Valley, three warm-hearted souls faced the chilly weather for a week of learning the art of technical tree climbing. The students: Julie, a park ranger with Oregon State Parks in Springfield, Oregon; Brian, amateur biologist/lichenologist from Eugene, Oregon; and Alex, future founder of Tree Climbing New Mexico.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon we started the course by introducing ourselves and why we were all drawn to this remote spot in the Pacific Northwest to learn tree climbing together. Then we discussed the course outline, and the final Tree Week of 2006 officially began.
The next morning we awoke to snow-covered mountains and a temperature of 30°F. The day was filled with learning new knots, tree selection, and basic climbing techniques. We took time out to enjoy our campfire for a quick dose of warmth. Around 4 pm temperature started falling as the sun dipped down behind the mountains. Time to go inside and finish off the day with a cup of hot tea and a review of the day’s lessons.
The rest of week was just as chilly, but fortunately the rain gave us a break and let us enjoy our classes free of any downpours.
On Wednesday we erected a Treeboat village in the bare arms of “Ed”, our training tree, a gorgeous Black Walnut that is at the center of most TCNW classes. This was going to be a chilly night to sleep aloft. After setting up camp we broke for a few hours to warm our bones and fill our bellies. At 9 pm we gathered and climbed aloft, navigating our way into our Treeboats by the bright moonlight. As soon as we were snuggled into our sleeping bags high in the branches, the fog started to roll in. By 10 pm the moon was hidden behind a dense veil. No nocturnal animal observations tonight. It was as quiet as the crispness of the air. The cold night welcomed us into its breath.
It got down to 22°F that night but with sleeping bags, Treeboats, Cozies and our wool socks, none of us got so cold that we had to abandon camp for shelter indoors. Actually it was a very positive experience for me—I was able to surrender to the night and enjoy this unique experience. It seemed that Ed was producing a special kind of heat that kept us warm throughout the night and into the early morning.
The remaining days of Tree Week seemed to fly by. Thank you, Julie, Brian and Alex for braving the cold and making the last Tree Week of 2006 a huge success.