Friday, November 19, 2010

Going Up?

In mid-November, I took an intro to rock climbing class at the Portland Rock gym, which is a few blocks from home. I wanted to test myself and know so many people who do this. It was only $50 and you get to come to the gym for a week. We learned how to tie knots, safety of it all, how to belay someone when they are coming down, etc. I was the first to try in my class. I made it mid-way through and then did the silly thing of looking down. I am not usually afraid of heights but even with a harness and ropes, I got a little scared. It was scarier than tree climbing b/c there's no branches and leaves to hide the ground. I asked to come down, which is definitely the fun part of climbing.

On my third attempt, I made it to the top, barely. Mid-way, I needed a break as my fingers were in pain from gripping so tight. Your hands also get clammy, which is not comfortable and makes it hard to climb. It's also exhausting so it's nice to take a break and chill in the air while you friend holds you up with the rope system. My friend Jason encouraged me to continue up. It seemed so impossible and I can't figure out why we put ourselves in these crazy physical challenges. I looked up to figure out a good route and pushed through. It's definitely a physical and mental challenge and fun to try out. I love to try lots of new activities as you will soon read, but I don't think this will be the hobby I commit too :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monkeying Around - Climbing a Tree

In early November, my friend Chris and I went on our first tree climb with the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute. We had two guides set it all up for us and take us up a 250 ft, 500 year old Douglas Fir tree in Willamette National Forest, which was 30 mins east of Eugene . We lucked out with having a rain-free climb. The climb was neither too difficult nor scary. All the tall trees here average 300 ft. The redwoods in Cali can be 390 and Australia has some of the tallest trees in the world!

How did we climb? Well, that's hard to explain. There's a 600 ft cable rope that can carry an elephant (so I was told), under our feet there were individual stirrups and we were in a harness. There's two ascenders (moving clips) on the rope. You push one ascender up then push your legs down to stand up and pull yourself up and slide the other ascender up. Basically you inch upwards on the rope. My arms were sore the next day. But not too bad, if you ask me.

When you near the top, you really see the difference between the old growth trees and the new ones. The newer ones are so much shorter. We also got some nice sunshine up there. We chatted for a bit while enjoying the view. Then we slid down, which was super fun, but you need to watch out for those branches. Sometimes it was a bit of a tight spot getting through. The guides set up two "tree boats" hammocks, where we had lunch. When we finished the guides instructed us to just jump off the hammock. I of course listened and swung out and around. I felt like Indiana Jones! They said that was the best exit they have ever seen as no one ever jumps off. We raced back down and was on our way to a nice camp spot that Chris and I had all to ourselves. Unfortunately, we heard the rain all night long.

I realized that this was a mild form of eco-tourism in the U.S. Eco-tourism is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale. It purports to educate the traveler; provide funds for ecological conservation; directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Our trip was local, it's attracts tourists, you get to be in nature and actually learn a lot about trees. It may not be helping the poor, local people as eco-tourism strives to in under developing nations, but it's a good start to have in our very own country. More pix at