“Rappelling” up 60-foot ravine with 70-degree slope, chainsaw on my back, to reach the “unreachable tree” – three times!
Practice in Surrendering to the Divine and Receiving Grace
When a reporter asked the late Sir Edmund Hillary why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, the first man to ever reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world replied simply, “because it was there.”
“Because it was there”-line also crossed my mind yesterday (Aug 1). That’s when I attempted the most treacherous of my lumberjacking adventures. Why? “Because it was there,” I realized during the climb.
Alas, that tree was practically unreachable by any normal means. My landscaper just smiled when I asked him if he would cut it. The smile said, “Are you nuts? I am not suicidal.” 🙂
You see, the big tree’s roots were about 3/4 of the way up a very steep slope (about 70 degree-incline, right). And there is about a 50-60 foot vertical drop from the top ledge to the ravine at the bottom of the gulch.
See what I mean by “practically unreachable?”
Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, I went on a scouting expedition. I parked El Jeepo down in the gulch right under that steep slope.
Using a ladder, I climbed to where I could start “rappelling” on my hands and knees. In the end, I could not reach that tree even without carrying any tools. I needed all four of my limbs to pull myself up that slope, by hanging on to every root or tree trunk I could reach. I barely made it to the root of that big Banyan you can see in the vertical photo.
Coming back was an even bigger adventure. I could have rolled down that steep slope like a rock several times. Only God saved me from actually tumbling down into the El Jeepo or the gulch.
But I did not give up. “Because it was (still) there.”
Two weeks went by. Every day I passed down there, I kept looking at that tree from several angles, high, low and sideways. I started cutting all the trees I could reach from the top ledge of the ravine. I was hoping to maybe find an opening from that side. No go. A straight drop of about 15-20 ft with nothing to hang on to. Only a bird could reach the target tree from there.
Next, I tried accessing the tree sideways – by cutting the trees and bushes that were at about the same level, but farther south on the ravine. It worked for about 20-30 linear feet. Then I hit the wall. Or another ledge, actually. The 70-degree slope changed abruptly into a nearly 90-degree vertical drop. I was getting a bird’s eye view of the target tree’s roots. But I am not a bird.
Still, I did not give up. “Because it was (still) there.”
So back to the bottom of the gulch I went a few days later. That still seemed the most promising route.
ACTION – AUG 1, MORNING
Yesterday morning, Aug 1, was cloudy. We had not had any rain for about a week. That’s good for my lumberjacking purposes. Rain would make the steep slope even more treacherous.
I looked at the satellite weather pictures for Maui. Rain was coming, for sure later in the day. I figured I had maybe an hour or two at the most before it started.
I practically jumped out of my office chair. I was writing my seminal Truth in Media editorial about parallel wars at the time. The wars will have to wait until I finish mine.
I quickly changed into my lumberjack work clothes.
I put the ladder into El Jeepo and drove it down into the gulch. I laid the ladder against the steep slope at the start. I then attached a belt to the chainsaw and slung it over my shoulder.
I was wearing my baseball shoes with steel cleats. I got them five years ago when we first starting clearing the jungle. By now, the shoes had been worn down practically to shreds. But the steel cleats were still good.
I said my shamanic prayers and asked the Spirit for help. I realized I could sure use some. I had never done any rappelling before even with a rope, let alone without one. And certainly have never climbed any mountain with a chainsaw dangling behind me like a bazooka.
First “Rappelling” Climb
I stepped on the ladder and started climbing. I was not in a hurry. I tried to be VERY careful as I moved up. I tested the ground under each foot before placing my full weight on it. And I would also test each branch or a root before pulling myself up using my arms.
When I reached the bottom of that big Banyan, I leaned on one of its mighty roots to catch my breath and rest up a little. The target tree was now at roughly the same level, maybe just a little higher up. But there were no other trees or shrubs in between that I could hang on to while trying to cross over. Without them, I would surely roll down the hill like a stone.
I decided it was not worth the risk. I had to find another way. Sometimes, taking a straight line to the target is not the best approach.
Still, I did not give up. “Because it was (still) there.”
On a spur of the moment, I improvised an alternative approach. I decided to keep climbing UP, past the Banyan tree. I noticed a slight indentation in the ravine, about 8-10 feet below under the top ledge. There were some exposed roots of the trees above that I could hang on to. And did.
Alternative Route, Secondary Target
As I rested on that indentation, I noticed another tree that could cut which I could not have otherwise reached. I said a prayer for my chainsaw to start. It had been temperamental even on the best of days and on flat surface. This time, however, it perked up like a charm.
Just before I cut that tree, I noticed a large boulder that would probably come tumbling down, maybe pulling me with it, once the tree starts falling. So by hanging on with my arms to the roots above me, I used my foot to try to dislodge the boulder.
Eventually I did. It tumbled down into the gulch. Then I cut that tree that was not planning on reaching. A minor victory.
Second “Rappelling” – Descent to “Unreachable Tree”
Now I was about 15-20 vertical feet ABOVE my target tree. But still about 40-50 feet away in linear distance. So moving carefully, inch by inch, right under that ravine ledge, hanging on with my arms to every root or solid branch I could reach, once even losing my grip and swinging on one arm like monkey, I eventually moved to about 10 feet directly above my target.
Getting down to it now seemed like a piece of cake. Relatively speaking. For, even I slipped and rolled, I could still hang on to it before tumbling down the hill.
I reached my target tree without such an accident. Out of its fat trunk, may e 2 feet in diameter, protruded two large limbs, each about 12-15 inches in diameter. I decided to try to take them down one at a time, rather than risk another calamity by cutting the much wider trunk.
I said another prayer for the chainsaw to start again. It did. The tree was tough and cutting it was hard and slow going. As it was a cloudy day, I had forgotten to put on my sun glasses. So I was getting all this sawdust flying into my face.
“Sawdust for breakfast,” I joked with myself.
Eventually, I cut the limb. But being so big and heavy, it was still resting on the lower part of the trunk. I propped myself against the hill at my back, and the tree trunk at my left foot, and tried to knock the limb off its mooring. It took quite a few kicks, but eventually it did roll down the hill.
First Mechanical Failure Forces New “Rappelling” Route
I was about to start working on the second limb when I realized the chain had come off the chainsaw during the first operation.
“Yikes,” I thought. “I can’t fix that here on the 70-degree slope. Besides, I did not have the wrench I would need for the job. It was down in the gulch in El Jeepo.
But as I looked down at the Jeep from this distance and height, and saw how tiny it looked, I also realized that there is no way that I could safely climb down there, especially with the chainsaw on my back. THAT would be suicidal.
So I realized that the only way out was actually – UP, not down. Yes, up through the thicket of trees and bushes and the vertical boulders that up until this moment I thought would be impossible. Yet, now that seemed like a safer option.
It was. To be sure, it was a struggle. And once again I dangled from a tree on one arm like a monkey, the weight of the chainsaw pulling me toward the wall of the raving. But I did make it.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”-line rang in my ears.
I emerged at the top ledge of the ravine at the spot in the left shot.
By the way, you can also see in these two shots one of the reasons I did all this lumberjacking work. To give these lovely Greet T-plants more light and a better life. The Green T-Plants in Hawaiian cosmology stand for Peace. The Red T-Plants stand for war.
“How appropriate,” I thought, “considering all the wars that are being waged at this moment around the world.”
So I mentally dedicated this “lumberjack challenge” to Peace.
Second Attempt – from the Top of Ravine
I was now facing a long walk, including two switchbacks on the road, back to the gulch where El Jeepo was. Once I got there, I wondered if I would know how to fix the chainsaw. I am not very mechanical. But on this day, I was able to put the chain back on the chain saw with no problems.
But when I looked up again, and saw that steep slope I had climbed with so much difficulty half an hour or so ago, I asked myself, “do I really want to do it again?” And the little voice answered.
“The tree is still there.”
“So I did not give up. Because it was (still) there.”
I drove El Jeepo back up to the top of the ridge. It seemed less risky to try to clear some of the brush and try to descend back down to the target tree. “Rappelling” once again all the way up from the bottom of the gulch without a rope and with the chainsaw strapped on my back suddenly seemed like a crazy thing to do.
Second Mechanical Failure: Test of Faith in the Divine?
After some effort, I managed to lower myself along with the chainsaw to the target tree. Saddled up again like a cowboy around its big trunk. Started the chainsaw again. Cut the second big limb till it broke and toppled on top of some other of my earlier cuttings. And then… the chain snapped off the chainsaw again.
I had cut about 95% of the limb. But 5% was still attached to the trunk. Job not done yet.
“Are my Spirit guides testing me, or giving me a message it is time to quit?” I wondered.
So up to the top of the ridge I clambered again, chainsaw on my back. When I took a closer look at it, I saw that this time I could not fix it on the spot. One of the nuts had flown off the bolt. That’s how powerful that tree limb was. And there was no chance in hell I could ever find it again on that slope even if I were nutty enough to climb down there again.
But the little voice reminded me. “It is still there.”
“So it’s a test of faith,” I figured.
“Which is why I did not give up. Because it was (still) there.”
I grabbed my machete. I figured with only 5% of the limb still attached to the trunk, if I hacked at it long enough, it will eventually give up the fight and fall.
Third Attempt with Machete – From the Top of Ravine
So down I went again… my third visit to the “unreachable tree.” Before I set off, I stuck the flat end of the machete inside my work pants. As I said, I needed all four of my limbs to “rappel” on that slope, especially going down.
Back at the tree. This time, I could not straddle it. I needed the strength of my legs and lower back to swing the machete. So I planted on foot on the trunk of the tree, and the other against the slope.
I kept switching arms after every 10-15 machete strokes. Right first, then left after the right one got tired. And then back to right…
Then I heard a crack. The tree limb snapped but did not fall. It JUMPED UP! Guess it was its last stubborn act before giving up the ghost. The weight of the tree’s crown was too much. So it lifted and tilted the rest of the limb like the short end of a seesaw on children playgrounds.
Exhausted (I must have been at this for about an hour and a half), I started climbing back up to the top of the ridge. On my way up, one of the roots I had stepped on three times before gave way this time. Once again, I was swinging around like a monkey, hanging on a limb with just one arm. But my back hit a tree. Still, somehow I managed to regain my balance and find a safe footing. I continued the climb to the top.
It was only when I reached the safety of the top ledge that I realized that tucking my machete inside my pants quite possibly saved my life. Or at least prevented a serious back injury. No wonder I did not feel any pain when my back crashed into that tree. 🙂
I thanked the Spirits for that and for the entire lumberjack challenge adventure.
By the time I put the machete in El Jeepo, it had started to rain. I smiled. “In the nick of time.”
“Now I can give up. Because it is no longer there.”
The phone rang. It was Elizabeth. She had been in town shopping during my “lumberjack challenge.”
“I am home, mi amor.”
I chuckled. “Little did she know what she had missed,” I thought.
It’s probably for the best. It would have freaked her out had she been here.
El Jeepo was getting quite wet by then. It was raining quite hard. Time to go home and clean up. And to drink out of the victory chalice.
And now, here’s a short video about this adventure…
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EPILOGUE – WHAT WAS THE LESSON?
Practice in Surrendering to the Divine and Receiving Grace
Our Spirit guides and teachers have told us repeatedly that everything that happens in life, whether we think is “good” or “bad,” carried a lesson. So what was the lesson one is to learn from my Lumberjack Challenge on August 1?
(Please let me know what you think – click on Leave a Comment at the top of this story)
As I contemplated in retrospect what all this was about, two things came to me.
First, it was the S.T.A.R. challenge, a test of faith in the Divine.
Surrender-Trust-Allow-Receive, the four principles of the Golden Dolphins of Sirius that Nina Brown channels. And since Sirius B is actually ALTZAR’s home star, no wonder the Golden Dolphins were here to help me and guide me through this adventure.
Here is their S.T.A.R. philosophy in a nutshell:
S.T.A.R. : When one aligns with the will and love of the divine Creator
- SURRENDER to the tranquility of knowing human divinity
- TRUST in wholeness to express
- ALLOW human divinity to evolve
- RECEIVE with appreciation and gratitude
The Essential Qualities of the S.T.A.R. philosophy
- WHOLENESS (human divinity)
- PLAY (the now moment)
- EMBODIMENT OF THE EXPANDED GOLDEN RULE (do unto all creation as you would have all of creation do unto you)
- PHILOSOPHY: The activity through which we see creation through the eyes of the Creator.
Second, I realized that we set our own limitations. Or let others set them for us.
I am 69 years old. I have had lower back problems since the age of 31. I have had two knee surgeries. I have had two major shoulder surgeries for torn rotator cuffs (both left and right). They were all a result of various sports or hiking injuries.
A year ago, I re-injured my right shoulder on a tractor mower. It was so bad that I thought I would need a third surgery. Instead, as a shaman, I turned to Spirit for help. A year later, my shoulder is still not 100%. But it was good enough to save my life a couple of times on Aug 1 when I was hanging on it like a monkey.
Now contrast that to the expectations in our society of what a life of a 69-year old man should be like. See what I mean about letting others set our limitations?
Another thing I realized is that this experience has taught me that, “the only thing we have to fear is the fear itself,” as FDR put it. Once we Surrender to the Divine, put our Trust in the Creator and our Spirit guides, Allow them to guide us and help us, we WILL Receive and experience Grace. Which means a life without fear, a life of peace and tranquility and service to others.
And to me , that is the lesson of my Aug 1 LUMBERJACK CHALLENGE – REACHING THE “UNREACHABLE TREE.”