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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 high.
As 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.
New 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 was building.

I 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.
TreeClimbing 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.
So, 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 a nightmare.
It 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.
The 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 expansion.
But 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.
The 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.
Four 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.
As 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."
"You don't do anything illegal do you?"
"Not, intentionally!"
I guess you have to climb to understand!
Johnsan (Tree Walker)