Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In a Tree House

Ken Crosby
WikiCommons Media

When I was a kid, my father built a magnificent tree house, 60 feet high, nestled in the airspace between two trees in our backyard.

Its platform was only half the size of our one-car garage — but it seemed not a cubit smaller than Noah’s Ark. We installed a pulley system in it to haul up snacks and flashlights for our treetop sleepovers. Up there, the world was ours. It was our ark.

Today, treehouses are no longer just for kids — they’ve popped up all over the world, as romantic getaways for adventurous couples, and “rooms with a view” for those seeking seclusion and reflection.

They’re far more sophisticated than my dad’s tree fort. Some come with king-sized beds, air-conditioners, a refrigerator, ironing board — and even a hot tub to unwind under the stars.

Bookstores and websites offer manuals on how to build treehouses. Each structure must be tailored to the unique architecture of its supporting tree, with knowledge and respect for the biology of the tree. Placing bolts into the tree’s cambium can introduce disease, and constrictions around a trunk must allow for movement and growth of the tree.

If you don’t want to build one, you can make reservations at one of the many tree house hotels around the world — even in Utah, where over a dozen arboreal resorts offer a night of good dreams in the treetops.

My own my childhood memories and the rising popularity of tree houses tell me that they fulfill our dual desires for shelter and adventure. As Peter Nelson, a master treehouse builder wrote, “If we can't fly with the birds, at least we can nest with them.”

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is an emeritus professor of both The Evergreen State College and the University of Utah, one of the world’s leading ecologists and a popular science communicator. Dr. Nadkarni’s research and public engagement work is supported by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. @nalininadkarni
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.