Tourists Are Up a Tree, Happily, at an Australian Park
Visitors to Pemberton, a small town deep in the karri forests of Western Australia, are invited to play Tarzan.
This region on the southeast tip of the continent calls itself Big Tree Country, for good reason. Tourists may climb - but only about 1 in 4 do - the Gloucester Tree in Gloucester National Park.
At the top of the 195-foot karri (a kind of eucalyptus) is a brush-fire lookout. One hundred fifty-three steel spikes cemented into the trunk serve as steps. There is a "flimsy-looking wire cage" around the tree for safety, says someone who declined the opportunity to see the spectacular view from the top. Successful climbers (some 180,000 in 50 years) can get a certificate for bravery.
The 250-year-old tree, nearly 10 feet around at its base, was named for England's Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who visited here in 1946.
Australia's trees were in the news three years ago, when a tree known only as a fossil was spotted by a wildlife officer on vacation. David Noble was hiking in the Wollemi National Park near Sydney, in Australia's southwest, when he saw some large, unfamiliar conifers in a damp gorge. The primitive tree, a new genus, is related to Norfolk and kauri pines