I was excited about todays climb because the first time was an amazing experience. It was the first time I had truly made it to the very top of a tree. But I was a little hung over today from last nights final clay class and also a little apprehensive about the sap I was going to encounter in the tree. I generally don’t climb pines because of the sap, and the low branches are often dead. Well, I walked past the hermitage with a quiet anticipation. I crossed the concrete overflow to the base of the tree. I looked up, readied myself, and jumped for the first limb. As I went up I was sure to go slow and test the strength of the branches cause they all looked dead. If I had put my weight just a few inches out from the trunk on many of these limbs they would have snapped. I really had to follow my 3 points of contact method gripping tightly with my hands as I went. The higher I was the more trustworthy and alive the limbs became. I snaked through as best I could but got caught up a little on some tiny branches and got into some sap. At the very top I grabbed my ribbon and actually got one limb higher. But the wind came up suddenly and I almost shit my pants in fear and stepped down quickly. I took some shots then my back hurt suddenly. I was standing slightly bent over and it just became too much for my lower back muscles. I enjoyed the little time I had of the amazing view and then started to climb down slow and careful. I got to the ground and walked back to the clay studio collecting leaves along the way. Back to work getting ready for my show. As for the climb, nice but it doesn’t compare to the first time.
8-30-08: Since I had so many similar images from the first climb I thought I’d let you see the comparisons to a bunch of them rather than just the first. The differences between how things looked at the beginning of June and the end of August are few. However, I look like good and evil versions of myself. In the big picture I am not smiling and am wearing a black t-shirt. In the smaller one I am smiling and wearing white. I think I chose not to smile because it looked dumb in that first one. I took a lot of those pictures with the old ones fresh in my mind. Only, instead of copying it exactly, it looks like I chose to take more vertical oriented images (or portrait) rather than horizontal (landscape).
As for the climb itself, I did get my head higher than the tallest point of the tree, but that was before the wind blew and I stepped back down. (And, no, I didn’t really shit my pants) In that picture of me, the little limb next to my head is the highest limb in the tree. It was a much better experience in retrospect than I let on at the end of the above entry.
Rather than just biking to Cherokee Park and climbing another maple tree yesterday, I chose to go to Shawnee… and climb a maple tree. Only, as my back is feeling better and better everyday I selected a larger and more challenging tree this time.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the entire tree or of the bottom limb that I used to get into the tree. This picture is the best I have to show you just how high the first branch was. And ever then, it is a little blurry and kind of hard to tell. But as I often do, I had to climb up an overhanging limb and crawl upsidedown in towards the trunk. The first limb I tried started to crack so I had to switch to another. It was long and difficult and when I finally got to my feet at the trunk my arms were worn out and I took a few minutes to recover. Then I started to climb up the large branches. I paused shortly at one section where the trunk split. There was a hole whose surrounding bark was all worn from some animals comings and goings. I didn’t see the animal, however, and that is probably a good thing.
I looked up from this point and could go in two directions. One looked easier to get started on but then the options thinned out up high. The second direction looked very difficult to get started but with many more options up high. So I chose the latter and carefully solved the problem of getting to the distant next branch. It turned out a much easier reach than it looked which was a relief. Often times after a really difficult move I worry that the same move in reverse when I come down may be even harder. This time I had no worries.
I continued upward from there with relative ease as the limbs got smaller. I had to transfer back and forth between a few branches to get as high as I could. Some of the limbs were damaged but still alive and strong enough to hold me. When I was as high as I could go I took some pictures and could actually see the smoke stacks from the industrial complex across the river.
Otherwise my view consisted of mostly other trees and the park loop.
Then as I began to look up at the sky I noticed the clouds were getting darker, the birds were flying frantically and soon I felt some rain drops.
The thick leaf cover in the tree protected me from most of the rain and for a minute I was excited to have such a nice view for the coming storm. I stepped down to a lower branch to get more comfortable and took a few more pictures of my view below.
Then the thunder clapped… loudly. At first I thought, "cool! a thunderstorm… it’s been so long since we’ve had one." I picked some whirligigs and watched them float down as they spinned. Then I realized that when there is thunder there is lightning and I am in a tree where lightning often strikes. I didn’t rush, but I figured I should probably start climbing down. As I went the rain fell harder and the thunder boomed more frequently and closer and closer. I made it all the way down to the lowest branch and swung under to crawl back down to the ground. By the time I grabbed my bike it was pouring and I raced to shelter to wait out the storm. I would have biked but my pcokets are always filled with electronic gadgets that don’t like water so I had to wait. Eventually the rain subsided and I was able to leave but I forgot to take anymore pictures of the tree. Oh well… it was nice to climb a more difficult tree and hear some thunder. I just forgot to hang upsidedown for my back. I’ll be sure to do that today.