You're Never Too Old to Climb a Tree

This article was written by Laura Moss and first appeared on Mother Nature Network You may have spent your childhood shimmying up tree trunks and daringly testing the strength of trees’ outer branches, but odds are your children don’t do the same.

A 2011 survey by Planet Ark found that fewer than 20 percent of children climb trees and one in 10 children play outside once a week or less. In fact, children are more likely to injure themselves falling out of bed than out of a tree.

However, kids aren’t the only ones who aren’t climbing trees. Adults aren’t either.

Until recently, Jack Cooke, author of the forthcoming book “The Tree Climber’s Guide,” hadn’t climbed a tree in 20 years. He thinks the reasons once-frequent tree climbers quit as they age is both fear and shame. But while fear of leaving the ground behind is natural, he says our shame is a product of social conditioning.

“Adults are embarrassed to be seen in trees, and it's a vicious circle. It’s such an unusual sight in the city that people don’t know how to react. A lady spotted me 40 feet up a pine tree and rang the police to tell them a man was about to commit suicide.”

Cooke started climbing again last summer while working in a London office that overlooked a park.

“I found an oak with low branches and climbed up to eat my lunch in the top of the tree,” he said. “From that point, I started climbing every day and it quickly became an obsession.”

His obsession led to a tree-climbing book that sparked a bidding war among publishers who clearly saw the appeal in providing children and adults with a guide to getting back in the branches.

“I was inspired by the disconnect between the way children and adults look at the natural world,” Cooke said. “I also wanted to write about escape — trees are spaces where we can let our imagination run wild. The book focuses on climbing in urban environments as a way of connecting city dwellers to nature and breaking with routine.”

Cooke certainly isn’t the first adult to rediscover a love of tree climbing...