The rules of the New York Botanical Garden are very clear: Stay on paths. Deposit trash in designated receptacles. Do not climb trees. That last one makes me smile, because just recently, if you were walking through there at the right time, you would have found me 50 feet off the ground in the branches of one of their leafiest sweetgum trees.

Nope, I’m not Catwoman—I was taking part in one of the NYBG’s most fabulous courses: the Recreational Tree Climbing Workshop. Taught a couple times a year by licensed arborists, the one-day class teaches you the basics of professional tree climbing (Mom, if you’re reading this: we used very secure ropes and saddles, and there were no skinned knees. Proof in point: One former instructor I interviewed, Wayne Cahilly, said in his 18 years of teaching the course he never had a student injured.)

I don’t want to downplay my vast abilities, but getting into the treetops is relatively easy—you move like an inchworm up a system of ropes and pulleys (even a five year old could do it). My instructor, David Fedczuk, was a total pro—and helped me see firsthand that, as he put it, “a tree is a living, dynamic system.” I haven’t looked at one the same way again.

Long before taking her post as an Assistant Editor at T + L, Kathryn O’Shea-Evans lived and worked in national parks (Glacier, Yosemite, and Mesa Verde, to be precise). In an effort to get outdoors again—and out of her cubicle—she’s blogging a series about affordable adventures in and around New York City.