Sunday, June 29, 2014

Treehaus Meisters

In retrospect, the process has resembled a science project, and yet it has also been wholly organic. Building a tree house on the eastern slope of the North Cascades has required both left-brain characteristics such as logic, critical thinking and numbers, and right-brain traits such as intuition, creativity and visual imaging.

Good thing we have two heads working on this project: longtime buddy and fellow former wilderness ranger Helmut Vallindaklopf, known in polite society as Kelly Tjaden, and myself. This would mean that -- together -- we can lay claim to having a whole right brain and a whole left brain, or at least portions thereof.

The process began nearly five years ago as we kicked around the notion of building a tree house at the Owl Farm. Following these discussions, we began planning a tree house worthy of the “Tree Whisperer” himself, Pete Nelson of Treehouse Masters, the popular reality television program on Animal Planet on cable.

Kelly enrolled in a workshop at Nelson’s headquarters in Fall City, Washington near Seattle. The workshop included a five-day, interactive course for people interested in learning how to build a tree house from scratch. Participants learn basic concepts leading to the construction of a platform that will support a tree house.

We previously had identified three, 100-foot tall Douglas firs -- all with a 30-inch diameter-at-breast-height, or DBH in Forest Service parlance -- capable of holding a tree house. Following a planning process, construction began on the platform in 2010, followed by refinements to the superstructure in 2011 and 2012.

Then in 2012, Kelly discovered Eagle Log Cabins, a company that manufactures custom built recreational homes. The company uses Siberian pine milled in Lithuania and prefabricated prior to shipment overseas. The boards contain less than nine percent water, making them very light yet sturdy and extremely durable.

After ordering a cabin that would fit nicely on the superstructure, work began in earnest on adding the cabin to the platform this spring, thanks to the hard work and efforts of Kelly and his friend Paul Sharaba. Now, the structure is substantially complete and ready for the pursuit of fun and adventure in the wilderness.

In other words, the Owl’s Nest is officially open for business. Next up: construction of another 8-foot by 20-foot Eagle Log Cabin structure that will serve as cantina, bunkhouse, writing studio and a place to escape the mosquitoes, complimenting the existing well house that features a shower and Swedish sauna. What a hoot!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sashay On Solstice

To celebrate the summer solstice, longtime buddy and Cascade co-conspirator Tom Maloney (above) and I settled on, appropriately enough, Mt. June for a day hike to open the climbing season. The old lookout site on top provided sweeping views of the Cascades from as far north as Mt. Jefferson to as far south as the rim of Crater Lake.

A good starter trail for beginners, the relatively easy, 2.5-mile round-trip hike climbs through a Douglas fir forest only about 1,000 feet in elevation from the trailhead. The wild rhododendrons were in bloom, along with other wildflowers along the way and at the summit of Mt. June (above and below), which tops out at 4,816 above sea level.

Taking the side trip to nearby Sawtooth Rock, which continues on to Hardesty Mountain, we then reversed course so we could make it back to Eugene in plent of time for dinner.

Scanning the horizon, we pondered future hikes in the high country. Turns out, we have options aplenty, such as Diamond Peak, shown here from one of our many climbs “back in the day.”