'Jaws drop, eyes open and your senses kind of get overwhelmed'

'Jaws drop, eyes open and your senses kind of get overwhelmed'

WILLAMETTE NATIONAL FOREST -- You might not want to stay in this natural motel room if you are afraid of heights.

"Jaws drop, eyes open and your senses kind of get overwhelmed," that's how Christopher Kuhn described what it feels like to climb more than 200 feet into the air on a 9-foot wide old growth Douglas Fir tree.
 
"So, it can be a little daunting when you walk up to this massive tree," Kuhn said.
 
About 500 people try it every year with the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute, an opportunity Kuhn said is fairly unique to Oregon. "Just being in a temperate, coastal rain forest like this is pretty unique in itself," he added.
 
Lee Saunders is from England, and he came to the Willamette National Forest on holiday just to climb this tree.  "I'm a tree climber back at home and I always wanted to climb a big tree in Oregon," Saunders said.
 
Instructors at the institute use a single line technique, with ascenders. They actually use a bow and arrow, fishing line, and a parachute cord to get these ropes in place.  "A lot of people kind of compare it to zip lining but it's not really the same," Kuhn said.
 
They see it as more of a low key, zen adventure.
 
22-year-old Michael Reiner, an advertising major about to graduate from the University of Oregon, says his friends told him he had to try it. "Feels good," he said as he pulled himself up onto the rope.
 
When you reach the top, there are several "tree boats," which Kuhn said are essentially big, industrial-grade hammocks.
 
"You'd be surprised how many people can hang out up there and be comfortable," owner Rob Miron said. He took over the company with Jason Seppa, after his mom started it 10 years ago, "basically to show that our intact forest systems are worth more intact than as lumber," he said.
 
Saunders said he would recommend the climb to anyone and Reiner told KVAL News it was a great experience. "Being up there is incredible," he said. "It was amazing."
 
Not only do they offer climbs to the public, but they're also involved in teaching middle school students camping techniques. They also have an environmental leadership program through the University of Oregon.

You can contact the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute for more information.