DAY 176

DAY 176

I said I was looking for a scary challenge in my last entry… and I got one.  The first time I climbed this big old tree off the Mount St. Francis drive I was in a rush to get to the clay class on time.  I didn’t get very high and I was disappointed.  Well, this time I had nothing to rush to.  But it had rained and the old mossy bark was incredibly slippery.  Even just getting up on the the first low branch was a little difficult and it got my shorts very dirty. 

The next couple of steps upward weren’t too challenging but I had to go really slow and wedge my foot in their holds.  I worked my way around the large trunk o the few branches I had to work with. 

For a lot of moves I had to grab onto one limb with both hands and lift my body up into a ball just to get my foot to reach a decent hold.  I got up to my ribbon which was also dirty. 

I pulled it off and looked upward. 

Though I was very scared I continued because I have ingrained that response in my head: if I can, I will go higher.  It has always been worthwhile to do so.  I think I got up ten feet higher but not to the top.  I pulled out my camera and realized that at some point during this dangerous climb where I have used all parts of my body to increase contact with the tree, the ON button get pushed and my battery was depleted.  I got out my cell phone instead and snapped some shots. 

I grabbed a leaf then readied myself to climb down.  And that was even scarier.  When I’m standing on a limb and I have to crouch down, grab it with my hands and then rotate my body so that my feet then dangle off to reach for the net lower branch, it is a leap of faith.  Faith in that knowledge that I got up, so I can get down.  But at one branch, pretty high, my feet were dangling and slipping on the trunk and finding nothing.  If I had stayed there hanging too long I’d have worn out my arms, so I pulled my legs back up.  I looked down and saw the one option I had and went for it.  I made it without even a slip.  Scary and great. 

9-29-08:  The images above that are not from the cell phone (you can tell because they don’t have a black border) are from the following day.  That is why they may appear not to be wet and slippery looking.  I think since the 2007 summer was so dry I had not adjusted to wet climbing very well.  But as the fall and winter came and more rain with it, I got much better and more comfortable with climbing in those conditions.  It is still a more difficult climb when it’s wet but it doesn’t scare me like it used to.

Before I headed to the McChesney’s on Friday afternoon to pick up the Suburban for my shuttle driving job, I stopped at Cherokee Park to climb a tree.  I was driving slow because it was my first view of the tree damage in the park since the Ike storm came through.  They lost a lot of trees and branches.  When I got to Dog Hill I saw that TREE 67 from DAY 61 and DAY 153, the beech with the scarred trunk, had fallen.

DAY 61  DAY 153

I parked immediately and walked over.  Half of the tree was still standing while the other half, the half that I had climbed both times, was on the ground. 

Like the many others who had climbed this tree and made thier mark I had done so as well.  Only I did it way up in the top of the tree.  I figured that no one would ever see the initials unless the tree fell.  Well, now it has fallen and I was determined to look for my engraving among the horizontal limbs.

I walked and crawled all over these branches, maticulously checking each branch where the thickness looked right. 

Then I saw a scratch that caught my eye.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to find it, but I did.  I cralwed down into the limbs and got a better shot.

I thought it would be cool if I had my saw and cut the section out to save it.  But I went to my truck later and I must have taken it out.  It was a kind of sad moment.  This great tree is now half what it used to be.  The fun and challenging climb is no more.  I sat a little while and thought about it.

Then I got back up and walked off the tree.  I found another beech nearby that I have yet to climb.  It looked so inviting and I was not satisfied with just crawling on a fallen tree for today’s climb.  Up I went.  For such a large tree it was a pretty easy climb.  I got up very high and looked down.  There, in the fallen tree, were 4 little kids crawling on its branches like I had just done.

It was good to see a mom watching and letting her kids play on the fallen tree.  They really looked like they were enjoying it.  And I was really enjoying my climb.  I am also glad the mom didn’t see the strange guy in the nearby tree taking pictures of her children.