Driving through the entrance of Gloucester National Park, 3km from Pemberton, approximately 3 hours southwest of Perth, you are greeted by beautiful native birds that flock to your arms looking for food. In no way do they prepare you for what you are about to see – the Gloucester tree – a giant karri tree standing at 72 metres in height and lined with 153 spikes to take the courageous tourist to the top. While the birds fly off, realising that your frozen stance of fear is not going to get them any food, you soon wish that you could borrow their safe wings to take you to the top of the tree.
Mustering up courage, you head to the base of the tree - over a mammoth 7 metres in circumference. At least that gives you some confidence that the tree is not going anywhere fast. The climb begins and as you take one spike at a time, you try to ignore the gap between the spikes that would quite easily let you slip through to the ground beneath and you wish you had upsized those old Maccas meals in a previous life. Focusing on what is above, you keep climbing, starting to relax as you get into the rhythm of the climb. That is, until you start to notice the gentle sway of the tree which becomes a lot less gentle the closer to the top you go. The relief that you feel as you burst through the tiny manhole to stand upon the firm floor of the cabin built from steel and aluminium gives way to exuberance as you peer out over the vast karri forest. The karri trees are the third tallest trees in the world and being able to conquer the Gloucester tree to stand above them is no mean feat. Your reward of being able to stand above these amazing, majestic trees for an almost bird's-eye view of the panorama is second to none.
Alas, what goes up, must come down and eventually the decision must be made to descend – a lot of fun as you cling to the outside of the spikes as someone ascending passes you on the inside of the rungs. Once at the bottom, the sense of accomplishment is immense as you gaze upward at what you just climbed.
While the Gloucester tree is the main attraction for Gloucester national park, those who prefer to only watch the ascent of others can also enjoy the park with several bush walking tracks that take you through the magnificent karri forest, including the famous Bibbulmun Track.
As the Gloucester tree was originally set up as a fire lookout, it is not the only fire lookout tree to climb in the Pemberton region. There are two others open for tourists including the Bicentennial tree standing at 75 metres tall in the Warren National Park and the Diamond tree, both a 15 minute drive from Pemberton. All are set up in a similar way, so the climb is no less of an accomplishment, however, the Diamond tree, not being part of the national park means an entrance fee is not required – a definite advantage for those thrifty ones.