Tag Archives: treeboat

Treeboat in a Ceiba: When Dreams Go Wild

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Treeboat is the penthouse of the tropical rainforest, and this is the view.

 

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
The branches holding the treeboat are an epiphyte, a strangler fig growing out of the top of the ceiba. That’s right. One of the largest trees I could see around me was sticking out of the top of another tree.

 

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
The rigging setup keeps the climber in the tree, even while sleeping.

Suspended on taught 1-inch straps, a treeboat is much more than a mere “hammock”: it is an out of body experience. Lie on a treeboat in the forest canopy and you float amongst the branches and birds. There is no sensation of gravity, or ground, or down, only of out, up, and air. You are weightless, and in a treeboat high in the canopy it is easy to feel as though you are in a dream.

I have been dreaming for 20 years of sleeping in the largest tropical tree I could find. Sometimes dreams are meant to come true, and sometimes they are not. Other times the dream takes on a life of its own. This is one of those stories.

The largest tree in the New World Tropics? Look up to the ceiba (Ceiba pendantra) and ask no more. Ceibas are so enormous that the Maya Indians believed them the pathway that souls take to reach heaven. Only a fool would dare to climb where angles tread, so call me a fool.

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Climbing a ceiba is like climbing in a tropical garden in the sky.

 

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Nearly every surface was draped in epiphytes of every variety. Here is a tank bromeliad.

This fool’s journey takes place in the Dominican Republic. Deep into Los Haitises National Park, next to a muddy watering hole called Poso Ventura, rises a ceiba that all the locals in the little town of Los Limones know. Even before I climbed the tree I was somehow famous, everyone on the street asking if I was really planning on sleeping in the giant tree. Geez, no pressure, folks.

And so it began. Two hours of hiking across the rolling limestone trails, sweat dripping from my chin in the near total humidity.   One hour to shoot ropes over limbs and climb past a vertical cascade of leaves, vines, and roots shooting out of the tree’s trunk. Another hour scrambling up and down limbs, hanging the treeboat in five different positions until one finally worked. By that time I was so filthy that my own smell was, honestly, revolting. I dined on crackers, sardines, and peanuts, enough to leave me positively starving after a day of so much work. I was rationing my water too, and the lack of real food and enough water left me dizzy. Not the best frame of mind when you are 120 feet off the ground. When dusk turned to night the mosquito swarm went rabid and with no place to go the hour of truth finally arrived. I climbed in, more than ready to rest and hoping for the treeboat to take me away to dreamland.   One thing you need to know, friends: treeboat don’t disappoint.

What a trip! It’s hard to know where “up” is when the frogs are chirping, croaking, and burping from 20 feet above your head, outward in every direction, and down 120 feet. Bats would burst into my airspace on fluttery wings, crackling over my stomach, then swooping under my back. I heard a buzz and gazed out into blackness to see pairs of tiny green headlights swerving on unseen roads until one landed on my arm and I ID’d the driver as a 2-inch beetle. After too many hours in socks, my naked toes throbbed with every heartbeat, providing the rhythm for it all. And the insects? Godalmighty – how could I hear anything over the whining cicadas and all their chorus?

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
The ceiba was filled with anoles, hunting, displaying, sunning, and mating.
treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
The blurred wings in the center mark an Antillean Mango (a type of hummingbird – Anthracothorax dominicus), feeding on nectaries at about 110 feet high.
treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
The view from my room.

All in all it was way too weird. If sleeping in a “normal” forest is an out of body experience, then sleeping in a tropical ceiba took me out of my mind. Did I sleep? In fits. The mosquitoes, held at bay by an improvised netting, shreaked for blood only a finger length from my face and did a decent job of keeping me unnerved. I remember a moment when I felt like rolling over and, unaware of my surroundings, stuck my left leg out into space. I put it right back in bed and clinched tight, determined to stay in the treeboat and live a little while longer. After nearly 11 hours of mind tripping, the dawn chorus of vireos and bananaquits announced it was time for a bathroom break. That’s right. Insufficient food and water combined with a lot of nerves is a good recipe for some “movement” and desperate measures demand desperate means. The ferns will thank me. When Chivero arrived to walk me back to Los Limones, and after a breakfast of sardines and crackers for my parched tongue, I packed my bags and rappelled down the rope to plant my feet once again in the land of sane and normal folk.

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Gut check: was it good for you? Yeah, baby!

Would I do it again? Tomorrow!!

And you should too.  But first some advice. The best way to install a treeboat in a ceiba is to stand on the shoulders of giants. Thomas Hayes got me to, and into, the ceiba. Will Koomjian and Jamz Luce taught me the basics of rope wrenching and treeboating. Amanda Sills sewed the rain canopy and mosquito netting for my treeboat. Treeboats were invented and are sold by the good folks at New Tribe – required gear for tree nuts of all ages.

treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Thomas Hayes checking it all out. Thanks to Thomas for being a good friend.
treeboat, rainforest, forest canopy, Dominican Republic
Chivero poses at the base of the ceiba. The buttress roots alone are four times his girth.

165 feet to bed: Tree lessons for Everyman

Some of my friends and family think I am nuts because I climb trees. Bonkers. Lost in the proverbial woods. At work I get shrugs, the telltale sign that the topic of tree climbing doesn’t matter to a lot of people. I beg to differ. I think tree climbing has a lesson for everyman, whether you climb trees or not. Well, I have canopy blog, and the burden is on me to defend why climbing and trees matter. The best metaphor I can think of is going to bed in a treeboat.

Sleeping in a treeboat: all harnessed up and ready for bed.
Sleeping in a treeboat: all harnessed up and ready for bed.

If there is one word that captures climbing big trees it is “deliberate,” and nothing epitomizes this better than treeboating. When climbing big trees you take nothing for granted. There is no room for error because one mistake could mean death, and death is the one mistake with no recovery. Every action has to be planned and reconsidered before being taken. You take only what you need and nothing more, and you take everything that you need and nothing less.

Me, I like to relax before bed. Take a shower, have a bowl of ice cream, and chill until I’m drowsy. But when bed is hanging 165 feet high in a tree it’s a different story. Imagine climbing 165 feet on a rope that is the diameter of a dime. Every single muscle is on and every neuron firing. You have to trust your gear and your skill, or else you are completely, totally forsaken. And when you are up in that glorious tree, you are surrounded by life.

165 feet to bed.
165 feet to bed.

In other words, climb a big tree and you are alive. When bed is a treeboat you are 100% dedicated to living life fully and totally. It is the opposite of most everything else in our daily lives. Who relishes driving to work as the high point of a day? You are passive and it is dead time, something to get through because of what is on the other end. The word we use for watching TV is “vegetating” because you don’t participate, you let it happen to you. Climb a big tree and you are taking life to the bank. You own it! When in our lives are we most engaged and happy? Usually on vacation, because we take charge of what we do and when we do it, and we live large. Why are adventure vacations like zip-lining and mountain biking so popular? Because of the thrill we get from living. That is the essence of tree climbing and treeboating: own life, be thrilled, take charge, live large.

Dang.  It's a long way to the bathroom.
Dang. It’s a long way to the bathroom.

Therein lies the message for Everyman. Trees bring us life, whether we climb them, just look at them, or breathe the air they make for us. Tree climbing is fun and delivers us to living. You don’t even have to climb a tree to participate, just visit this blog and enjoy. Thanks.

This post is dedicated to my climbing brothers and sisters: Jamz, Brian, Will, Scott, Damien, Aaron, Augie, Jason, Julian, Luke, Kt, Soman, and many more.

Jamz Luce suspended between two ancient Sitka spruce.  He is 100% dedicated to living large.
Jamz Luce suspended between two ancient Sitka spruce. He is 100% dedicated to living large.

Treeboat – Where Dreams Take Flight

I have always wanted to fly. If I were ever granted by divine gift the superpower of my choice, I would choose flight. Let me soar over the forests, give tail-chase to the birds, hover at every sunset, and heaven would have me wrapped in wings. Most of my best dreams have taken me flying. One day I am fidgeting with a mundane object like an umbrella and by total accident I discover the secret move needed for it to fly. Or else I am running pell-mell down a steep and incredibly high hill when my feet catch in the grass, and falling forward I open my arms only to suddenly swoop into the sky, forever released into my fantasy.

Only in my dreams.

Until now. I found that mundane object that lets me fly, and if you promise not to tell anyone else I will show you how it looks, like this:

Canopy Watch International
Sunrise casts a halo on a treeboat (or is it the reverse?) flying at 165 feet high in an old-growth Sitka spruce in Washington State, USA. Photo © David L. Anderson

This, dear friend, is a treeboat. The unenlightened may believe the treeboat to be a simple hammock, and we can leave them with their poor vision, but you and I, friend, we know better. Treeboats are designed and built for sleeping in the tops of trees. A hammock is a platform for drinking cold alcohol over sandy beaches, and any parrot head can hang one while standing on the ground. Treeboats are made with heavy canvass and straps strong enough to tow a truck. In the hands of an expert they are slung hundreds of feet above the ground. Choose the tallest tree, recline amongst the branches, close your eyes to half-open, and the sway of the canopy and the kiss of the wind will fly you over the forest.

Jamz Luce, grand master of big tree climbing, and treeboat guru.  Photo © David L. Anderson
Jamz Luce, grand master of big tree climbing, and treeboat guru. Photo © David L. Anderson

Fantasy in bed is the hunger that unites all young boys until one passionate night they are released into manhood. In a single moment longing turns to swagger, wonder to knowledge. I lost my treeboat virginity suspended 165 feet high in a Sitka spruce. A non-believer, I thought a treeboat to be some sort of a hammock, and my biggest concern was falling to death. A much greater fear is living an experience so pure and so vital that there is no looking back. I was rocked by a Barred Owl calling its mournful “who-cooks-for-you” in the light of a full moon. I floated through moon beams on a bed of fresh air high above the forest floor. With my eyes snapped wide open I found the secret of flight. It was a night of pleasure that divided my whole life into the before and the after. Before I experienced treeboating it was enough to hide under blankets and spy the glossy pages of tree climbing catalogs.  After I learned to fly I would never again be content to sleep on the ground.

Some poor doubter is going to think that this is just a bunch of hype, artistic license designed to get attention. Let me give you some perspective. I remember the night I slept on the plank floor of a palm-thatched house of a Miskito Indian family, as Caribbean waves lapped the beach under my head. I remember the night in Glacier Basin when the light of the stars was so huge that I could have performed brain surgery on my backpacking partner Phil, no external light source needed. Some nights are unforgettable and their memory never fades. Sleeping in a treeboat went beyond all that. It was magic. Let dreams take flight.

Sunset as seen from a treeboat floating high above the forest.  Photo © Jama Luce.
Sunset as seen from a treeboat floating high above the forest. Photo © Jamz Luce.
Sunrise in the treeboat, and ready for landing.  Photo © David L. Anderson
Sunrise in the treeboat, and ready for landing. Photo © David L. Anderson

Treeboats are made by New Tribe in Grants Pass, Oregon. Look for them here.

I would like to thank Jamz Luce for introducing me to treeboating, and  New Tribe for inventing the Treeboat.

New Tribe
Parting shot: The treeboat glows with the pure joy of flying. Photo © David L. Anderson