Chapter 4: Finding the Perfect Tree
In the summer of 2008, I set out to look for the perfect host tree for the egg-shaped treehouse. By then I had determined that it should be somewhere in the backwoods of Whistler. For one thing, I had spent much time roaming those woods and I felt at home in them. The real determining factor was that the cheapest parcels of land were hovering around the million dollar mark. I’d have to find a wealthy oil tycoon to cosign a mortgage and spend the next 450 years of my life paying it off.
There were certain self-imposed rules to building on crown land. In my backwood explorations, I had come across a number of run down squats that had become a desecration to the pristine beauty of the forest. I resolved to have a clean site, without personal belongings. After all, it was common land, and I wanted to respect that.
Finding that perfect spot on crown land wasn’t so easy. I had an informal checklist of requirements, the most important ones being that it within a reasonable distance to a road, yet out of sight and out of earshot of human traffic. The other requirement was hard to qualify, but was of prime importance: the shape of the egg would need to suit the environment and be proportionate to the tree. I couldn’t explain exactly what that was but I figured I would know it when I saw it.
Some secondary requirements were: a south western aspect, some sort of view, and proximity to running water. Although running water would be imperative for someone living there full-time, I never really envisioned that, and perhaps didn’t want to facilitate that. I saw it more as a special camping spot that provisions could be packed in and out of, like a little secret cabin to be visited from time to time.
And so the search began. I started by looking around all the areas I was familiar with. None of those turned up the perfect site, so I went 10 kilometers north of Whistler and started working my way south. I hiked up and down streams, and looked for vantage points to survey the surrounding areas. I found many sites that were close to perfect, but each had some prohibitive drawback.
You really need to look at an ariel map of Whistler’s bike trails to get a sense of how pervasive they are. I even found isolated bike stunts in the woods with no trail leading in or out. And beyond the mountain biking culture, the surrounding areas are replete with natural gems and people love to discover them. Local folk scour the woods for new hiking prospects, dog walking routes and viewpoints to admire the scenery.
For the next two months, I searched tirelessly. I made it a daily routine to spend a few hours after work wandering through the woods. A couple times I came close to giving up. After checking out every place I could think of within a reasonable distance from Whistler, I took about a week off from searching and considered alternatives. But settling for something less than ideal … just wasn’t an option.
As fate would have it, the perfect site had been sitting right under my nose the whole time. Free range Ryan and I had spent a fair bit of time exploring a new neighborhood of multi-million dollar mega-homes under construction. We generally liked to wander through the extensive underground caverns of these homes, called ‘crawlspaces’.
On the way up to these homes one day, I spotted an isolated patch of old-growth that looked promising. It was steep and rowdy terrain, so it took me a while to figure out how to access it. I ended up coming in from below. As I rounded an overhanging crag, I found myself in a boulder field. Looking up I saw a stand of towering old-growth giants and my heart raced.
The first thing to catch my eye was a sun-lit moss covered outcropping at the top. I scrambled my way up the steep slope over rocks and deadfall. It seemed nearly vertical. From the top I was greeted by a view of the distant mountain range through a thin veil of branches. It was breathtaking. There was a light breeze, and the sun was filtering through the moving treetops in bold shafts, to create dancing patterns of light. Scanning the area, one of the bigger trees caught my eye. Although it shot out of a 45 degree slope, it was remarkably straight, perfectly proportioned, and nearly bare of branches up to the sweeping canopy sixty feet above the forest floor. I had found it!