Top of the Morning, July 19, 2014

Top of the Morning, July 19, 2014

Tell Alex Julius to go climb a tree and, well, she will. The 27-year-old arborist from Urbana will make history at next month's International Tree Climbing Championship in Milwaukee, Wis., becoming the first woman from Illinois to compete.

What's the first tree you climbed?

Across the street from where I grew up (in California). It had a perfect spot for sitting, and a little nook for sleeping, and it felt so high, but I suppose everything does when you're 7. Unfortunately, it was removed when I was young, but I still remember, to this day, the joy it brought me.

To be a great tree climber, you need to ...

Keep a healthy fear. If you get too comfortable and stop double-checking yourself, that's when mistakes happen.

Is there such a thing as practice?

Yes, it's called tree work! The men and women who prune trees for a living get the best practice for the competition.

Your hardest fall ...

Probably the only one worth mentioning was when I was taking a tree climbing course in college. The professor was walking around checking the students and I wanted to show I was capable of walking out on a limb. I made it all the way out, but then on my return, I slipped and swung straight back into the trunk, leaving a nice sized bruise on my shin.

The strangest thing I've seen while climbing a tree is ...

Gummy Bears. I was pruning palm trees in Coronado, Calif., and I kept finding Gummy Bears enveloped between the fronds of different palms, scattered around the island. We're talking about 50-60 feet in the air. I don't know how long it takes a Gummy Bear to biodegrade, but I'm guessing they'd been there for a while.

Why aren't there more women tree climbers?

I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best when asked why there aren't more women in science. It's not that there are genetic differences, but it's that it defies societal expectations. Women aren't generally encouraged to pursue labor intensive careers, and so I think most take the path society has laid out for them. But there are some of us who don't take that pre-determined path.

I'm guessing you're not afraid of heights.

I don't consider myself to be afraid of heights (I have no problem standing on the balcony of a tall hotel), but I do have a fear of falling. I've taken a number of falls rock climbing, and I don't particularly enjoy the feeling of falling or being injured. Additionally, rocks and trees don't work the same way. Trees can be unpredictable. They become more predictable with experience, but I accept that as a fairly new arborist (I've been climbing off and on for six years), there's a whole lot more to learn about trees and their behavior.

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