Here at Mountain House we keep a keen eye open for stories to share with our community, particularly those that encourage folks to get outside and explore. And wonderfully, people are doing just that! From hiking the PCT, to summiting mountains, to discovering natural wonders in our own backyards, outdoor recreation seems to be at an all-time high. Great news, right? Well yes. But ... we're also keeping an eye open for other stories, too. Because as more and more people get outside and turn little-known areas into popular "must-see" experiences, there's a risk that some ecologically-sensitive areas could be "loved to death." So we want to highlight a different story, and encourage you to consider experiences that instead, love these special places to life.
Kelli Martinelli, one of our team members, recently had the opportunity to experience a cool new way to get outside here in Oregon. Her goal was to take a trip up to the top of an old growth tree, and if possible, spend the night up in its branches. Thanks to Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and Expedition Old Growth, Kelli got the adventure she was seeking, and then some. She writes about the conversation she shared with her EOG tree guides while up in the canopy:
"... we discussed the language that trees share with each other. There is an unmistakable communication system, not so different from human neural and social networks. As an example, one tree in a grove could be under attack by an invasive bug. As the bug chomps on leaves, the tree releases volatile organic compounds into the air. The other trees detect these airborne stress signals and ramp up their production of a chemical defense mechanism in response, warding off attack. Makes it easy to wonder, are there signals being sent out to us that we simply haven't been sufficiently aware in order to receive them?"
The Opal Creek Wilderness is the most recently protected wilderness area here in Oregon, thanks to the folks behind the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. Through their efforts they have been able to conserve 35,000 acres of old growth, protecting this vital watershed and ecologically diverse gem. They now concentrate most of their conservation efforts through programming offered at the rejuvenated mining outpost in Jawbone Flats, from outdoor schools, to wilderness medicine certification programs, and even private cabin rentals in the midst of old growth Douglas Fir, Western Cedar and Hemlock. Lots of people head to Jawbone Flats during the warmer months, taking advantage of the cool swimming spots and cliff-jumping opportunities. And while those activities are certainly fun, just think about the richer experience of doing something that integrates recreation with education and conservation, so that those swim spots and big trees will continue to be around for future generations.
Gear and safety check with Damien Carré of Expedition Old Growth. Photo credit Uncage the Soul Productions.
Expedition Old Growth partnered with Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center to offer an immersive tree-climbing/camping experience. Damien Carré, owner-operator of EOG, has been up inside trees for 17 years, possessing the technical skill to ascend and descend safely, while minimizing the impact on the trees and surrounding forest. Interested in ascending a tree in your neck of the woods? Find a guide! Expedition Old Growth, for instance, provides experienced catered climbing excursions in Oregon and Washington.
Enjoying a 360 degree view of an Oregon treasure. Photo credit Uncage the Soul Productions.Remember taking field trips as a kid? Sure there was fun in heading to the zoo (again) or to the local paper mill (maybe), but we just bet the memories that stuck around had more to do with the expert guides and the hands-on education than just the place itself. Kelli writes,
"While I can't speak for anyone's experience except my own, I cannot imagine you'll return to roots-level without a newfound understanding of this breathtaking symbiosis. I'm still dizzy with elation over the experience and am challenged to reinterpret my own relationship with trees, no longer seeing them as a "renewable resource" or even "friends" -- but instead as wondrous, mysterious neighbors in whom I can trust, and for whom I will strive to be worthy of theirs."
So we want to hear from you. What gems have you discovered in your own backyard that have offered you an experience where you were able to play -- and learn -- all at the same time?
You can read Kelli's full account here, Asleep in the Arms of Ancients. And yes, she did get the chance to have her overnight in a treetop. Not only that, she brought Cheesecake Bites. Because she could.