Off the Grid on a Tree
There are many times in our lives when some event or the other has nudged us into thinking of giving up the pursuit of the glamor of the material world, but hardly anyone has the gumption to take the reins in hand and ride away into the sun! Life as we know it is shackling – we have mortgages and EMI’s and college funds to feed. And so, it all remains a pipe dream – that dream of divesting oneself from the cares of the world and living the simple life in the mystical Himalayas, among the Buddhist monks; taking that epic hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada; living the life of a beach bum, riding the magical surf in Baja, California. Pipe dreams! But here’s the story of a young man who decided he didn’t want the shackles that bound him to the city.
Not long ago, four years to be exact, Foster Huntington worked in Ralph Lauren as a menswear designer in New York, part of a team that handled concept design, coming up with stories, themes and presentations to launch each collection on the line, for example, the Bush pilots of Alaska in their ruggedly stylish world. It was his first job out of college, and he found it fun and challenging for a while. He looked at the photos of the bush pilots and thought, “I can go take photos. I don’t want to live in the city. I want to go do something else.”
Have you heard of New Yorkers leaving the city? It’s often a long and agonizing prospect that never sees the light of day? But Foster’s exit was decisive. He was like, “Hey, I just bought this van. I’m going to drive to Washington and live in it.” He drove around Washington in his 87’ Volkswagen Vanagon, documenting his journey, publishing his photographs on his site on the social media called #Vanlife. Staying digitally connected allowed him to live off the grid, and eventually he put the photos together in a book called ‘Home is Where You Park it’, which he sells through his site for $65! Enlightened and ingenious, this youngster!
But it was not too long before he got fed up with life on the road. One day he called a friend and announced, “‘Dude, I want to build some tree houses up at Cinder Cone.’”
The Dream Come True“I could’ve bought a house,” he said, all of 27, standing at the base of a massive Douglas fir, “But this is so much better. It’s realizing my childhood dream.” It took him several months to build him dream venture, but not without help from his supportive friends. Since fall of last year, Foster has lived on a grassy hilltop among a stand of firs, in the southwest of Washington State, overlooking a sylvan farm valley. Over a ridge to the south, he overlooks the stunning Columbia River Gorge.
Foster ended up building two tree houses, one that he calls the Studio, and the other, the Octagon. The Studio actually seems afloat, 20 feet above the ground, made of red cedar, nestling within three firs while the octagon hugs the trunk of a lone fir, 35 feet off the ground. A swaying rope bridge connects the two structures, reminiscent of tree houses and rope bridges in the swanky Colorado eco-tourist hotels! Another stair-bridge leads from the Studio to the ground. Much like a big-boys camp! Foster named the place ‘The Cinder Cone’, alluding to its setting in an old volcano site.
Inside the treehouse, it’s light-filled and toasty, a shelf by the door holding his cameras and lenses while his iMac sat on a simple table against one wall, a surfboard propped up right next to it.
Windows to the World
Not wanting to be cut off from the glory of the surrounds, he had built large windows that allowed him a splendid view and a source of natural light. He uses the Studio for work, the Octagon, his bedroom, and sourced electricity and water from the main house, his mother’s, which stood a 100 feet away.
In today’s world, whichever way one looks at it, one needs window coverings, if not for privacy, then for energy efficiency. The world might seem surreal from the vantage of treed surrounds, but wherever you are, sustainable energy practices would go a long way in preserving pristine environments. I see from the pictures of the tree house that the windows have been left uncovered, and no mention of energy efficient practices were made. High up on the woody knoll, the sun is bound to be twice as intense, and though the verdant cover would aid in shading to an extent, once the sun hits the glass windows, only window shading would serve to block the sun’s heat and the damaging UV rays, protecting the human skin as wells as the wooden flooring, upholstery and artwork. Otherwise, in a few months down the line, when Foster hits the beach with his surfboard, he’ll notice that it’s faded and looked worse for wear than it really should.
Using cellular shades in high altitude environments would work wonders in insulating wooden homes, keeping the warmth in of a chilly morning.
Wooden blinds would work like a dream in cutting the glare as the sun’s rays can be bent away from work screens and eyes with a turn of the vanes.
Dual Roller shades would be another ideal to divert the sun’s rays during the day, or to attract and hold the sun’s warmth during the day, keeping it in at night as well.
Do the sensible thing – conserve energy for a better tomorrow.