Old Man Winter was coming on strong down here in southern Oregon. Waking up to a chilly 33 degrees, I wondered how many climbers would brave the cold on this Sunday morning.
My friend jb, in addition to her other considerable talents, is a trained tree climbing facilitator. Together we headed out to the tiny rural town of Takilma, Oregon, located about 40 miles south of the home of New Tribe. Our destination was a small private school called the Dome School. Twice a year the Dome School hosts a bazaar. This day the school was filled with colorful art and crafts made by inspired folks from all over southern Oregon. The local grade school kids performed songs while musicians strummed along. This was the place to be on this frosty morning.
Outside in the filtered sunlight, jb got the harnesses and gear ready as I set the ropes for the day’s climb. The throwbag deity must have been overseeing my throws—it was one of those days when I was able to will my throws into the right spot. In about fifteen minutes we had five ropes set up for DRT using my new Su Sleeves straight from New Tribe’s good friend Elliot Su in Taiwan.
This was our inaugural climb in this tree. We inspected ground, trunk, and canopy to check the safety of the tree. One of our concerns was that we were climbing an elder Madrone tree whose bark is very delicate and bruises easily. I placed all ropes several feet away from the trunk, so the only climbing being done today would be branch route climbing, eliminating any contact with the Madrone’s fragile skin. Another concern was for the tree’s roots. This tree is located on the school’s playground where a lot of foot traffic falls around and on top of our friend’s feet.
The price of admission for today's climb was for each climber to collect at least one box of leaves per climb. These we spread as mulch under the tree, to comfort the roots and reduce any further soil compaction. The education these kids got was as much a highlight as climbing in the tree. Children were running around with boxes full of leaves and broad healthy smiles on their faces. Laughter accompanied every box of mulch. A magical thing was happening.
The first climb of the day started off with a young ten year old lad who had climbed DRT before. He was the demonstrator and did an excellent job! As the temperature dropped and the climbers ascended, the Dome School Winter Bazaar Tree Climbing event got underway.
By the end of the day we had over fifty boxes of fresh root protection laid down and scattered around the base of the tree—a winter blanket for this tree. As jb and I packed up the gear and went over to thank the tree, we looked at each other and felt the same emotion—the tree was thanking us for bringing it some love and attention. After saying our thanks and as we walked away, a faint whisper was carried on the winds:
“Protect us and we will protect you. We are one.”