Anybody who knows an arborist would tell you that they’re scary drivers. Not because of lack of skill but our eyes are always wandering. I cannot drive without looking at trees and scenery. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a child.
A few years ago something caught my eye on a hillside that I drove by frequently. Looking across a half mile strip of farm fields, to the wooded hill, I kept noticing a big “purple” spot in the otherwise green canopy of the forest. That purple smudge distracted me every time I drove by.
One sunny Saturday, I decided to pack my son Sammy up and go have a picnic in a tree. The amount of tree climbing gear (for the both of us), food and the endurance of a 3 1/2 year old legs, made this tree an ideal destination. The hike from the base of the hill up to the tree was about a quarter mile.
As we approach, I notice that this part of the hill was the location of an old farm house. The spacing and the uniqueness of trees here clearly defined an old driveway. A leveled area, where this tree was, showed that a large house once stood here. Conservatively, my best guess at the age of these trees, since planting, was around 200 years. Pretty cool find I thought!
First thing to do, now that we have arrived, is set some climbing ropes. With the aid of a throwball, I set a rope for Sammy and one for me.
Throwball is a small weighted canvas pouch with a ring sewn onto it. We tie a small string to it known as “Throwline”. By pinching the string in my hand and swinging underhand, I can throw it up to 100′ accurately. After I get it up and over a selected spot, I use the string to put climbing ropes in its place.
Taking Sammy up a tree means that I need both of our ropes in line with each other. Here is both of our lines, anchored around the trunk.
For Sammy’s roe I use a 3:1 (3 to 1) system. It cuts the needed strength to pull yourself up the rope by 2/3. This kid refuses at points to not give his full effort. For me, it’s important to set him in a system that he can use…. Even if his strength is lacking (compared to an adult). The plus side is, that when he is tired, I can pull him up with no problem. See figures 12 and 13.
I set Sammy’s system to 40′ and get him strapped into his harness. He starts pulling himself up like there’s no tomorrow! After 10′ he’s had enough, plus he’s at a good height to swing around. In my most caring but goal oriented fatherly way, I tell him we needed to save the playing for after the work. I fixed his antsy-ness by pulling him up the rest of the way.
Making sure he’s comfortable on the target “picnic branch”, I ascend.
This is my favorite part. Once situated and stable, I bring out the picnic lunch. We eat, we laugh looking at funny insects, Sammy spots a birds nest, the view explains the old property lay out, we can see old planted trees around. We take a minute to appreciate even the smallest of buds and leaves. The wonder of a tree being so alive never ceases to amaze.
Eating first then enjoying our position on the day, 15 minutes is all Sammy can handle….. He needs to JUMP!!! Down he goes, squealing and laughing, jumping off the trunk like a mini army ranger! Out 10′ and back in!! With perfect reactionary form!!!
I call him to a stop near the lowest branch, so I can catch up to Sammy, before he heads the rest of the way down.
I put the camera away so that I could spot him on some small limb walks off the trunk. A few minutes after that we were back on the ground, stowed our gear then headed back down the hill.
I happen to take a quick video of Sammy on this day! Please enjoy!
I will always remember this day! Our first, of many, picnics together high up above the ground. Sammy is now 5 1/2 and his love for trees and climbing is constant. I climb almost every weekend with Sammy and my youngest son Matthew. Check back each week for some new videos and pictures.