Learning How to Climb Trees at the Cal Academy with Canopy Meg!

This is me at my job. Yeah, I'm a lucky duck.

On Friday, I had the awesome opportunity to join our new head of research and sustainability Dr. Meg Lowman for some tree climbing in the Cal Academy's east garden.   Dr. Lowman, also known as "Canopy Meg," is a champion for forest preservation and dedicated to mapping the amazing biodiversity of tree canopies, what she calls the "eighth continent."

Dr. Lowman brought out a team of tree climbing experts to rig up a gigantic Monterrey Cypress that lives next to the Cal Academy, and invited the staff to find out first hand how scientists and adventurers explore the world up there.

I am certainly no expert climber or outdoorsman. But I jumped at the chance to climb up into the canopy, along with my colleague Kait and several other staffers.

Dr. Lowman herself helped me pick out and put on the climbing harness, checking that I had fastened it correctly. (I didn't.)  Here's me trying to look brave.

The tree climbing expert assigned to me did a great job hooking me up to a climbing rope and going through the steps involved in safely ascending the tree.  There were a lot of steps to remember!  But he let me practice and go through each step a couple of times before I got even 5 inches off the ground.

 I couldn't remember if I had a fear of heights at all.  Apparently I didn't because soon I was 20 feet in the air, and having a great time.  It wasn't a race, but I was a little disheartened to see that people who had started after me had ascended to nearly twice as high as I had.  And without the benefit of the tree to balance against!  But as I said, I'm no great outdoorsman.

After getting about 25 feet up, I was feeling good, but I realized that I was tearing my hands on the ropes.  Perhaps gloves would have been a good idea?  I signalled to the climbing experts, who helped me slowly and safely descend, which was obviously much easier and a lot of fun.

The whole thing was an incredible rush, and my heart was pumping with adrenaline for an hour afterwards.  I'm so grateful to get the chance to experience a little of the thrill of being a tree canopy explorer.  If you get a chance to do something similar, you'll never look at a giant cypress or redwood or any tree canopy the same way again!

Oh, and I thought this sign near the tree we were ascending was pretty funny!

Thanks , Dr. Lowman and the rest of the awesome climbing team for making this possible!

More pics from my Flickr album. 

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