Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Great Tree Climb

Speaking of forests and tall trees, and twitching thighs, Kate and I climbed to the top of the Bicentennial Tree – 68 metres up (almost 200 feet if you pre-date metric). There used to be 8 similar trees, all used as fire lookouts, staffed by ‘Towermen’ employed by the Forestry Department and staffed in 24 hours shifts during the fire season. Plane spotting replaced the need for the trees in the 1970’s so now three of them are open to the public to climb.

This is the goal!
To climb, you basically step up onto huge thin pegs which spiral around the tree. Each step is the equivalent in height of two-three normal steps, so each step up is a stretch. There is nothing to prevent you falling to certain death, or at best, being impaled on a nail further down the tree!

Kate was keen to go up and I don’t mind heights so we agreed to go to the middle platform, but once there, and we’d caught our breath, I thought ‘what the heck, we’re halfway there, let’s keep going’. Kate was completely fearless and would have scampered to the top if I’d let her.

Kate looking very pleased to have reached half-way.  Notice the sign
below telling us that was the easy bit!
Third of the way up - that's Elizabeth in the right hand corner of
the ground level platform.
Half way point

Almost at the top, just before the caged section. My foot on the
right - totally wrong footwear for the task.

Once at the top there were three more platforms, connected by ordinary metal, almost vertical ladders, and the platforms had mesh surrounding them, so you couldn’t fall from here.The view was amazing; we could see for kilometres and were completely above the tree line so it’s clear to see they would have been effective as fire lookouts.

Still going up.....

Kate again looking very pleased with herself at the top of the tree and
above the canopy. I was still gasping for air at this point.
Coming down was even harder than going up and that’s when one of my thigh muscles started twitching and I thought I was getting a cramp or that something else was going on. Still, get down we did. I almost kissed the ground. While I was never scared (and Kate certainly wasn't), I was certainly conscious of the consequence of a fall. It could only end badly. Larry couldn't watch us and had to walk away until we returned to the ground.

 It was only when we climbed down the tree that I noticed the 'Tree Climbing Risk' sign,
which included not climbing on wet or windy days, wearing appropriate
footwear and no children. All of which we had inadvertently ignored!

We later had a picnic lunch at another climbing tree, the Gloucester Tree, slightly shorter at 58 metres. I was in no mood to climb another one and Kate didn’t mention it. Just manoeuvring onto the picnic table seat was painful as by now my legs were more like jelly. We were content to sit and watch others, knowing we had successfully climbed the tallest climbing tree in Australia!

Mission accomplished. It was easy to smile when it was all over!!

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