James Cairnes: Climbing to the Top
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
SAN ANSELMO — For James Cairnes, an adolescent injury became an unlikely catalyst for a lifelong career in an unfamiliar field. “I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 17 and ended up in the hospital,” he remembers. “The guy in the bed next to me was an arborist. I had no idea what an arborist was, so he told me all about it. I found it fascinating, and when I started college the following year, I enrolled in a three-year arboriculture program. It was sort of by chance, but it ended up significantly altering the course of my life.”
Today, as owner of World Tree Service, Inc., James says his favorite part of his job is going out on a limb for his customers. “I still like climbing, which is something I’ve enjoyed since I started. I also like looking after the long-term health of my customers’ trees and making sure they can exist in harmony with the surrounding wildlife and environment.”
James took a circuitous route to get to his current residence in Marin County—he lived in Norway, Ireland and England before he reached adulthood, and when he was 25 years old, he took a trip to the United States that eventually turned into a permanent residence. “After living in New York for seven years, I was ready to head back to England, but first I went on a cross-country motorcycle trip to California,” he explains. “Soon after I arrived, I met a woman named Natalie Carey, with whom I would later co-found World Tree Service.”
Outside of work, James spends his time engaged in a variety of active outdoor pastimes. “My main sport is motorcycle trials, which basically consists of riding through obstacle courses of logs and rocks without putting your feet down,” he says. “I also like mountain and road biking, as well as surfing.” In keeping with his love of tree climbing, James also volunteers as a climber for WildCare, a wildlife rehabilitation center in San Rafael. “We rescue baby birds that have fallen out of their nests, climb up the tree and reunite them with their parents. I actually met my girlfriend doing this, since she works for WildCare.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, James says he’d set out for his longest ride yet. “I would ride my motorcycle to South America. I’ve done a few trips to Central America, so I’ve sort of been building up to this bigger excursion. While I’m down there, I’d like to do some rainforest tree-climbing work, like setting up tree platforms for documentary film crews.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite kind of tree?
A: I really like the California buckeye and the dawn redwood, which is unique in that it’s a deciduous conifer.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Read a book by the fire.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “Jupiter’s Travels” by Ted Simon, a British guy who traveled around the world on an old Triumph motorcycle. It was really influential in terms of my own motorcycle travels.
Q: Who’s the best James Bond?
A: Sean Connery.
Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
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A: Bungee jumping at the Pipeline in New Zealand—a 335-foot jump!