When I first heard the words uttered by a client “Tree house right outside of Atlanta” I was intrigued. When I Googled it later — I was a goner. Tree house near downtown Atlanta on Llama/Alpaca/Chicken farm in a bamboo forest. This has GOT to happen.
Tree houses hold a whimsical allure for me. A place where you can leave your world without leaving your backyard? Oh hell yeah!
Unfortunately in my childhood neighborhood all that materialized were tree swings and maybe the occasional knotted climbing rope that led to a haphazard structure made from cardboard boxes. However — imagination and a crooked hanging sign that read “Private, do not enter” made these primitive wooden beanstalks into the intended reprieve from whatever 8-year-olds get away from. But even these jaunts were stymied if we got 3 feet off the ground by a concerned neighborhood mother who would shout us down: “If you fall down from the tree and break your leg I am going to whoop your @$$!” My sister (void of building skills and supplies) once made a earth locked tree house beneath a willow tree; it’s fronds swept the ground and curtained the world.
When I moved back to Charleston from NC, I already had an itinerary of local adventures scoped out and one, a tree house canoeing trip down the Edisto River, topped on the list.
That was 6 years ago and although I am sure I could do it again, the elements of the south damn near killed me/us on that trip. Think August, Charleston, bugs, vapors, lack of experience (I YouTube’d Beginner Canoeing) and — we were two old farts on an unguided 25-mile 2-day trek.
So, a true suburban tree house had its appeal. My lifelong friend from grade school and I reserved a spot, and I began to follow the Atlanta Alpaca/Llama Facebook page to familiarize myself with the surroundings and character of the owner’s and their animals before we arrived.
I must admit that I dropped the ball and got busy which led to several faux pas that wouldn’t have happened if I had checked it out more. Embarrassedly I huffed my way up the path with WAY too much stuff and tried to act cool carrying roughly 40 pounds (evenly distributed though) on my already tubby frame. Yeah baggage, exactly what I was trying to get away from. We arrived too early, which I don’t recommend at any time for check in, and we were prepared to park and talk, scout out the area or maybe go get a bite to eat. Kara O’Brien was in the driveway offloading plants from her vehicle. She checked to see if the tree house was ready and then told us to grab our bags. She did a good job of not looking shocked when I told her that I would come back for the “rest of it.”
Kara took us to the corral gate and opened it, she told us the names of the llamas and alpacas.
The Llamas: Dali Llama, Llama Mia Figaro (Figgy), Opie Van Llamschild (Opie or The Ops)
The Alpacas: Ariana Dandylion (The Danda Panda), Paloma Piper (screamer and Dandy’s mama), Sunny Shevoun, Caitlin Tastee, and Elfie Fay Von Pickle sprite (wee babe).
I giggled out loud. Most of them looked like they had just finished dinner and dangled straw that looked like toothpicks out of their mouths. They gathered around as Kara gave some brief but important instructions.
“If need be, tell the packs to give you their space, don’t pat their heads, they like to have their necks rubbed. Some are super sweet and easy and other’s are moody, but ALL love carrots.” she said.
They seemed to understand the huddle was over and we all went on our way.
We headed past the corral and their pens to the bamboo forest. I noted that the pen that was stuffed to the gills with hay and sported a chandelier for lighting.
Kara later explained the Genesis of the tree house endeavor. “I had a tree house as a little girl and it’s always been in my psyche. When we were able to purchase the property next-door and I walked back into the bamboo, I said to Kate Giroux (her business partner) this would be an amazing spot for a tree house.”
And WOW was she right! When we got into the bamboo forest, daylight became twilight, the temps dropped a good ten degree’s. I tried to wrap my hand around a bamboo Culm to no avail. Kara told me that the bamboo was old growth and had been here since the 40’s.
I’m sure the plans for the tree house came almost immediately after being uttered. Kara and Kate have diverse backgrounds which compliment each other well in business and life.
“Kate and I designed the tree house together," Kara said. Kate is the queen of hospitality sourcing high thread count sheets, rolling out the red carpet of snacks and libations. We would later enjoy her wonderful amenities. Wine, chocolate, fruit, beer, water, snack bars, coffee, tea, half and half. “Kate also cleans it perfectly and makes sure everything is in tip top shape.” Kara said.
As we climbed the stairs the smell of the forest and air was surprisingly earthy considering we were actually inside the corral and near the critter pens, add to this that it was a warm, acrid day with humidity so high that it would curl Satan’s tail. I actually envied the Llama’s fiber, their “do” was fairing better than mine.
But — THAT tree house! Bamboo for pickets on the railings, raw half sawed cypress tree’s as supports on the corners of the building. I must insert a disclaimer here, descriptions of the structure are from my novice observations, I couldn’t keep up with every nuance that Kara pointed out.
Inside and out the beautiful tree house is made up of a collection of salvage, or salvation if you will, of many eras bygone. All of which are woven together for the perfect “nest.” A mayoral front door, French doors — antebellum salvage both on the sides of the front door and back and also used topsy-turvy turned as a window. Light belies its privacy. You truly feel invisible with the dense bamboo as your curtain. Then there’s the antique lighting outside and inside, reminiscent of motels or speakeasies. But — those wood slats. Oh, my, gosh! Think haint blue paint for the porch ceiling and brown, green, and blue wood slats recycled for the walls and ceiling inside. Each beam a different color.
The amenities are listed on the Airbnb site, but let me tell you it beats all tree house conjuring I could have imagined. An old enamel basin sits on a washstand with a tin cistern and spigot for water to wash up in or rinse a wine glass or coffee cup. A fridge was stocked with wine, beer, fruit, water, half and half and CHOCOLATE. The counter had nuts, chips and breakfast/snack bars and a Keurig with a drawer full of goodies.
And what tree house comes with a bathroom, (of sorts?) A private compost potty! It is for NUMBER ONE ONLY! And this adventure came with one of the most hilarious text messages I have ever received.
After I finished unpacking I looked to find my friend (who had not packed as heavily as I) she was fast asleep on the gently swaying Bali bed beneath the tree house. I’m not usually a napper but the frequent trips to the vehicle begged respite. I climbed the loft and was lulled to sleep in the beautiful nest. We both slept a couple of hours and were surprised that we had.
I opened the fridge and popped the cork from a bottle of wine and made us a snack of cheese, crackers and blueberries. We ate and talked our way to dinner; Salmon salad with green beans, avocado, boiled eggs and dill dressing. We poured another glass of wine, sank into the Adirondack chairs on the wrap-around tree house deck and watched the daylight dip to the west. The day left peacefully and we followed suit of the animals around us and went inside.
I unpacked journals and books and splayed out on the comfy loft bed. To put it like a Gullah friend I had when I was little, “Good intentions got no feet.” I was out in 10 minutes. The rooster’s crowing announced daylight, well maybe a little earlier. I laid there and wondered if it were possible he was still on “fall back” daylight savings schedule?
After tea and coffee back on the deck, I gathered things and went down the path and through the Alpaca/Llama courtyard to the full marble bath. I was greeted by Yoda and Skylar, the adorable rescued dogs. The two are opposites. Skylar is a huge Great Pyrenees that is as docile as an old aunt sitting in a rocker at a family reunion. Yoda, a young husky mix, is the cousin who wants all the attention at the reunion. Yoda also has a unique athletic ability, (both my friend and I experienced). She has an extreme vertical jump and can French kiss you (seriously, IN the mouth) without putting a single paw on you.
The marble bathhouse was incredible. Amenities again; Shampoo and conditioners, soaps, even toothbrushes and toothpaste for the forgetful. Lush towels and that luxurious shower head and hot water!!
After more tea and coffee talk, we decided to trek out to a little strip about a mile away to the East Village of Atlanta, an eclectic melting pot of art and food. The rain came in as we found a little cove of restaurants. We Suki Suki, which is a global collaboration of ethnic food, is eye candy for the people watching type (me) and a haphazard, welcome refrain from standard curb restaurants. We browsed the various vendors and decided to try the ramen recommended by Kara and got the pork bowls. Incredible! I hope to try to duplicate it, but I know I will fail. We bought some Moroccan Baklava, they called it Baklaba to take back with us.
Unlatching the gate back at the tree house, we stepped in and walked the path to the bamboo forest. The normally docile pack began to show extreme interest in us. They began rushing over. We were almost trotting up the path. I couldn’t figure out why; then I saw it. My friend had a large water bottle with a bright orange top. They were thinking carrots. She’s a Clemson fan and we thought it best she cover up her shirt on the morning we left.
You aren’t at the Ritz, you are paying for a few nights of glorious novelty. Whether it’s because you always wanted to stay in a tree house, want to have a one of a kind wedding venue, anniversary, birthday or — you just want to get the hell away, feed carrots to llamas and alpacas and wake to roosters crowing, you will leave the forest with a little sigh and carry with you, like we did, a little mystique that will last a lifetime.
You may be tempted to stay “cooped” up in the tree house and that is fine and good, but you will have missed out on an incredible opportunity to witness hilarity, compassion and sharing if you don’t take a few minutes to talk to Kara and Kate. They are conservators of the earth, animals and purveyors of joy in all of their endeavors. They truly love to share their piece/peace of the world with you.
Kara is a licensed general contractor who got sidetracked in Atlanta on a publishing career path. In her tool belt, the accolades of a professional writer, PR writing for motion pictures studios and themed restaurants, freelance writer for magazines— she later started flipping houses and branded herself. These days she’s been dabbling in commercial acting and is about to film their third commercial. Her days are busy renovating, farming, and managing rental properties. Kate worked at Disney and Universal which set her up for her amazing job with Pullman Yards and in her spare time works the properties and farms and flips houses as well.
I can hardly keep up with the interest online for the tree house. I don’t know how Kara and Kate do. It’s evolving all the time. Kate tells me “We are shooting a major car commercial at the tree house tying the excitement of the tree house to the rollout of a new SUV. And we will be on Ultimate Tree houses with Pete Nelson in July/August.
And more weddings coming up this year too. And— A theatre company wants to put on Death of a Salesman in the Bamboo Forest!
I’m so glad that I added this adventure to my day-trippin endeavors! 2 days are great, 3 are even better. I was just getting into the “swing” of it when it was time to leave. The sway of the tree-house was ever so gentle, there were days afterwards that I longed for that less assured path. Book your adventure here.