Just Hanging Out    
by David Wilkening

Some folks are finding it's a lot of fun to go out on a limb. Tree house style hotels are not yet commonplace but there are more than a dozen of them worldwide, including a few in the United States with more branching out everywhere.  Tree house hotels offer more than lodging, they offer an experience.

The first-ever tree house hotel opened in Zwick, Germany in 2006 and is proving to be a hit with adventurous travelers.  Guests sleep 30 feet above the ground in cabins perched on the branches of black locust trees.  And true to tree house style going to bed at night involves climbing ladders to get to sky-rise rooms offering spectacular views of the deep woods.  The cabin spaces come with small balconies, electric lights, shared toilets and even showers --but there's no hot water.

One tree house experience can be found in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, where guests can stay in one of a half dozen of the Treehouse Cottages.  They are set at different heights and situated so guests are not aware of others' staying in the tree next door. Each cottage includes a private deck, a fireplace, a full kitchen and a Jacuzzi.  More than 20 feet off the ground, the cottages are suspended by poles and accessible by outside stairs.  The nightly cost is $139-$159.

The tree houses of Hana, Maui in Hawaii number four and each can sleep at least four guests.  The houses overlook a flower garden in the small town of Hana which is one of the most isolated towns in Maui on the east coast of the island.  It offers a spectacular ocean view as well as a flower farm from jungle-like treetops.  But a stay here comes with a warning --the accommodations are real tree houses in a real jungle and are not for everyone.  It's very rustic giving one the feeling of camping out with a roof. Rates are $135 per person and up.

Near Anchorage, Alaska, there's perhaps the most rugged tree house in the world, the Five-Day Treehouse. The visit includes a mandatory five-day stay and includes air travel, meals and a guide.

But getting there is a true Alaskan-style adventure in itself.  Available only in the summer for obvious reasons, guests fly into a nearby unnamed lake and then hike nearly two miles to the 40-acre homestead, crossing a stream on the way.  To get back out, guests hike to a creek and then raft about four miles downstream to another lake then access the tree-house accommodations on wooden ladders and bridges. Mary Eldred, an Anchorage resident who has stayed there raises the question, "though many people can say they stayed in a remote cabin or hiked and slept in a tent in the Alaska wilderness, how many people can say they rode a snow machine 100 miles to spend a week in a tree house?"

P. S. Adults aren't the only ones who can stay at tree houses.

The Treehouse Insititute of Takilma in Southern Oregon hangs from the branches of an oak grove, nestled in a small valley.  It's a high school that hangs from the branches and in addition to being a popular resort is the only place in the world with courses on how to build tree houses.  The institute offers ten tree house rooms, some of which sleep five for a price of $160 and up per night.

Accordiing to the Institute's web site, "it is not the Ramada or Hilton in the trees but it is a genuine four-star Treesort.”

Article written by David Wilkening, dwilkening@cfl.rr.com
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