I am haunted – no, make that taunted – by the initial hints regarding HemLoft, the secret treehouse near Whistler, British Columbia. What started as a mere topic of idle conversation now becomes a quest.
When I worked as a professional magician in college, I often found that people wanted to know how a trick was done not because they cared about the illusion itself. Instead, they sought the secret simply because it was secret.
We don’t like not knowing.
I am no different. And so I begin asking the people at the place we’re staying what they know about HemLoft. Here’s what I learn:
- They are, without exception, surprised that I’m aware of the place.
- All of them have heard about it, but none of them have been there themselves. This is starting to have hints of urban legend.
- It lies on public property near a wealthy new development.
- The builder has made it open to anyone in an attempt to keep it from being discovered by authorities and torn down.
- Many of the expensive homes built in Whistler undergo almost endless remodeling. So the builder of HemLoft used the discards – quality wood and components – to construct HemLoft.
- Numerous people drive to the area looking for HemLoft but few find it.
Finally, I get a real tip: HemLoft lies near a particular switchback. He’s not sure exactly where, but I have enough to get me started.
So one morning while the rest of my family is still awakening, I head out. In many ways, I feel as if I’m geocaching (the hunt using a GPS and coordinates to find hidden boxes of “treasure” (simple toys or items that others have deposited there)). The only difference is that this time I have no GPS and the cache is much, much larger than a bread box.
I drive to the area but all I see is the street before me and miles of trees. If HemLoft is here, it certainly isn’t visible from the road. I continue slowly to the top where I find million dollar homes in various stages of construction. But no HemLoft.
I turn around and think through the logic of the place and where it could be. In so doing, I come across something I had missed before: what appears to be a very faint disturbance in the embankment off the road. I find a wide spot on the shoulder of road and park, ignoring the signs posted everywhere that you must have a pass or you will be towed. I figure I won’t be long enough for that to happen, or so I hope.
I clamber up the embankment and then, with a smile of delight and satisfaction, I discover a small trail at the top leading into the woods. Still, there is no sign of any treehouse or similar construction. Just trees and, up ahead, a wall of rocks.
I hike to the left of the rocks, following traces of foot prints. Up, up the hill I go, peering down for trail signs while periodically looking upward for hints of tree-based habitation. Nothing.
I wander around some more then figure this can’t be the place. I turn back but decide to do so following a different route. And that’s when I see it.
Not HemLoft or even a building. But a blue tarp. There in this forest is a blue tarp. As I approach it, it appears to be covering a length of 2X6 wood. The type you would use in construction…say, of a treehouse…
I pick up speed and as I come over a slight rise in the hill, I look up and there it is, as if it had been before me all along. On a lone tree surrounded by others sits a spherical structure.
I look around briefly on the outside but then, warily, I cross the elevated steps (a dicey proposition given that they are six or so feet off the ground and wet from recent rain) and come to the door. I knock, feeling a bit silly at the action given the isolated location, but still not sure about the rules of etiquette in secret forest treehouses.
The outside of this remarkable treehouse is impressive, but what I find inside transforms this small structure from the object of a curious hunt into something much more…