Did some tree work today with Doug Jewell. Not really work – more like re-creating our forest canopy access and sampling scheme for a talk I’m giving at the Ecological Society of America meeting next month. We climb trees and then rig a doubled traverse rope between them. From this horizontal traverse we suspend a vertical rope for sampling. We can move it along and go up and down it without relying on trees. That way we can visit just about anyplace inside a forest and some parts above the forest. Looks sort of like this:
It was really good to be up in even the low canopy of birch and spruce here in SC AK – only 40 feet or so up. Doug and I did this stuff in some really tall forests – pushing 300 feet tall – near Mt St Helens back in ’06 and ’04, collecting data on “canopy structure”.
Every time I’m up there two things come to mind: (1) how exceedingly slow and laborious it s to move around above the ground and between trees, but how exceedingly appealing it is to “canopy trek”, something I developed in California redwoods and sequoias, Australian Eucalyptus, and Borneo's Dipterocarps from 1999-2002 with Prof. Steve Sillett. Steve's an amazing scientist and tree fanatic, made famous by Richard Preston in The Wild Trees . Steve and I had a bit of a falling out, so don’t expect to see my name in Preston’s breathless prose. But every time I get into a tree, the second thing comes to mind: (2) I use big-tree techniques that Steve taught me, techniques he and others developed to climb and move around the crowns of the tallest trees in the world. And I am forever grateful to Steve for that.
Through Steve I met Tom Greenwood and Brett Mifsud, Australian big tree climbers and hunters, with whom I’ve traveled to Borneo in search of the world’s tallest tropical trees. We’ve found a 290’ monster there, which we climbed of course. Tom is the most adept person I have ever seen move through trees. While Sillett taught me the equivalent of rock climbing’s direct aid, Tom is like a 5.12 free climber. I have yet to get the gear appropriate to learn his techniques, but someday, before my old man joints give out and while his are still functioning, I hope to get some lessons.
Anyway, unlike a lot of the packrafting and landscape trips I enjoy so much, forest canopies are a delightfully slow paced place to be and I look forward to climbing trees again, if even little birch and spruce in Anchorage.