"The wind can get pretty crazy sometimes. The trees can really rock and roll," explains Debbie Jensen. "But there is no way you can ever be thrown out of a tree. You're hooked in a harness, and you're given instruction. I used to be worried about getting [nauseated], but you never do."
Jensen should know. The 40-year-old mother of two is married to Jason Seppa, an arborist who gets paid to climb trees for a living. Together, they help operate a tour company in central Oregon called the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute, pacifictreeclimbing.com. Jensen has watched children as young as 5 safely climb several meters in the air up a single rope toward the spreading branches of an old-growth Douglas fir. "You get up there in the branches and look out onto the sea of green from the mountainside and it's pretty awesome."
She adds with a laugh, "I used to have a fear of heights, but I've broken through that now. The trees we sleep in are over 80 meters tall, and are probably around 500 years old."
Sleeping in trees? Just when you thought that ecotourism couldn't get any more green, along comes "canopy camping" the ultimate in tree-hugging, in which everyday people scale towering forests and slumber among the branches. Nights are spent on heavy-duty canvas "treeboats" or hammock-like beds that are securely strung amid the branches 15 stories in the air.
Morning beverages and hot peppermint-scented face cloths are served in your floating bed, and if, uh, nature calls while you are up a tree, you are given your own container to relieve any discomfort. Organic pasta meals followed by marionberry pie are served on the ground by Jensen herself, a trained chef and former restaurateur. Overnight trips start at $400.
"This is a lot less stress than working in a restaurant," says Jensen. "One lady who spent the night meditating on a treeboat strung between two trees came back down the next day and she was crying. She said it was the most amazing thing she had felt in her life. It's just so beautiful up there; you can't help but have an experience."
For more nights rocking away in the treetops, you can also try a couple of these canopy-camping companies:
Amazon Tree Climbing
Based in Manaus, Brazil, this outfit offers tree camping deep in the Amazon rainforest, with indigenous dance performances, riverboat cruising and waterfall swims included in a five-day odyssey. Check out amazontreeclimbing.com.
Dancing with Trees
Professionally certified tree climber Genevieve Summers (yes, there are such people) takes you canopy camping in the northern woods of the U.S. state of Georgia. Visit dancingwithtrees.com for details.
The Mighty Oak Tree Climbing Company
This English firm offers camping in the tall leafy trees of Cornwall, but if there are woods elsewhere in Britain that have caught your eye, they'll go to you for a price. See mighty-oak.co.uk.
Touch the Sky
Bored with the usual dinner and movie? Then grab your loved one and book date-night "breakfast in bed" treetop camping in the forests of Maryland state in the U.S. Details at touchtheskytreeclimbing.com.