Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Tree Climbing Experience

Go Climb a Tree!
As part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's free gift to the community, we climbed trees at Riveredge Nature Center yesterday while the nature centers were offering free education, entertainment, hikes, and fun. If you're not participating in the free gifts each month, you're really missing out.  The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is donating a free activity to the community every month this year, which has included free admission to the Domes, free transit rides, free outdoor concerts, and updates to several parks in the region...along with other gifts like a pair of snow leopards at the Milwaukee Zoo.  You can check out their website link each month to find out about the current month's gift.

We had never been to Riveredge, and though it's more than half an hour away, I felt it was well worth it.  Similar to the Schlitz Audubon Center, there is an admission charge to use the trails.  The nature center has plenty of educational displays and a gift shop.  Educators are on hand to help with activities.  It has a unique tree climbing experience I haven't seen elsewhere.  In their forest, they have ropes strung through the treetops which climbers use to pull themselves to the top.  Climbers are in a harness the entire time, so it's safe enough to feel secure letting hands go and have some fun with it.  Many of the kids were hanging upside down or swinging. My 10 year old son needed some extra help, and Jessica, the executive director, was on hand to help him with an assisted climb.  One of the ropes has pulleys so an adult on the ground can help pull the person into the air, making it possible for people of all abilities to give it a try.  As you can see in the photo above, he had a blast!
Each climber is fitted with safety gear

Jessica helps Omar use the ropes to pull himself up

Jessica helps Omar climb using an assisted climb rope

These climbers get up really high!

There are still several opportunities for their open climbs, which are open to all ages.  You can also schedule private events like team building or birthday parties.  Here's the calendar I cut from their web page.  You need to arrive a bit early to complete some paperwork, then hike out to the forest area, which is just a short hike.
  • Saturday, Aug 29: 3-5 pm
  • Saturday, Sept 12: 3-5 pm
  • Saturday, Sept 26: 1-3 pm
  • Saturday, Oct 10: 12-2 pm
  • Saturday, Oct 24: 12-2
You might also want to join the youth tree climbing club.  Though there aren't many meetings left, you could see how it's done and join the group next year.  After meeting the volunteers who were out helping yesterday and speaking briefly with Jessica, I get the impression that these are people who love the outdoors and really want to share that love with others.  It's especially important for our kids who spend so much time disconnected from nature because of technology.  Everyone should have an opportunity to get dirty, chase bugs, find frogs, and dance in the sunshine.  This is just the place to make that happen.
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