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Big Weekend At FDR

Author: Collective write-up
Date: November 25, 2007
Here it is! The report you’ve been waiting for: The 2nd Annual Georgia Department Of Natural Resources Tree Climbing Workshop -- an event jointly sponsored by Tree Climbing USA, Tree Trek Adventures, The tree Climber Coalition and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-, simply referred to as The Gathering.

The event showed growth over the previous year’s Gathering with more participants, workshops, and just plain fun! Fifty-three active participants in the workshop, plus the fourteen Girl Scouts who showed up for the group climb, made for a wonderful long weekend of climbing, learning, and socializing. A lot of people had a lot of fun!

The gathering was a non-profit event centered around recreational and educational tree climbing. It was created to promote and introduce basic, advanced, and adaptive climbing techniques to researchers, naturalists, and interpretive rangers and to discuss ways to improve climbing safety techniques among climbers themselves. The workshop has now gone far beyond the original goal of providing interaction between climbers and land managers, and has become one of the more important get-togethers within the recreational tree climbing world.

This year’s event paid for itself, even though cost of attendance was at a bargain-basement low. The event received donations totaling $1428.00, FDR State Park was reimbursed $668.00 for use of the facility, $319.00 was spent on food and supplies. The $441.00 left over will be donated to Georgia’s State Parks in the form of climbing gear.

It may be stated at this time that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has already approved another workshop for 2008. The dates will be the third weekend in November. You can put it on your calendar.

Rather than tell you how great this year’s “Gathering” was, we will leave it up to several of the participants to give you their “take” on the event. The following write-ups come from some of those who were in attendance. We thank them sincerely for their input!

Rod Justice writes:

I arrived at the second annual 2007 FDR State Park Gathering on Saturday, November, 17, 2007 at about 8:15 am. Things were already in full swing. I had passed numerous climbers on the road into the campgrounds. Many others were in the Lodge finishing up breakfast with many complimenting Wild Bill for the homemade, fluffy cathead biscuits he had made that morning.

Dennis Furlong, from Arbor Quest in Michigan was there and we set up a PACT (Pulley Assisted Climbing Technique) system to give a practical demonstration on Adaptive Tree Climbing for the disabled. The whole program lasted nearly two hours and as usual, Dennis did an outstanding job to a very attentive crowd.

After lunch, we settled in to do a little climbing. Dennis and I climbed with Oldtimer and a couple of other folks in the beautiful Oak where Abe set up a small group climb for the facilitator’s course he was teaching that morning. Great little tree with a beautiful view from the top.

Just before dinner, Jodi Rice had arranged a short Birds of Prey demonstration from a friend of his who does programs for the State Parks. If you have never seen a Harris’s hawk or Peregrine falcon at work, you’re missing a show.

After a delightful afternoon of just hanging out, Swamp Fox served up some of his famous BBQ and Brunswick Stew. A few of the luckier folks got the leftover homemade, fluffy cathead biscuits that Wild Bill made that morning.

Jodi had also arranged for a demonstration of Owls from a friend of his who lives in the area. She had a small Screech Owl that paid extraordinary attention to the Great Horned Owl when it was brought out of its cage. Come to find out, Great Horned Owls eat Screeches. I’d pay attention too.

Later that evening, J-Bird, Hunabku and a few of the others broke out the guitars, banjos, flutes, African drums and various pots, pans and washtubs. At that point, things become fuzzy but suffice it to say that much music, drumming, dancing, mayhem and general Hell-raising broke out. I’m sure pictures will turn up on the website someplace. I seem to remember a large, white bearded buffalo rutting in the corner but I could be wrong.

That night, thanks to Will Bill’s failure to live up to his flatulent promise that he would save me a bed in his and Joe’s cabin, I found a nice cozy little cabin off by itself and settled in for a good night’s sleep. With the help of my tiny electric heater and a good sleeping bag, I slept like a baby that night and dreamed the dreams of the innocent.

We all took over Chipley’s Family Restaurant the next morning, stuffed ourselves stupid from the breakfast bar and while some had to head out, the rest of us headed out for some more climbing.

I have to say it was an excellent weekend. I haven’t been able to make it to any of the rendezvous but I heard over and over that folks had just as much, if not more fun here than anywhere else. By the way, the fall color was at full peak this weekend and it was gorgeous.

Hats off to all who put this weekend together. It was wonderful to meet the folks from the Message Boards and put faces to the names. Those of us that made it had a great time. If you didn’t make it, the rest of us covered for you and expect to see you next year. You don’t want to miss Wild Bill’s fluffy, cathead biscuits.

J.R. (J~bird) Voronovitch writes:

My Memoirs of FDR ,a.k.a. The Real Rogue Rendezvous.

My adventure began at about 8am Friday when I left out of Bumpass, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. A little breakfast at McD’s, lunch at Waffle House, dinner at McD’s again, three tanks of gas and twelve hours of hard driving later, I found myself in Georgia… the mecca and center of the galaxy in the treeclimbing community. I came in through Warm Springs, where Mr. Roosevelt had his “hot springs.”

The “hot springs” can be demystified by Swampy Joe when he explains to you about the small pool of cold water that is pumped into the gazebo via a hot water heater, but I’ll let him elaborate to you personally. As with so many things in this world, make no assumptions based on popular belief, because more often than not you will be surprised to find things are not what you may have thought…. I digress.

So I finally arrive… I never got lost on the way there, just sometimes I wasn’t quite sure where I was, and I THOUGHT I knew where I was going, but when I did get there, I was amazed. What a beautiful park. What a beautiful mess hall/lodge/large group camp. This “little” part of FDR can host a group of 140 or more! But we’ll build up to that incrementally. (When Wild Bill totaled the waivers signed there were 53 plus a group of scouts at one of the program climbs.)… I digress, again….

Everybody was done with dinner, but I inspected the kitchen facility thoroughly and regardless. I was quite surprised to find one of the finest kitchens I have ever seen, and I have seen a bunch, believe you me. It was treemendous. Also it had what I would rate as a four star dishpit; those of you that have worked in kitchens and restaurants would have been duly impressed. It actually made it fun to wash the dishes….

Everybody was gathered in the hall, and I received a very warm welcome from many familiar faces, and also from an even larger group of climbers whom I had yet to meet. Through the next four days of living and climbing together, I felt such a strong presence of community, family, and fun. Words, and even pictures are not adequate tools for me to convey the love that was in the air, but I will try anyways, because it was truly joyous. Also, I will be talking about it all year until we meet there again. A truly joyous occasion. There were some tables of gear built by Swamp Fox on display, a warm roaring fire in one of those big ‘ol fireplaces, a drum circle… you know the usual stuff that you would find in heaven. Stringed instruments, etc. etc. Little did I know that this adventure would consist of late evenings, early mornings…. And the best time I’ve had in a long time. Actually I did have an inkling.

Eventually we all found ourselves able to sleep. It just took a little longer for some of us.

Saturday was a great day for climbing… I climbed in the Sign of the Hoss with Joe, Dean, Hu, Jeff, his Sister Jodie, and James, after a terrific breakfast. This tree has a wonderful valley view, but you only can see it from the highest TIP. Five feet below that and you miss it. Oh well, life is like that sometimes. One of the big goals of the climb was to retrieve Swamp Fox’s rope that someone (who shall remain anonymous) had rendered impossible to pull down the night before.

Then it was off to the adaptive rigging seminar. Very cool! Dennis, Rod, and Arborquest! Becki too, you were a very patient patient for lack of better words. It was all a very nice presentation on the techniques and great care involved in helping those who might not otherwise be able to have the canopy experience.

Then I climbed some more at the demo tree with the Pinata, Dean the Treeclimbing Machine, Hunabku, and Oldtimer in front of the infirmary. Nice oak with tons of Abe’s rope set for the facilitator course.

Then it was Joe of the Jungle’s wilderness adventure climbing. A great lesson in minimalist climbing and creative problem solving. He also got us involved in a little group experiment at what I will just have to refer to as the Wilderness Tree. Indeed, all you need to climb a tree is a rope… just some of us might be more comfortable than others. Especially if you are willing to hike in with your New Tribe.

After lunch I returned to that very tree with Dean, Jersey Girl, Glen, and James, and had a great climb. So great in fact that we almost missed the raptor demo, if it hadn’t been for Treegirl hiking by and reminding us. Have you ever had a falcon swoop two feet over your head at mach 2? I have. And what about that condor? Amazing. I guess interpretive rangers have good connections indeed.

Suppertime was groovy… I don’t want to brag about it and make you hungry right now. And then there was music and dancing. Funga Alafia, Chili Chili, The Different Dance, Treegirl and Wild Rice’s Buffalo Dance. Again, congratulations you two. Be good to each other. Wild Bill did a Rain Dance step by accident, that I recognized from the Zuni ritual during the “Different Dance” (thanks Viola) and lemme tell you what, 24 hours later it was raining, I kid you not! Which is real special seeing as it hasn’t rained in Georgia in 14 years. I have seen Lake Lanier, and it ain’t pretty. Wild Bill gets to see it every day too as the headquarters is based there…. Anyways. The things you find out when you venture into this great big world….. and if the raindance steps were not an accident, why aren’t you doing that more often Bill?

Music and Dancing! Did you all have that in Colorado???? Well I’ve heard from reliable sources that this was fun. I should know cause I was here. Did I mention that this weekend was also phenomenally affordable? Eventually we all found our ways to bed, it just took some of us longer than others.

Alright, I know you are jealous if you weren’t here, so let me wrap up with some highlights. I could be here all night typing and still not be able to put it all down. Besides, as I type it grows later, and soon I will have to drive back to the real world. I have only been granted one night’s stay at the Galactic Headquarters Of The Coalition and Tree Trek, and Joe wants me to turn off the generator at 11 pm. It is now 1:41 am….

Mike, Thanks for offering astronomy, sorry I couldn’t make it out there. As many of you may know I had to be playing some banjo by the fire while y’all were freezing out there. Also may I say the owls were lovely.

Super night climb in the Hickory “Doc” with the hardcore climbers who were fortunate enough to stay another night. I had fun with you folks! Genevieve, Viola, Geoff, Bill, and Joe all got to see me get whacked in the head by a decent hanger. Did I ever mention I love my little Kevlar brain bucket?

This gathering was AMAZING! Thanks Wild Rice, GADNR Staff and Rangers and everyone who came together as a unit to make this happen.

Cliff Herring writes:

FDR - what a great park! The leaves were turning and the forest was in full color. I arrived just after lunch on Friday, and spotted Jersey Girl and Wild Bill right away. Wild Bill escorted me down to the Tree Of Life, which could have been called the Tree Of Lines, as there were already quite a few ropes set up on limbs from 40 to 90+ feet, some complete with climbers. After a DDRT climb to about 60 feet, I moved over to a nice oak which seemed to also be popular with everyone. Afterwards, it was time to think about dinner...

Saturday's climb was in the Hendrix Tree, named, according to Jody, not after Jimi, but after a park helper. A tall oak, that had no doubt seen its share of climbers. It was a good chance to SRT, since my rope was set for me, as was the next climb back in the Tree Of Life. Why throw when you have your choice of eight or ten tag lines already installed?

After sleeping late on Sunday, I decided to hit the long road back to NC. I probably missed another great climb or two, but the seven-hour drive was worth getting an early start.

The best part of the weekend? Seeing great people I already knew, and making some new friends. Thanks to Wild Bill, Jeff, Joe and Jody and everyone who did a great job hosting this event.

Shelly Steffen Byrne writes:

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”--
Rabindranath Tagore

Driving home form Georgia’s Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park tree climbing rendezvous I was smiling. It was a place where I had found more of myself. A tribe; A tribe to which I belonged. I loved climbing and being in the trees with everyone. It was another adventure I had longed for.

Being high in the Tree Of Life, gazing out over the lake and experiencing its reflection of rich fall colors, I realized, I had been waiting much too long. My spirit had been thirsty and now I was taking time to replenish it. There were fascinating people swinging above me. Our eyes would meet, always penetrating and meaningful. Everyone was an integral part in his or her own unique way.

Climbing Sweet Melissa we had as many different techniques of entering a tree as we did people. We had traditional double rope technique climbers, single rope technique, barefooted, split tail, and mechanical- all completely safe. I was nervous at first being with master climbers. I slowed down, my movements became stiff and methodical, until Peter came over and set my line and his in one clean sweep beaming the entire time. Once up in the tree, I relaxed by perching myself on a thick branch. I breathed in deep, and listened, to the unspoken language. An essence of trust in one another happens naturally in the tree.

Another natural emergence was PLAY. First, Genevieve introduced herself to the people on the ground with her best monkey call. We all followed in unison. I felt an urge to break out into a game of TAG. First I swung and gently poked Jody and taunted him until he engaged. Everyone moved away skillfully tightening their Blake’s hitch and reaching positions further back in the branches. Laughter flowed through the canopy as more rules like no tag backs emerged. We became equals in the game of TAG.

We played like we were children again with no inhibitions. The more we played the harder we laughed and wrinkles were erased as time stood still. Ideas and talents were shared freely. I remembered a quote, “The ones that are unafraid share information freely.” We supported one another with small gestures. Bob was quick to put in higher lines for people. Jody had a way of simplifying a transfer. It continued even out of the trees on and on.

At night our play continued. A memorable drum circle was formed in front of the blazing fire utilizing utensils from the kitchen and their own drums. Unique voices and dances were created while Becky, a massage therapist, offered her table for 10 min healing sessions. Joe Maher participated in the first ritual tribe buffalo dance.

This community’s strongest values are of freedom and individuality. Despite this I felt an underlying tension. As recreational tree climbing becomes more popular, I sense fear. Some of the leaders are worried people may become sloppy with their approach and get hurt or much worse, death. I was hearing small debates on how to make this community stronger for those yet to come and create standards of easy language and procedures that provide a backbone especially for new instructors and tree climbers.

Jody Rice, Joe and Bill Maher, and Abe Winters were instrumental in creating the environment, contributing hours of preparation and time. They set the stage where we could gather and share each others stories and experience, and foster a strong united tree climbing community.


Meet in the trees

They will help us to

Speak from our hearts

Stand United


Pass the Heart Listen

Listen to the Truth


From the Heart


The Heart


Douglas O’Brien writes:

Howdy Folks!

My name is Douglas “The Piñata” O’Brien. I’m very new to all of this and I want to thank my dear friend and brother David Obi Jr. for introducing me to the joys and challenges of recreational tree climbing! I also want to thank Joe and Bill Maher for their continued instructions and encouragement as I find my way into the trees.

I also want to thank Jody Rice of the State Department of Natural Resources who helped organize this event into the great success it was and for his awesome homemade chili.

The weekend not only offered the fall splendor of beautiful trees in the gently rolling hills of Georgia but a gathering of beautiful people as well. A common bond permeated the air as folks from many walks of life and regions of the country came together to teach, learn, and climb together. The evenings found us enjoying the warmth of hearth, the sharing of great food, fellowship and - when the moment was right - music and dance arose as another celebration of togetherness and joy.

Joe Maher dancing into the drumming area with a white buffalo head dress and spear was the absolute show stopper for our first night of fun. The following night, Viola Brumbaugh of New Tribe enchanted us all with her masterful Tai Chi demonstration during some trance drumming created by David Obi and myself.

Other highlights included astronomy programs and incredible raptor and owl exhibitions that featured the true masters of the trees. I’ll never forget the powerful and precise flights of the peregrine falcon that we were privileged to witness.

Of course, the weekend offered so many other incredible experiences and great people that I can’t possibly capture it all with one short posting.

I look forward to our next gathering and I promise that we’ll have enough drums for everyone next time around!

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