The Treasure Valley may have a new sport to rival hiking, running and rafting. Tree climbing is... well, it's branching out in popularity among adults. In fact, come Saturday, Sept. 29, biologist David Anderson will lead a guided tree climb for the public at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Anderson has recently started a climbing academy called Canopy Watch, which offers guided climbs and biological services.
"It's for anyone who would like to learn about tree climbing, whether it's for recreation or for professional purposes," said Anderson. "I talk about gear selection, about techniques for getting access to trees, safety and emergency planning. I first started doing guided climbs with Boise State about four years ago, taking undergraduates into trees in small groups."
Anderson has been climbing trees for about 20 years and said that through climbing, people can gain a new perspective. Anderson hopes to connect people to a new experience and help them change their view of trees and themselves.
- David Anderson
"I really believe in what I call the power of trees," said Anderson. "I want to be a bridge that connects people with trees because they improve the quality of our lives, and I've had people tell me that they feel enlightened after each climb. I want to share that feeling with as many people as I can."
The climb will give participants the opportunity to walk on branches while suspended by ropes, and hang upside down in the trees, something called a bat hang. Anderson has also led group hikes with conservation groups like the Audubon Society of Portland, which happens to be one of the oldest wildlife conservancies in the world.
"We had two trees," said Anderson. "Each had guides to help people get into the trees, and then there were ecologists, like myself, who would accompany the climber. We told them all about the ecology of the forest as they went up the tree, which was 250 feet."
Anderson hopes to grow this project into something bigger. In the future, he aims to help people with disabilities climb trees and experience a new world.
"I want to get people into trees and empower them with a feeling that maybe they don't get in their daily lives," said Anderson. "Maybe they see their lives as having limitations or obstacles, and I want to get them into a place where what they feel is freedom and a relief."
At the end of the climb, Anderson said he hopes people will feel empowered and more connected with the environment in a way that makes them more empathetic toward it.
"We live in the City of Trees, but we almost never see people interacting with trees," said Anderson. "I want them to feel an emotional, physical connection. The best way I know how to do that is to put a rope in a tree, and a person on a rope."