Excited and nervous. That's what I felt as I headed out to Orange County with my older daughter a few weeks ago to meet up with Patrick Brandt, owner of Piedmont Recreational Tree Climbing, and try my hand at climbing very high into a tree.
"I think those both are appropriate emotions," I told Brandt by phone a few days before.
I'm not a thrill seeker - really. The first time I rode a roller coaster was in January when I took my kids to Disney World. I'm still working on the mental fortitude to try a zip line experience. But, there was something about dangling high up in a tree that, to me, sounded doable. Also, my 11-year-old could not wait to try it out.
I had to go. I wanted to show her I could be brave, too.
We drove out to Blackwood Farm Park in Hillsborough on a beautiful Saturday morning. I was feeling pretty calm about the whole thing. Even the sign for the BOGO cemetery plot deal that we drove by didn't seem to phase me. My daughter and I joked about it.
Once we got to Blackwood, a beautiful former farm, we found Brandt, who was just finishing up a tree climb of all kids about ages 7 to 12 or so. A younger child was just a few feet in the tree, swinging from his harness and having a blast. A few more had gone as high as they could - maybe 70 feet or so. The moms on the ground had obviously set aside any nerves. One even said she was going to do it next time.
"OK," I thought, "I got this."
I wrote about Brandt about a month ago. The local dad has been a tree climbing enthusiast for several years. Now that he has training and insurance, this summer is the first time he's organized a big slate of public climbs at parks in Orange County. Slots have been filling up fast. He's also booking private birthday parties and events, as well. It's designed for ages 6 and up.
Recreational tree climbing is a real thing - launched in the Atlanta area and now popular around the world, especially in Japan. It uses a system of ropes and pulleys so climbers can go as high as they'd like.
"I want to give people an opportunity to get outside and get into a tree," he told me. "I find that when people - as soon as they are up in the tree - they have a much bigger appreciation for trees and nature and ecosystems. Time just slows down when you are in the tree. It really helps you see how amazing these plants and trees are."
Maybe that's part of the reason why Brandt was so calm when my daughter and I met up with him that day. After leading the previous group down, Brandt quickly got us hooked up in harnesses. My daughter picked a rope that led her to a tree swing high up in the branches. I took a rope right next to her.
Brandt taught us how to pull ourselves up and we rose. It takes some muscles, but it was pretty easy for both of us to climb. We each got about 30 feet in the air, but I would have gone higher if I didn't have to fuss with filming a video and taking pictures to share here on Go Ask Mom.
I'd climbed trees as a kid - but never that high. From the branches, you could see out on the park and property. And, you developed an appreciation for the tree and the critters that call it home. It really is amazing.
My daughter hung out, for much of it, in that tree swing, just taking it all in.
At the end of the 50 minutes, Brandt helped us descend. When I got to the bottom, Brandt said something about how it's hard for some tree climbers to find their land legs. And, that's when I realized that I was at the bottom of the tree, but still had my legs up as if I was climbing. Yep ... I did that.
The climbs are $18 per person. Climbs are scheduled through late October. Grab a spot before they fill up.