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Tree Climbing Supercharged at Panola State Park

Tree Climbing Supercharged at Panola State Park

Feeling nostalgic? Remember the appeal of climbing a tree as a youth? Now that you are all grown up and travelling in an RV across the country looking for adventure, tree climbing may not have made it to the top of your bucket list. Tree climbing in the 21st century has grown up.

As an RV traveler, the outdoors holds many opportunities that can be enjoyed at state parks. There’s hiking, mountain biking, birding, surf fishing, paddle boarding, caving and much more to get the adrenaline pumping and add to the memories we post online. At Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, Georgia, visitors can once again climb a tree and learn more about the environment in the process.

This specialized tree climbing is called Canopy-Adventure-Research-Educational Technical Tree Climbing, or CARES TTC for short. Via Tree top Excursions, visitors can scale “Naomi Ruth”, a 100-foot-tall Southern Red Oak using rope assisted climbing apparatus. Sure, it’s not the same as monkeying up that tree in your own childhood home’s backyard, but it is a challenge and what would life be without challenges for us to triumph over.

Panola Mountain State Park is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area located outside the Atlanta Metro area. The “mountain” part of its name comes from a 100-acre granite outcropping. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, this area of the state has a history that includes the stories of early settlers, freed slaves, immigrant rock cutters and Trappist monks. It is a National Natural Landmark.

The park was created in the 1970’s to protect the eco-system. At just over 1600 acres, the park has diverse activities, such as archery, geocaching, and the more traditional hiking, fishing, boating and swimming at each of its two lakes. But the park’s tree climbing adventures have had people talking for several years.

The techniques used at Panola Mountain mimic the techniques used by professional arborists to manage and nurture trees. Dating back to the late 19th century, arborists have donned climbing gear like rock climbers and scurried to the canopy to get a better look at the health of the tree and its habitat. As a recreational activity, tree climbing grew in popularity in the 1980s, with an organization, Tree Climbers International, Inc. eventually developing safety and training rules.

If you are interested in getting a better view of the Georgia countryside from the top of Naomi Ruth or any of the other trees, Panola State Park has many different kinds of experiences to choose from. These adventures are also valuable for the lessons they share about the environment, trees and ecosystems.

  • Introduction Climbs are, simply put, the perfect place to start. It is open to ages 8 years old and up and is held once a month on a Saturday. The location of each climb varies but is determined in advance of the climb. Pre-registration is required for this climbing experience.
  • Group event climbs are for those special occasions, such as commemorating a birthday or life milestone, developing teamwork dynamics or for letting groups navigate a new challenge. These group climbs can be modified to include pausing in the treetops for journaling, documenting or scientific observation.
  • Night climbs offer a different perspective of the forest that include fluorescent lichen, creatures of the night, and a clear view skyward for stargazing. It is even common to have an encounter with the Barred Owl, nocturnal species that makes its home there.
  • Check out ZZZs in the Trees for a more immersive experience of the nighttime tree canopy. A provided hammock or bivouac serves as your bed for this excursion, but dinner and breakfast are supplied by you.
  • Wild climbs take participants to the back country to find climbing trees in the forest or swamp.

While these experiences are not free of charge, fees range from $15 for the introduction climbs to $90 for the ZZZs in the Trees. Pre-registration is required for all these climbing experiences – two weeks is the preferred length. Guests with special needs can be accommodated with prior notice.

Camping is limited to five sites at the state park.

To make a reservation, call the Panola Mountain State Park Nature Center at 770-389-7801 or visit the Panola State Park Website.

Aug 4th 2020 Lois Tomaszewski

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