Anyone who knows me, knows that I am on shaky ground when I start referring to Star Wars. I am part of that select band of people who've never seen the Star Wars films; I'm in such august company as the girl behind the audio to this film, as until I saw this, I too firmly believed that his name was Hans Solo. Thankfully my life is getting along just fine without Star Wars, and I've had a lucky escape that Dave didn't think to bring the DVDs with him to Canada.
In any case, I have it on reliable authority that Ewoks (furry things, stars of a 1980s cartoon which is the extent of my encounters with them) live in treehouses, with walkways strung between them so that they have no need to ever descend to the dangers of ground level. I like to think that this creates some sort of continuity with the life imagined for Robin Hood in the 'Prince of Thieves' film; imagine, if you will, Kevin Costner being forced to carry on a sensible conversation with animated furry things in hooded capes. However, I digress. The point is, when Dave and I arrived at Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Bay, his response was that the suspended, spherical treehouses resembled the kind of place where an Ewok might live.
You can read about the philosophy and the practicalities of developing spherical treehouses on their website; we arrived one beautiful sunny afternoon during our trip to Vancouver Island, having spent the day recovering from two days on the pistes by tootling gently along the coast of the island, up to Campbell River and back south into Qualicum. The spheres (two complete and available for rent, one nearing completion) are hosted in five acres, and are set around a large pond which has its own island, and some lazy bass lurking in its waters. Everywhere on the property is the evidence of the dedication and specialised nature of the development of the treehouses; there's a fibreglass sphere in view, and a spiral staircase being constructed outside Tom Chudleigh's workshop.
Tom took us up to Eve, which was our home for the night. Eve can best be described by the Star-Wars-non-viewers as a cross between a boat, a tent and a Christmas bauble. She's dinky, especially compared to the two larger spheres, Eryn and Melody. Eve is suspended between three trees, and reached by a spiral staircase entwined around a central tree. Inside, she's got lights and power, a curved bed (just big enough for the two of us) and a small table with a seat on either side. Tom's partner Rosie provides a basket of goodies (cookies, muffins, fruit and yoghurt) for breakfast, and there's even a kettle plus teapot and cafetiere, perfect for a morning brew, cleverly tucked away in the built-in storage.
Because the treehouses are suspended, they do move with the wind – sadly, we had a still and windless stay, as we were both looking forward to being rocked amongst the trees. You can still feel it move, and when we put music on the stereo system, we had great fun dancing around to the amazing surround sound. Thankfully, we had no neighbours that night! A composting loo sited between Eve and Eryn is one practicality; there's also a bathhouse/kitchen situated a little further away, with a sauna, a good hot shower, fridge and running water. We drifted off to sleep looking out of the curved window beside the bed, up through the branches to the stars, and awoke to the sun streaming through the trees and birds darting overhead. Dave took a video giving you a tour back from the bathhouse to Eve:
Staying in the sphere is an experience in itself, but we also did our best to explore the area in which it is located. Tom provided us with a hand-drawn map and we made the most of the afternoon sunshine on our first day to walk out to Big Qualicum River, through some spectacular old growth forest, across a rickety bridge, and back along an island mid-stream, where we were surrounded by evidence of beavers. At first glance, the fish skeletons scattered around were a bit unnerving, but once we found a youngish tree, felled by teethmarks, with its smaller branches removed, it all became clear (though we didn't spot a lodge, or any beavers themselves). The area was beautiful, despite not being exactly remote, and it really whetted my appetite for further exploration of the parks and forests of the island.
Staying in a treehouse is, I think, something that everyone should do at least once. It fulfilled a childhood wish of mine, and gets you back in touch with the playful side of life that it is so easy to overlook. Plus, it makes for a great conversation starter!