Mount Rainier NP – Cedar Creek Treehouse
**View to down to Treehouse
Our visit to Mount Rainer was both to check off a lifelist item, staying in a treehouse, and, to revisit the mountain that marked our first real adventure. In 1999 Vickie and I climbed Mount Rainier, which sparked our adventure fire. To be able to reminisce while staying in a treehouse with a view of Mount Rainier was an experience to fitting to pass up.
The idea to stay in a treehouse came from watching Tree House Masters on A&E. Even though we were driving our sprinter van, our comfortable home on wheels, we wanted to experience what life would be like in a treehouse. I guess I would have to say the desire is based in childish nostalgia. We didn’t know if it was even possible until Vickie spent some time searching on-line. She found the perfect place in Ashford Washington just outside of Mount Rainier National Park, the Cedar Creek Tree House (cedarcreektreehouse.com).
Vickie called and talked to the owner Bill Camphor about the possibility of staying. He informed us that he only let people stay there about once a month, and only if he can fit it into his schedule. Vickie conveyed our hiatus story and our desire to stay in a treehouse. Bill told us if we could be flexible he would see if he could work our stay into his schedule. It seemed like an interview process to be able to gain permission to stay (and pay of course!). On follow up, we worked things out and our dates were set.
Even though the tree house has been featured in numerous articles in many different magazines the actual location is kept secret. Bill is a very private individual and only gave us the detailed directions once we had negotiated a 3 day stay (Bill’s minimum) and sent him a hefty check for payment in full in advance. We also have been sworn to secrecy the precise location of the treehouse. I would post it here, but then I would have to track down and kill everyone who read this post.
Bill must have been a pioneer in the tree house world because he started building the Cedar Creek Tree House in 1981. He is an artist and musician at heart. He utilized his creative essence to formulate the crazy idea and devise a plan to build this tree house. With gumption and some construction and engineering knowledge, he built it entirely on his own. The tree house is 50 feet off the ground in a massive 250 year old western red cedar.
When Bill originally completed it he lived there full time. He accessed the house by climbing up and down a ladder attached directly to the tree trunk. Supplies were hoisted up via a pulley system and electricity was supplied from a solar power system. 12 years later in 1993 he built the tower of stairs that is now used to access the treehouse, otherwise the systems in use today are the same that have been in used since the beginning.
The water for cooking, dishes, and the toilet is winched up in 5 gallon water coolers via a pulley system. The sink drained the gray water directly down the trunk via a PVC pipe and deposited the water directly on the tree’s roots. The toilet was a porta potty on the porch, dubbed ‘a lieu with a view’ (I didn’t’ envy him the emptying process for this).
We took full advantage of our time up in the treehouse by sleeping late, playing cards and preparing gourmet dinners. I have a predisposition for motion sickness so I was concerned with the tree swaying in the wind. When Vickie and I took a cruise on the largest cruise ship in their fleet I was assured I would never even know I was on a boat. Wrong! I constantly felt the motion. In the treehouse I didn’t notice any motion over any of the three days we stayed. If it wasn’t for the incredible view and the prominent trunk though the center of the room, I wouldn’t have remembered that we were in a treehouse. During the day drove to Mount Rainier NP for day hiking.
Bill actually lived in a house he built (on the ground!) on the property, but he also had built other lofty structures in nearby trees and graciously gave us a tour. He led us up a staircase that wound around the trunk of another massive red cedar tree. It circled 80 feet up and lead to bridges that traversed between this tree and two other structures, the observatory and the floating house.
From 80 feet up the Rainbow Bridge crosses to another cedar tree with his observatory.
Even though the bridge is constructed with a high strength aluminum walkway and supported with steel cables, it still terrified me to cross it. Vickie loves to tease me about my fear of heights. It seems inconsistent that I can be afraid to walk across this bridge but be able to hang from a rope on the side of a mountain. I can’t explain it either. It’s not logical. She laughs at me but still patiently waits for me to make my way across. I cautiously take one step forward, then move the opposite hand forward and lock my grip on the cable. Only then will I dare to move the other hand until I get a solid hold before I fianlly lift my back foot to complete the move. Then I repeat, moving painfully slowly forward always only moving only one point of contact at a time until I finally reach the the end of the bridge and the safety of the tree.
On the way back across the Rainbow Bridge Bill suggests we stop halfway across so he can take our picture. Notice how Vickie is relaxed, casually standing with her arms at her side while I am wearing a forced smile and showing white knuckles from hanging onto the cables like a baby monkey to his mother.
We moved on in our tour to another of Bill’s creations, the Floating Tree house. The entire house is supported by cables strung between four separate trees. As we entered the one room house I could feel the movement. It had a slight sway that reminded me of a hammock, a very big, very high hammock. He informed us it was still a work in progress but I decided this house would be way beyond my comfort zone to stay in.
On our last night in the treehouse, over an excellent dinner we exchanged memories of our first summit climb (on Mount Rainier, perhaps another blog post). We are thankful for the memories of the adventures we’ve already experienced and excited for the adventures yet to come.
In our follow up conversation with Bill, he informed us he decided to suspend letting people stay in the tree house for personal reasons. He told us we may be the last people to ever stay there. He didn’t say if he was going to continue to give tours of the tree house, observation tower and the floating house. For now the only visitor to the treehouse will be this guy.