Unable to charge people, Garnier engaged in a clever dodge, selling T-shirts at inflated prices and then inviting those who bought them to sleep over. His grove gradually filled with other free-form buildings, swinging ropes, and suspension bridges as word spread about the renegade B&B. Garnier finally went straight in 1999, after engineering studies, innumerable court orders, and a stress test—in which 93 friends, a pair of dogs, and a chicken clambered over the Swiss Family complex—persuaded the county to grant him the necessary permits.
There is an immediate sense of community at the Treesort. Timothy soon befriends Garnier's cat Locita and a half-dozen other kids of varying ages. Grown-ups also warm quickly to this eccentric world. Who wouldn't want to ride a horse through an old-growth forest, swim in a river-fed pool, gorge on an enormous blackberry patch, or, best of all, climb Garnier's trees?Timothy and I spend one morning learning his ropes course, using ascenders to make our way more than 50 feet up the black oak. There we add our names to the graffiti on Garnier's old roost, hook our safety harnesses onto the zip line, and leap into the void for an exhilarating ride under an aromatic canopy of fir and cedar.
We while away the hours watching hummingbirds flit around a trellis of trumpet creepers. We cut our own mosaic tiles to make a trivet, and play countless games of Yahtzee and Uno. We cook meat over open flames. We do everything, and nothing. A short drive takes us to groves of towering redwoods (Route 199, the Redwood Highway, is five miles west), or to the spectacular sea stacks along the Oregon coast, or to funky Grant's Pass, with its drive-through coffee bars, chain saw-art galleries, and jet-boat river outfitters.
At night, we gather around a fire with the other guests to toast marshmallows and our good fortune. Horses snuffle in the paddock; coyotes wail in the hills. A gentle breeze ruffles the embers; high above, the trees sway approval.
I make a mental note to examine the Treezebo's construction. There's a stand of ash in my backyard, a perfect place to go out on a limb and into thin air.
Christopher R. Cox is a feature reporter for the Boston Herald.