GO CLIMB A TREE, literally! by Lissa Poirot

Published in Lifestyles Magazine, June 2007

There is a scene in The Sound of Music where Captain Von Trapp returns home to see his children wearing play clothes made from curtain fabric, climbing in the trees. The scene shows the children in a moment of pure happiness - finally behaving like children, thanks to their nanny Maria. Whether or not you ever climbed a tree as a child, the thought of climbing one as an adult is about as appalling as the scene that the Captain stumbled upon. Yet one Fayetteville man wants you to remember the childhood thrill and climb a tree.

"Take a moment and reflect back to your youth to that tree that called you into its branches to view a bird's nest or just to view the world from a different perspective. Our reasons for climbing were varied, but the experiences of joy, excitement and adventure were common to us all. Years pass and we go from the play of childhood to the work of adulthood. Well, prepare yourself, because tree climbing is an adventure for all ages and abilities,"says Abe Winters, owner and founder of Tree Climbing USA

Winters, a tree outdoors man, has spent the last two decades encouraging adults and children to climb trees. Beyond the actual thrill, his courses initiate problem-solving skills, challenge boundaries and trust issues and encourage personal growth. Basic courses, held every third weekend of the month and costing $400 per person, teach climbers rope techniques to get into the trees, move within them, access the canopy and descend to the ground over the course of 18 to 20 hours of training in a two-and-a-half day session. Beyond the Basics courses, $300, help climbers master more difficult climbs.

"Recreational tree climbing is not competitive, rather it is reflective and personal. It is laid back, yet exciting and intense without being extreme. It is old-fashioned, deep fun," says Winters. "Finding a special canopy is part of the excitement, as is sharing that special tree with others"

By encouraging adults and their children to climb together, Tree Climbing USA hopes that the time spent together will allow parents and their kids to reconnect. Children 14 and over are invited to participate, however, they must be accompanied by an adult. Winters prides his organization on its safety and has a zero accident rate, although fully insured. Its grove on Antioch Road at Lake Horton offers three components of training and tree climbing: experiential, recreational and expeditional. Winters and his climbers often meet at Lake Horton, as well as organized climbs throughout the Metro Atlanta area and even into neighboring southern states. Although climbing trees is a fun pastime, Winters wants climbers to respect the environment, leaving trees unharmed and protected.

"Tree Climbing USA is about having safe fun, exploring our natural environment, and learning about ourselves. Your purpose for tree climbing may be about enjoyment, becoming one with nature, fulfilling an ancestral calling or just leaving earth with all its issues and problems for a brief time," says Winters. Whatever your reason, try something new this summer and relive your youth by joining Tree Climbing USA.

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