Hi, I am a guy who lived in a tree on public land for a year. Ask me anything.
I hung a camouflaged platform about 100 feet off the ground on a hill on public land, away from trails and which is not visible from the ground. I put all my furniture into storage, moved out of my house and lived in the tree for about a year. Proof of the platform:
http://imgur.com/a/haKYo some more pictures http://imgur.com/a/1Xtvb
*edit to combine images to album and add a couple. * 2nd edit to add a new album with some other pics from when I was building it. Thanks for all the love reddit, I am going to bed now. I didn't think this would be so popular. Y'all have inspired me to go for a visit it and take it down. I will take and post some pictures of what it looks like after 4 years.
*3rd edit, My wife and I went to the tree today and I took down the platform. update and pictures
See I had this box....
Relationship ended, I wanted to save some money on rent and was inspired to do something wacky. I had worked briefly as a tree climber and did some rock climbing.
Well I had a good job and my shit was pretty together, so it wasn't like I was a homeless bum. After we started dating I pretty much stayed with her most of the week and after 6 months we moved in together.
Pretty soon after, In the beginning I probably mentioned it more like I occasionally spent a night there.
"Hahaha... alright so you remember how I told you about my secret tree fort I built? Yeah actually I live in that tree. All the time. Seriously."
This is a very hilarious/awesome conversation for me to picture.
I started this ama at work but now I am home with her and although she has never been on reddit she is now and she's learning all the dirt.
So you were creatively homeless
Basically by choice with a well paying full time job.
Did you find that you were able to save a lot of money? Or did you find more creative ways to spend?
I paid off a bunch of debts which was awesome, it got my finances basically in order. It was a little bit painful to move into a duplex and start paying rent again.
what did you use for cover when it rained?
I had a camo tarp cover that I hung. One time when there was thunder and lightning I went and slept in my car. I also would also occasionally stay with a friend, girlfriend or family.
You managed a secure a girlfriend? Living in a tree. Now theres another AMA right there.
She was a keeper too, managed to get me out of the trees.
What did she think?
She thought it was cool. I didn't talk about it that much, I knew how crazy some people would think it was.
I think it's awesome
Thanks me too.
Why didn't you just live in your car?
People notice if you are sleeping in your car. Plus its the beautiful outdoors with million dollar views. I love backpacking and camping.
You should sell the rights to this story so they can film a romantic comdy about it.
*Edit: Yes, there's a typo, I didn't proofread. Sue me.
Show me the money. My wife just arrived home and she says she wants Keri Russel to play her.
Hi! How did you address basic necesssecities? Do you still live there? Why or why not?
I had a membership to a 24 hour fitness that I could get to in about 15 minutes. I would wake up early and shit, shower, shave there. I would try to make sure that my bowels were empty before I would settle in for the night. I don't live there now, I put it up about 4 years ago. It is still hanging. I met gal and eventually got a place with her.
$30/mo is a seriously great value for the services available.
plus corporate discount
How did you keep a corporate job while living in a tree?
It isn't really a corporate job but the company had the so called corporate discount.
What kind of tree was it?
Not 100% sure but I think it is a Douglas-Fir.
You lived in a tree for a year and aren't sure what kind of tree it was? And you once worked as a tree climber? What is your problem?
Well it was a long summer job when I was younger so not a ton of experience. More rock climbing search and rescue training.
Ah yes, those can be quite prickly.
Yeah I kept a little whisk broom tied to a string for daily cleaning off the platform.
Wouldn't rangers get suspicious seeing the same car parked in the same area every day? Did you mix it up and park in different locations at night?
No same location. I parked on at a city street near where the trailhead is so out of the rangers notice. They probably thought it was one of the neighbors cars.
Dude, just want to say. This is freakin awsome!
Thanks. It is fond memories to think about it again.
Did you ever lose your pillow off the edge in your sleep?
I tied a cord around a corner of it and the other end to the platform. Good question, I had forgotten about that. So many memories.
Did you ever take anyone back to your platform? Were there ever instances where you thought you'd be caught/evicted?
No it was my own space. Only a couple friends who helped me carry the platform into the forest knew its location and one of them stayed a few nights up there when I was staying with a girlfriend.
Forgot your second question. I was always careful about making sure no one was around when I went in. I would always pull up the ladder and rope after me so it felt very secure. Originally when I built the platform I also made a waterproof battery powered remote control winch that would lower the ladder and rope the last 15 feet to the ground where I could clip in and climb. http://imgur.com/qdUePAK I eventually gave this up after a few weeks since I was afraid the battery would die or something would malfunction and I would have to free climb it again. Also it was so remote on a steep hill that even on the off chance someone would have found it, I doubt they would have dared to go up.
What did you do to entertain yourself? Did you have internet?
I would go to cafe's sometimes with my laptop. I also could get cell reception and use my iphone but I didn't use it much up there.
Alien blue my friend.
Well I only discovered reddit a little over a year ago.
You're a pretty cool guy.
What was the temperature range like, was it ever a problem?
Did you ever sleep naked? How great did that feel?
Were there any animals that happened across you?
Would you say that it was harder/easier to get sleep?
Great in the summer, sometimes sucked in the rain. I almost always slept naked except for a webbing harness that I wore all night. Came across both birds and squirrels but not too many. I slept great, it is so beautiful under the stars and there is a feeling of safety being up in a tree despite dangling so far off the ground. Maybe something from long ago in our simian genetics.
Couldnt imagine wearing this naked http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4009/4465559858_7b8ab41dd7.jpg
Webbing is actually pretty soft.
Obvious question I haven't seen answered: How high was it?
Close to 100 feet from the base but it hung over a steep hill on the down hill side so the space below the platform was a little higher.
What makes you think, "Hey I want to go live in a tree?"
The book that partly inspired me to do this is called Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson, its the first book in a trilogy. The protagonist is a NSF scientist in Washington DC who has a brain injury and decides to live out of his car and then builds a similar situation in a tree while trying to live a more paleolithic lifestyle. I read it and thought that sounds like fun.
I was gonna ask about that, i always wondered whether someone could pull it off, it's pretty awesome you did.
Thanks. Another couple books that inspired me were The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill and The Wild Trees by Richard Preston.
How did the girl react when you told her about where you live?
She thought it was pretty cool. Win. We are married now but she never went up into the tree.
No girls allowed >:[
What did you do about wild animals and bugs?
It was never very buggy but I had netting to put over my head. I never worried about the animals.
Did you go out and drink on weekends? If so did you drunkenly climb up the tree at the end of the night? Or just crash at a friend's house?
Rarely drink more than a couple drinks and I never went into the tree even close to drunk. Once in awhile I would sip a little bourbon up in the tree basically if I wouldn't drive I wouldn't be in the tree.
Was it worth it? Would you do it again?
Hell yeah, in a heart beat! It was one of the coolest things I have ever done and I love adventure. I have been reading ama's forever and last week I realized that I did something pretty neat that people might like to know about.
Ya this is the best AMA i have read in awhile. Thanks a lot for doing it.
You just made my day. Thanks.
where.. where did you poop? or were you there for protest or just for the fun of it?
At my 24 hour gym about 15 minutes away or at work or a cafe. No protest just to save money and enjoy the outdoors.
Good for you man. I'd be a fucking mess if I had walk 15 minutes to go poop.
Well I suppose in a pinch (pun intended) I could just go in the bushes near the base of the tree, but I never had to.
Were there any issues with bugs?
Did any park rangers or hikers notice or bother you?
Was it boring staying there all day on your days off?
I only ever saw one ranger near where I would park my car. I would always take the same trail in and then turn off up a hill to the spot and would be careful to make sure no one was around when I turned off. It took me about 10 minutes to get from my car to the top of the tree. I wouldn't really spend all day up in the tree, I would often go out with friends or hang out in cafes or go to the beach. Most of the time I would just stay the night, often hiking in after dark and waking early in the morning so I wouldn't see anyone on the trail.
*edit the bugs were never really a problem. The winter was cool and they were never around and in the summer I had netting for when I slept but I never really even needed it.
I was going to ask "Why?" but someone beat me to it, so I'll ask: Did you ever have sex with the tree?
You can blame /u/Chazzwozzers for this question.
No. This would have been awesome.
edit ha i thought he wrote in the tree i missed the with.
Well, it's never too late. Watch out for splinters.
I haven't been up in over a year. Its probably pretty trashed.
oops i missed that, I thought (s)he wrote in the tree.
are you flattered or bothered if people compare you to tree-hugging protesters?
Flattered, I just did it for selfish reasons.
What safety precautions were taken?
I wore a simple webbing harness the whole time I was in the tree and clipped into a rope from the ground with a climbing ascender. I would climb a 6" metal ladder like you would see hanging from a helicopter for the first 30 feet then I had branches and smaller 3 foot hunters ladders to get the rest of the way to the top. I was always afraid I would sleep walk off the platform so I kept the webbing on all night.
A person using an ascender looks like an inch worm crawling?
The ascender was just in case i fell, I climbed using a ladder and then branches the ascender just pulled along the rope as I went up.
Ah, so what is the device I am thinking of then? It is often used to climb a very long rope. I most often see it when watching documentaries about caving and they are exiting through a sinkhole.
The one I used on a day to day was a microascender or even just a prusik knot but I have a few petzel hand held ones also.
You are like the super hero of hipsters.
Now fools are going to be falling out of trees left and right and I can say oh tree camping I did that before it was cool.
What made you want to come down? Did you have a job at this time?
Girl. I worked full time in emergency medicine.
How did you cook food? Or did you not cook at all?
I kept a small stove and pot to make water for tea. Other than that it was all snack type stuff in the tree.
What area were you living in? How was winter? That looks awesome, I wanna try that some time. Any hints? Did you go to work at the same time? Why did you do it?
Northern California so lots of rain but no snow and not too cold. I chose the location due to proximity to work. It took me about 15 minutes to get from the platform to work or my gym. Learn to rock climb so you get comfortable with ropes and equipment. Learn to use rescue equipment like pulleys and ascenders. I don't know if there are tree climbing schools.
I had a membership at a 24 hour gym so every morning I would go work out and clean up. Often after work too. Always had fresh laundry. I would often eat out or cook at a friends house.
How did family members (especially parents, if yours are around) react, and did you have to turn down many offers of "just stay with me"?
Also this is ultra lame but didn't you ever get scared? I would have been terrified and lonely...but I'm a wuss.
My parents, siblings and close friends all knew and most thought it was pretty wild. They all knew I could afford a nice place to live. Except a couple close friends, I didn't tell coworkers or dates, or not close friends. I never felt scared. I am a pretty social person and continued to be during this time but the alone time was good for me especially in the beginning when I was getting over a breakup.
what did you do with the money you saved?
Mostly paid off debts.
What was it like to know that you're sleeping in a tree in the middle of the woods alone?
I never felt in danger. I would pull the rope and cable ladder up after me so I knew no one could come up. I always knew if I screwed up and fell I would probably die but I had a lot of confidence in my system. I was always connected to a thick climbing rope that was anchored above the platform. The platform itself was bombproof it was rated to thousands of pounds.
How did you get the platform up there? Was it a quick, stealthy operation? Did anyone notice?
I had already scouted the tree and climbed up and placed a rope. When I had a few days free I hiked it in at night with a couple friends and just left it at the base. The next day I went by myself and hoisted it myself into the tree. Even with the mechanical advantage of pulleys and ascenders it took forever to get it in place. No one noticed, it is just out of sight of the trail.
How did you handle mail/packages?
Also, what was the highlight and lowlight of your year (ie best and worst day or best and worst overall aspect of the experience)?
I forwarded all mail to my parents who lived about an hour away, I would go up once a week to check stuff. Highlight was smoking a pipe as the sun was going down. I was on the East side of the mountain but the views of the Bay were beautiful. All the houses nearby were multi-million dollar places. So it was really million dollar views. I cant think of any worst days. I have not been looking forward to taking it down which I really need to do. Its been almost 4 years since it went up and its pretty beat up now.
What did your parents think about your living arrangement?
They are hippy generation/culture they thought it was cool. They have always been supportive of my wild nature.
Is this legal? Would you suggest to others?
No, I only ever saw a park ranger once near where I parked my car but would always be careful coming and going to the site. When I brought the platform in it was under cover of darkness. I would totally suggest it to others but your really need to have a climbing background and be comfortable with the limits of what you are building. I never really checked the law-books but I imagined they couldn't charge me with much. Even if I got arrested and had to spend a night in jail it was totally worthwhile.
What did you do for fun?
Same thing most people do, I just had unusual sleeping arrangements.
People keep asking about bad weather, but I'd like to know the weather all year round. Are you in an area where sleeping outside like that is actually really pleasant or was winter winter and summer summer?
Coastal Northern California has very rainy winters but not unpleasant with a down sleeping bag and a cover for rain. In a bad storm I would go stay with a friend or family member.The platform isn't attached to the tree but hangs from metal chains. I decided it wasn't safe when lighting started during one storm and went to sleep in my car.
Where was the tree? Did you have any problems with wildlife?
On a mountain in a state park in Northern California.
Ok, I looked but it doesn't look like anyone has asked; what's up with the picture of some stuff bagged up hanging and it looks like you're clicking a key fob?
That was the remote controlled battery powered winch that I built to lower the 6" wide and 30' long metal cable ladder and tie in rope the last 15 feet. That way no one else could get up into the tree. After a couple weeks I stopped using it because I was afraid it would break or run out of battery and I would have to free climb back up. I realized that even if someone found the base of the tree and saw the ladder they probably wouldn't climb it. They wouldn't know it was safe or have a harness to clip to the rope.
Were you ever concerned about wild fires, high winds, or the limbs breaking?
No. I never felt in danger. I think I would have known about a fire, I am pretty close to a residential area. Wind was pretty mellow, lots of other trees and the limbs are big, the platform is actually hanging from several very large branches and anyway I was roped in the whole time.
So you lived a normal life, except you lived in a tree? Like a cartoon character? It wasn't a hippie thing or anything?
That's so cool.
It was far freaking out man. Peace.
How soon did you tell the girl about your living situation?
Within a few weeks just kinda casually.
Did you ever try to get up there drunk?
Heck no. I followed the same rules as driving. Don't drink and tree kids.
Ever been told to basically 'get down' by someone?
No one ever knew it was there but a couple friends. It was invisible from the ground unless you knew what you were looking for.
What did you do during a thunderstorm? Were you ever afraid that your tree would get struck by lightning with you in it?
The Northern California coast dosent get much thunder but when it did and the lightning started I high tailed it out of there pretty quick. Up on the mountain in a tree the thunder seemed so incredibly loud.
what kind of food would you eat. since there was no fridge/freezer.
eat out much?
Yeah, I really love to cook but I didn't do much that year. Some times at a family or friends house. I would just have fruit or granola or tea up in the tree. Whatever I had brought up with me that day. There is a great market and cafe not too far from where I would park my car.
You sir are a true Jedi :) It doesn't matter how old you are, have at least one child and pass on what you have learned down to them. They will remember all that you have taught them.
Yeah being a jedi in the forest is all fun and games until those furry bastards take your light-saber and tie you up.
You lived, or rather you slept in a tree? There doesn't seem to be anything other than the place for a person up there.
I also lived out of my car to some extent, I had my clothes bag, dirty clothes bag, gym bag, work bag, bag of food, paperwork and laptop bag and i could go to my storage locker whenever I needed something. Its true I didn't keep much in the tree except bedding and water bottles. It is amazing how little you really need on a daily basis.
How did you get the supplies to build the platform up the tree?
Home depot. I built it before I put my stuff in storage.
Right, but I how did you get the supplies up the tree since it was 100 feet up?
Would you ever sell your platform? If so, how much would you sell it for?
Well its been sitting out in the weather for 4 years so its pretty funky now. Its not more than $200 worth of materials. This was the second one I built. The first was a trial one about 10 feet off the ground for a kids tree fort.
How did you make sure you didn't fall off at night? Were you tied in?
Did it take long to adjust to living inside again when you came down?
As someone who's afraid to death of heights, I think this is awesome.
I would stay clipped into a fixed rope the whole time I was in the tree. I slept indoors every once in awhile so the transition wasn't hard. I sometimes miss it.
I like the idea of the platform, but how comfortable was it?
I've done a lot of sleeping in trees, only I generally use a hammock.
I'm genuinely interested in your experiences. What is the weather like where you are? Any negative or positive experiences with wildlife?
I had a really comfortable Thermarest called the dreamtime With a down sleeping bag it was more comfortable than my old bed. Weather was mostly great except for the rain. Never any problems with the wildlife just birds and squirrels.
Awesome — North Bay or South Bay?
Are you an ent? In that case, was it nice or was it amazing to sit up there and toke?
Not anymore but I imagine it would be awesome. I enjoyed an occasional bourbon or pipe tobacco from time to time but I always made sure to never drink too much up there.
are you now trying to accomplish something worthwhile?
Just living my life and trying to do good when I can.
Did you every see people walking by and freak them out?
No I couldn't see people on the trails below and anyway I wanted to remain incognito. It was my private castle in the sky.
Allright, the obvious, shit, shower, shave etc. how?
24 hour gym. Wake up early, work out and take care of bizness.
Where did you keep your daily essentials like clothes, toiletries, your computer/stuff for work, etc?
In my car. gym bag, work bag, paperwork and laptop bag, clean laundry bag, dirty laundry bag.
Would you recommend anyone else try it?
If you have some rope skills to set it up safely than absolutely. I spent a few months, hiking trails and scouting locations before I found the right spot.
Did it get boring after a while? What did you do for fun?
I was never bored. Most of the time I was in the tree was sleeping hours but sometimes I would just go up and read a book, meditate or surf the web on my phone.
what kind of books do you like? I bet a Stephen King book would've been sweeet.
I read all kinds of things. The book that partly inspired me to do this is called Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson its the first book in a trilogy. The protagonist is a scientist in Washington DC who has a brain injury and decides to live out of his car and then builds a similar situation in a tree while trying to live a more paleolithic lifestyle.
Any police trouble? did people get suspicious of you disappearing into the woods at night?
I dont think anyone noticed me at all.
Where did you keep your stuff? Like your clothes, sleeping bag and other belongings?
If in your car, wouldn't sleeping in the car have been more comfortable?
I kept a waterproof duffle bag up in the tree with bedding, water, tooth brush etc. My clothes I kept in the car. Sleeping in a car is awful. I had million dollar views in one of the most peaceful places with fresh air and morning sunrise. My bed was super comfortable.
and the money question... did you jerk it and just lean over the edge when finished?
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