Out On A Limb

I finally get a treehouse of my very own at southern Oregon’s Out-n-About “treesort.”

They say inside every adult is a 10-year-old kid. Which explains why I’m having great fun using a simple rope and pulley system to haul my duffel bag 35 feet up the side of a huge cedar tree.

You see, when I was young, I wanted my own treehouse in the worst way. Unfortunately, growing up in a suburban neighborhood where trees were in short supply meant my feet were destined to remain planted firmly on the ground.

Fast forward nearly four decades and I’m honestly surprised how psyched I felt pulling into the dirt parking lot of the Out-n-About Treehouse Resort.  Tucked into a hidden valley in southwestern Oregon’s Siskiyou mountains, this “treesort” has a laid-back vibe that borders on the magical.  I’ve been here less than 10 minutes and already I’m convinced it must be nearly impossible to be a grumpy, stressed-out adult in a place like this.

Out-n-About is the brainchild of former physician’s assistant and self-taught treehouse engineer Michael Garnier. Garnier built his first treehouse on this 36-acre property in the ex-hippie enclave of Takilma back in 1990 and, despite a prolonged legal battle with local authorities who couldn’t wrap their heads around his vision for an arboreal bed-and-breakfast, never looked back.

Guests can now stay in a dozen distinctly different treehouses, ranging from a fanciful western fort and saloon combo eight feet off the ground to a crow’s nest-like walled gazebo located nearly 40 feet in the air.  A series of wooden stairs and swinging bridges—some up to three stories above terra firma—make getting to your digs an adventure in itself.

When Garnier’s guests aren’t rubbing elbows with the local avian community they can participate in a host of outdoor activities, ranging from mild pastimes like craft classes and horseback riding to wild adventures that include an extensive zipline course and a “giant swing” that lifts you 80 feet into the forest canopy for a ride you won’t soon forget. There’s even a good old-fashioned spring-fed swimmin’ hole that makes a great place to beat the heat on a lazy summer afternoon.

As for the accommodations themselves, the best way to describe their quirky charm is to think of them as rustic enough to appeal to that 10-year-old inside of you with sufficient creature comforts to keep the adult happy too.  Our treehouse, a thoroughly homey perch known as the Lilly Pad, featured a comfortable queen-sized bed and a set of bunk beds, plus unexpected amenities including a toilet, sink, small refrigerator, coffeemaker, space heater, and roll-down screens and plastic windows.  Not to mention an unbeatable squirrel’s-eye view.

Put it all together and you have a truly extraordinary experience that proves childhood dreams really can come true if you wait long enough.

Xtrordinary Xtra
Over the eight-year period Out-n-About owner Michael Garnier  was battling county officials to get the permits that would allow him to accept paying guests, folks who wanted to spend the night became “invited friends” (a.k.a.: Tree-musketeers) who paid for their stay indirectly by buying pricey one-of-a-kind signed and dated “tree-shirts.”

Xtrordinary Xtra
To prove the soundness of his designs to local building enforcement officials, Garnier once piled 66 people, 3 dogs, and a cat—a total of 10,664 pounds—into his Peacock Perch treehouse.

The Facts
Name: Out-n-About Treehouse Resort
Location: Takilma, OR; about 60 minutes southwest of Grants Pass.
Phone: 541-592-2208

My Advice

  • While Garnier and his staff have gone to great lengths to ensure their guests’ safety, know going in that spending the night in a treehouse comes with its own inherent risks.  While older kids will probably be fine, this is no place for toddlers.  Or sleepwalkers, for that matter.
  • While the Out-n-About property has some of the more imaginative treehouse designs, it can also feel a bit crowded.  For a more peaceful, secluded experience, I’d strongly recommend booking the Lilly Pad treehouse which is located on a heavily-forested hillside a few minutes down the road from the resort.
  • Given the popularity of the place, you’ll want to book as far in advance as possible to get the dates you want, not to mention your choice of the treehouses. That said, I discovered it is sometimes possible to score a room on short notice due to cancellations.  And if you can’t get a reservation but still want to check the place out, tours are offered by appointment.
  • All treehouses come with linens and a full breakfast.  Other amenities (indoor plumbing and the like) can vary widely, however, so check out the “Root Costs” page of the website where you’ll also find photos and virtual tours.
  • All units share a central “Amenitrees” building that includes kitchen and bathroom facilities.  Stores and restaurants are available 10 miles away in the town of Cave Junction.
  • Knowing that you’ll be hauling your gear up the side of the tree, do I really need to tell you to pack light?  Also note that there are no locks on any of the doors, so plan to leave your diamond tiara (or other valuables) in the car.
  • If your stay inspires you to build your own treehouse, Garnier’s Treehouse Institute offers everything from multi-day construction workshops to design and consulting services to all the specialized hardware you might need.