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.
There is no answer. I turn the knob, surprised by the sturdiness of the construction, and I enter HemLoft.
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…
If you haven’t done so, check out Part 1 or Part 3