Four short years
ago, I found myself running an errand for a friend to pick up some
tree climbing rope in Grants Pass, Oregon. This simple errand would
grow into a full-blown tree climbing gear purchase, and would lead
to the formation of life long friends.
In the car on
our way to the New Tribe factory my wife was a little skeptical
about my newfound passion for tree climbing.
She had all the familiar worries about safety: how secure were the
harnesses and rope for climbing, and what about the soundness of tree
limbs; was my mind sound? Who was this media personality from Japan
who was going to risk his respectability on the whim of a high limb
hobby? Getting closer to the New Tribe factory, we were a little bit
concerned as to what types of people could devote their lives to getting
we rolled into the driveway of New Tribe we realized this place was
not at all what we expected. I guess that I had conjured up an image
looking like something between a really hip and wild surf shop and
herbal dealer selling hemp clothes and pipes.
Tribe was nestled into an old community hall and once we walked in
the door all of our apprehensions melted away. We were awed by the
busy hands of Sofia and Tom, surrounded there by a large collection
of harnesses and climbing equipment. For all of the equipment that
was there, it was very organized and tidy. Sofia was busy sewing on
a professional commercial sewing machine and Tom was hanging upside
down on a rope from the ceiling, testing some wild looking black handled
things with olive drab straps. As we stood wide-eyed he beamed a huge
smile and said, "Just hanging around the office today!"
The ice was
broken with these two who live in their very warm and friendly factory
office home! Sofia was very articulate and informative, soft spoken
and personable. Tom was animated and excited about something he
would soon learn, as we became friends and business partners with
New Tribe, that we had just touched the iceberg of their warm and
sincere personalities. Not only does New Tribe make some of the world's
best tree climbing gear, they are some of the world's best people.
They love tree climbing, trees, people and the Earth. Business is
important to them but in ranks lower than virtue and sincerity.
It's now four years later, we have purchased a good deal of excellent
gear from New Tribe for our school and after having cemented a friendship,
I was finally able to spend some time with New Tribe as a fellow climber.
Japan loves New Tribe Gear and so do our climbers. There is something
about the simplicity, strength, and environmentally flavored feel
that have made it a winner with our members. The TreeBoat is the only
way we can sleep safely in the treetops.
our whole crew at TreeClimbing Japan was excited to have me visit
the manufacturers of the devices strapped to their butts and the Tribe
responsible for making sleeping in the treetops a dream instead of
was a very hot Oregon summer day when I arrived once again at New
Tribe. I was greeted at the door with hugs and embraces from Sofia.
I was surprised to see how the factory/office/home had grown and how
the house had taken on a character and inviting warmth. Friendliness
and smiles were illuminating the faces of Viola and Jackie. Their
big smiles and warm hugs were an unexpected joy. The Tribe had grown
to include two more fun, tree loving people. The New Tribe Community
Center now had an annex where Tom was busy creating new products and
testing new gear. I couldn't help wondering if he was upside down.
next 4 days were tree climbing bliss, where we shared stories, loves
and passions! Sofia, Viola, and Jackie were awash in their memory
of an exciting trip to the 260 ft. high Stagg Tree in California and
the respect and awe of being able to climb such a special tree was
evident. I have also been on top of Stagg Tree so I could share in
the joy and sacredness of such a climb. Business was going well for
New Tribe. Actually, they were in midst of making preparations for
even as busy as they were, the opportunity for Viola, Jackie and I
to climb took top priority. And so we set off to climb their old friend,
one that Sofia and crew had spent a lot of time becoming close to.
Sofia held the fort and we were off. It was great to have such fun
and wonderful climbing companions to share with the experience of
a magnificent 100-foot Sugar Pine tree.
It is always great to be up in the trees with fun and competent climbers
but snacking on strawberries at the top of this tree was the icing
on my cake! After a great day of climbing we ate, talked and shared
stories until the wee hours. The next day I would be with Tom in Cave
Junction, Oregon for the River Festival.
River Festival was a great experience. We did a charity climb for
crowds of kids. The kids loved it and we drank up their joy. Exhausted
at the end of the day, we crumpled into lumps on the grass. Tom, a
friend Ruth and I shared a day of few words but we had together a
common joy and love for kids, trees, and summer festivals.
days later I was back on a Plane with suitcases full of new gear,
pockets full of pinecones, pleasant memories and the promise that
the Tribe would come to visit me in Japan and in turn construct a
dorm at their place for our Japanese climbers to share in the New
Tribe climbing experience.
I sit here 60 ft. up in my favorite Japanese oak writing about the
people that make the stuff I have strapped on my butt and keeping
me high in the treetops, I can't help but also feel gratitude to the
trees and the forests. The Trees have called me from the studios and
TV sets to join them in the forest. They have helped me make great
friends in places all over the world. My most recent trip was to Australia
where I climbed a huge rose gum and some other fantastic trees. As
I got ready to climb one of them an observer asked what Tribe I belonged
to. I was surprised by the question until I realized that she was
looking at the label on my harness! I said, "Well, it is a New Tribe.
A gathering of people with a passion for trees, comradeship and fun."
don't do anything illegal do you?"
guess you have to climb to understand!