I Will “Bark” One Day Too!

– Shawn Link, TCP Grad 2015


My husband greeted me at the driveway, “How did the day … O.M.G.! What did you do today?”

I knew why he responded that way. I wore that kind of smile that people give one another that communicates, “If you only knew…”

My name is Shawn Link. I am a facilitator at the La Center Challenge Course located in a small town near Vancouver, WA. For two years I searched for an instructor in professional tree climbing. Finally, a helpful woman named Katie referred me to a world-renowned instructor by the handle of Tim Kovar. Turns out he is the founder and master-instructor of Tree Climbing Planet.  (Thank you Katie for the great referral)

I contacted Tim last spring as he was traveling from one stunning climbing locale to another.

I remember he was patient during our initial phone conversation as I excitedly exuded all of the hopes I had for a tree climbing experience in one long out of breath string of words. Tim responded with encouraging and positive replies regarding my dreams of joining the tree-climbing world. He said in a clear—“It is a place to be. Not a thing to do.”

In hindsight, I was amazed that Mr. Kovar was willing to engage a small group of naive high school teachers. I am grateful he invited us to his tree haven outside of Portland, Ore. for a few days of summer.

I felt as though I were Sherlock Holmes exclaiming, ”Watson, the game is afoot.”


I have made many climbs in fragrant conifers at our challenge course. I presumed that tree climbing would be a seamless extension of the challenge course including similar skill sets and protocol. I was very mistaken.


The entire experience was totally new from the ground up. The old trees were growing on a homestead right in the bosom of nature filled with local animals protected by old charismatic trees. It put me in a place where all was new. Tree climbing turned out to be an unfamiliar universe requiring technical skills and strange equipment to ascend formidable trees.

Along the journey, Tim peppered our experience with environmental reminders that tugged at our civic duty to be proactive in supporting trees as national/global treasures. As a high school teacher, I realize that older generations are the primary keepers of our tacit history. That includes the stories told through old trees. Kovar reminds us “some of (tree) these ecosystems have taken hundreds of years to get where they are today. It’s like climbing in a coral reef. We take the utmost care of being respectful of where we are. I help connect others to our natural world.”

I asked Tim where he hopes to climb in the future. He responded Myanmar and other newly politically open foreign lands that have not been ravaged by reckless exploitation.


After thoughts and reflections

I have carefully pocketed my “gems” over the past three days:

  • Watching my friend, Brian, smile like a kid escaping from his neighbor’s apple tree without notice.
  • Recognizing that my other friend, Julie, realized that she is strong. No one needed to corroborate the fact. She just knew.
  • Hearing the century year old oaks assure me that I am physically strong after living 59 on Earth.
  • Committing to the level of commitment necessary to fulfill my desire to become a “barking” tree climber one day.


Upon my return home, I reconnected with my daughter and dogs through a walk in our local wetlands. I saw trees from a different lens. Tim’s guided lessons had transformed my perspective. He rekindled my desire to become a “sum added” influence on our stressed world.   Tim illuminated the wonders of nature and the ecological significance of our trees, the questions and possibilities for the next generation. He reintroduced the simple joy of being a child no matter the age.

Kovar, trees, and our natural world will be on my mind as I weave lessons about contemporary world problems for budding 18 year olds throughout the next months.

It made me wonder why anyone would want to see trees in any other way.


Like a true master teacher, Mr. Kovar continues to influence one long after our three short days together have pasted.