An off-hand comment on a whitewater email list a few weeks ago started a conversation of “do you tree climb?” It resulted in an invitation for Chloe and I to visit Mary Alice, a willow oak maintained and groomed for tree climbing at Lake Hearn in Fayetteville, Georgia. I was invited by Mike Ivie, who currently runs the grove and offers a public climb twice a month on Sundays. We drove down and were met by Mike and Abe Winters, a long-time tree climber and instructor who founded the grove.
The setting is beautiful – a well maintained grove along a path by the lake. In addition to Mary Alice, there is a smaller adjacent oak with much lower branches – ideal for kids with fear of certain heights who still want to get into the branches. We will try that one on our next visit.
Given that Mary Alice is a well groomed tree, there are no sucker shoots or nearby trees in the way which means — no tangles! My throw line was set in 2 throws, and the subsequent attempt to set a line for Chloe’s rope hit the first time. I’m usually not that lucky good.
While Chloe helped Mike lay out gloves and equipment for visitors for the public climb, I ascended about 30+ feet until Chloe came and wanted to climb. Chloe alternated her time climbing and swinging. At one point she hit her height limit of 20′ or so and got scared, but we lowered her down and she was happy again. So happy, that she ultimately decided that rather than climb, she wanted to spend her time in an upside down “bat hang”, swinging to and fro about 30 feet while about 8 feet off the ground!
Mike and Abe were great hosts, and we will certainly be back. Chloe kept my occupied, and I really didn’t get to explore the heights of the tree, which looks like I could spend hours in. I learned a lot talking and watching both Mike and Abe. They each do certain “climbing things” differently from each other. Just like in kayaking, different instructors provide different perspectives on technique.
Video of Chloe swinging below!