When was the last time you had the chance to learn about nature and yourself, all at 50 feet up in a tree and for as little as $15?
You have that chance now! Welcome to Tree Top Excursions, a new program at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield. Jody Rice, the new training and development specialist at Charlie Elliott, has led rope-assisted tree climbs since 2003.
His customers have varied from scientists collecting seeds in the rain forest canopy to teenagers with learning disabilities building confidence 15 feet off the ground. The response, however, is often the same.
“They think it’s so cool!” said Rice, who met the woman who would become his wife, Naomi, on a climb.
The program at Charlie Elliott, one of seven regional education centers operated by DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division, is part of Canopy-Adventure-Research-Educational Technical Tree Climbing, or CARE TTC. Participants outfitted with helmets and harnesses pull themselves up on ropes attached to the limbs of a large tree. (At Charlie Elliott, the “tame” tree is a 90-foot-tall willow oak nicknamed Charlie.)
Adventures can branch into swinging and limb-walking during introductory climbs. More involved outings include navigating tree-top ropes courses, tackling wild trees (those not in an established climbing grove) and even spending a night in the canopy – an event dubbed “ZZZs in the Trees.”
Leaders set boundaries, but climbers decide their comfort level. “It’s very individualistic,” and safe, Rice said.
Tree Top Excursions at Charlie Elliott are currently open to groups and will be offered to individuals starting this spring. Participants with special needs, such as people in wheelchairs, can be accommodated.
Fees range from $15 a person for introductory climbs to $125 for ZZZs in the Trees. Group costs are $200 for the first 10 participants and $20 for each additional person. Preregistration is required. Participants should be 8 or older.
Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, named for the first director of what is now the Wildlife Resources Division, offers outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, shooting and birding along with educational programs and a conference center, banquet hall and hotel-styled lodging, all within an hour’s drive of Atlanta. The 6,400 acres include Marben Public Fishing Area and Clybel Wildlife Management Area.