They call Blake's Hitch a magic knot, a twist of rope that does pretty much whatever you want. Tug it to slide evenly. Let go to lock it. If you climb trees, you need to trust this knot.

They call Blake's Hitch a magic knot, a twist of rope that does pretty much whatever you want. Tug it to slide evenly. Let go to lock it. If you climb trees, you need to trust this knot.

Until this lovely Sunday afternoon, I'd never seen a Blake's Hitch. Never needed one. Scampering as a kid through the oaks and elms of Chester, I needed only a little gusto and a good pair of shoes.

That was before. That was much, much lower.

Now I'm in a hammock tied across a red maple named Hercules, about 75 feet of which I climbed using high-end arborist rope and the expert advice of Bill and Shelly Byrne.

With EarthJoy, the couple's new tree-scaling adventure in Rockbridge, you don't simply grab a few branches and hope for the best. Theirs is technical tree climbing, essentially a safer but more extreme version of your backyard ambling. The Blake's Hitch comes in handy.

"It's not something you can rope up and do without being safe," said Shelly Byrne, who grew up in the woods of northern Kentucky and started the operation last year.

Deep in the Hocking Hills canopy, the Byrnes have hung a series of ropes around sturdy branch crooks between 60 and 90 feet high. They prefer the double-rope technique - actually a single length with both ends hanging to the ground - so you actually climb one side while being secured to the other.

After a short introduction, they strap you into a safety harness and attach an ascent of your choice using a series of knots and carabiners. You lock a foot into an adjustable loop, stand up, push the knot higher and repeat the process to a desired height.

On some climbs, you can use limbs and branches like you would've back home.

Before long, you're many stories skyward, sitting in hammocks, placing stuffed animals around branches and gazing into the valleys and forests of southeast Ohio. You'll get a couple good climbs in each session, then get the chance to be catapulted into the sky on a special rope swing nearby, a highlight of my afternoon.

The EarthJoy operation is another fantastic addition to an established outdoor region. Its location at the Windy Hills Golf Course in Rockbridge, already home to Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, means a pair of activities unlike anything else in the state.

"We've done rock climbing and rappelling, so we've done things like this before," said Chrissy Jones, in town from Cleveland for an adventure weekend. "We did the zip line yesterday. It's cool in different ways."

Her husband, Josh, agreed.

"Tree climbing was more unique and more physical than the zip line," he said. "I'd recommend people do both."

Weekend afternoons in the trees of Hocking Hills cost $75 per person. Climbs at A.J. Jolly Park in Kentucky, the Byrnes' other climbing capital, are less. Joining the company newsletter is a great way to find deals and group discounts, and personalized sessions are available.

Nature lovers of all sorts have been flocking to both locales in search of a little more thrill than a hike around Ash Cave, the Byrnes explained.

No experience is necessary to enjoy sojourning skyward, and even if you've been in the woods a thousand times, you've never seen a tree like this. You'll get to know these giants. You'll touch their bark and appreciate their sheer size.

"I wanted to do it just to learn to climb the trees in my yard," said Jeff Vistain of Worthington. "I'm gonna try to use the right knots now. That should make my wife happy."

Now that operation has been going steady, plans are to expand both locations higher and wider.

"We're going full force," said Shelly Byrne. "We're going to have treehouses and big nets up there."