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Urban Tarzans Climb Along James River 

click to enlarge Jason Anderson of Riverside Outfitters guides Chesterfield County youth up an 85-foot tall northern red oak along the James River on Saturday. They climbed to about 55 feet. “I’ve gotten pretty good at encouraging kids to get over their fears,” he says. “They did great.”

Ash Daniel

Jason Anderson of Riverside Outfitters guides Chesterfield County youth up an 85-foot tall northern red oak along the James River on Saturday. They climbed to about 55 feet. “I’ve gotten pretty good at encouraging kids to get over their fears,” he says. “They did great.”

Richmond’s Riverside Outfitters just got a shout-out from the Washington blog UrbanDaddy for its tree-climbing adventures along the James River.

The short piece waxes poetic about clambering up 100-year-old oaks that soar 100 feet tall and includes a picture of a tree that, Scott Ross, who runs the tree-climbing program, suspects is not “anywhere in this state.”

There’s really no way to know how old the trees are unless you core them, he adds. And they’re not quite 100 feet tall.

But do not miss the forest for the trees. (Come on, you knew that was coming.) Riverside Outfitters does, indeed, lead the young and limber and the older and intrepid on tree-climbing excursions along the James. It’s done so for 10 years. Year round.

But this is its busy season. The company will lead 2,500 people up trees this year, Ross figures. Who knew so many yearned so keenly to climb 60, 70, 80 feet, surrounded by canopy, perched upon oak limbs swaying in the wind.

“Limb walking is my favorite aspect,” Ross says. “You get out on the limbs and walk across them like balance beams.”

Yes, they use ropes, belays, and a staffer who climbs as a backup belayer.

You might catch sight of an osprey or an eagle, Ross says, and when the James is running low, you can see fish darting through the water.

Riverside Outfitters is working on a new plan for next spring, Ross says: treetop camping. Ross has it pictured: Spend the day playing in the tree, come down for dinner and then head back up for the night.

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