Climbing the Trees, Not the Walls

written by TIFFANY WILLARD | photos courtesy of PINEAPPLE PUBLIC RELATIONS; ZACH WILLARD 

Naomi Ruth is 150 year olds and not showing any signs of slowing down. You can find her 18 miles south of Atlanta in Panola Mountain State Park — a worthwhile drive from the Northside when you consider the park’s status as the crown jewel of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area and the only park in Georgia to offer Canopy-Adventure-Research-Educational Technical Tree Climbing (CARE TTC).

The park rangers have named 10 other large climbing trees in the park, but Naomi Ruth is everyone’s favorite. This 100-foot Southern Red Oak is part of the Tree Top Excursions tree-climbing program. Using a double-rope technique, groups of up to 12 harnessed climbers can ascend Naomi Ruth at a time, stopping along the way to swing from branches, walk on limbs or bat-hang freestyle upside-down.

Want more? A geocache is discretely hidden in the tree. Climbers from 4 to 104 can enjoy the fun. It’s challenging to hoist yourself to the top, and those afraid of heights might balk at first, but the thrill of tree climbing makes even oldies (like me) feel like a kid again.

Make reservations for an overnight climb that includes stargazing, a bonfire and four-point hammocks to sleep high in the canopy. Or, plan your next birthday party to go swinging from the treetop. Although birthdays signal you’re another year older, with Panola Mountain State Park’s Tree Top Excursion, you never really have to grow up. gastateparks.org/treeclimbs