terça-feira, 19 de outubro de 2010

Taking Tree-Hugging to New Heights

I am dangling 100 feet in the air. The only thing that keeps me from plummeting to the forest floor is a braided nylon rope as wide around as my finger. It is anchored to the top of a 500-year-old, 250-foot Douglas fir, a tree that travelers can scale and spend the night in swinging from a hammock.
The tree—one of the tallest in the country—is nicknamed Fuzzy for the moss and lichen that beard its branches. Each battered plate of bark is the size of a dinosaur's scale, some of them scorched from a long-ago fire. The tree has lived and twisted upward since before Columbus spied our eastern shores with his telescope. The tree rules the forest, the tallest in this river valley, and to climb its branches is to feel like a child perched on his grandfather's shoulders, at once delighted and a little fearful.
Out on a Limb: Relaxing up in the branches at this Oregon getaway

Instructor Rob Miron hangs tight.

Who climbs trees, my friends and family wonder, besides primates and 12-year-old boys? Plenty of people. These past few years, tree-climbing—which borrows its techniques and equipment from caving and rock-climbing—has become a vacation destination due to some strange combination of childish nostalgia, eco-awareness and an appreciation of the spider-like thrill of swinging from ropes.
Located an hour's drive from Eugene, Ore., deep in the Fall Creek wilderness area, the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute is the only outfitter in the country that legally climbs with Forest Service permits. The institute is run by Rob Miron and Jason Suppa, both of whom spend most of their lives up in the air, leading tree climbs and working as arborists.
We hike our way to the tree. High above, branches intersect to form a shifting ceiling that makes the forest floor busy with shadows. Ferns feather the ground. Moss clings to everything—stones, logs, branches—in varying shades of green. The air is heavy with the smell of earth. Standing at the base of our tree, among our gear, I peer upward at the dizzying height.
The helmet looks like a halved ping pong ball and I tighten my harness and step into my stirrups. I attach my ascender clips—big metal grips shaped like a smile—one at eye level, the other aligned with my knees. The first 15 feet are the most trying, as I clumsily spin, as my body readjusts and finds a new sense of balance. The ascender clips slide up and then lock in place, anchoring me to the rope as I pull and push, crunching and extending my body, inchworming through the open air, the lowest branches 150 feet above the ground.

Adventurers slide toward their hammocks.

The wind picks up and the forest seems to breathe all around me. We are quiet, lost in the rhythm of the climb. For the first 30 minutes, there are no branches, so I sprint upward in bursts, and then rest in my harness, panting and spinning in the open air. When I move into the branches, they cluster thickly around me, and I dodge through them, knocking into them, snaking an arm around them for leverage.
It takes an hour and a half to summit the tree. I loop an arm around the trunk and imagine myself as an eagle in a roost. I linger there and watch the sun set behind a distant hill, silhouetting the forest.
Six hammocks hang between branches, one for each of us, staggered around the tree at varying heights for privacy. They are anchored to the tree by ropes from each of their four corners. I descend a hundred feet, darting through the branches, to my hammock. It looks like a green pupa, made of canvas and walled in to keep me from rolling out. I throw my sleeping bag in, tap my descender clip and sink in slowly.
When I lie in the hammock, it hugs my body into the shape of a U. Before the climb we ate pasta and salad, but now we're hungry again and Jason withdraws from his pack a homemade marionberry pie and we pass it from hammock to hammock and fork sweet, red bites into our mouths.
Night falls and the bard owls and mountain chickadees and nuthatches busily call out to each other, and then go silent, their noise replaced by the distant rush of Fall Creek and our voices as we bid each other good night. I hang a Nalgene bottle from a nearby branch, in case nature calls, and then I settle back, still in my harness, as the tree sways, rocking me to peace.

FONTE: Wall Street Journal

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