Escape to a treehouse

05/17/2014 3:00 PM

05/18/2014 6:25 AM

Who doesn’t love a treehouse? The escape, the cool leafy cover, the feeling of floating above the earth.

“They can be very inspiring and creative and self-reflective,” said Wichitan Doug Clayton of DC Tree Climbing Services. Clayton is an arborist and professional treehouse builder. He built his first one with his dad when he was 14.

“Treehouses are incredibly beneficial, if for nothing but for the escape, getting off the ground and into tree space,” Clayton said. The beautiful and clever ones are also popular landmarks in their neighborhoods.

When we asked readers to tell us about their treehouses, the message we got is that they are family affairs.

• Clayton built a treehouse for Cindy Entriken and her two grandsons that overlooks Cypress Park. Entriken plans to sleep out there when the weather is nice.
• Emily Scott’s late father-in-law built a basic treehouse in the backyard in east Wichita for her sons. Her brother-in-law, who designs sets, helped deck it out with sails that pull up and down, a porthole to peek out of, a crank lowering anchor, and a spinning steering wheel.

“The family all pitched in as a birthday gift for the boys,” Scott says.

• Eric Hauck of Andover made a fort for his sons 14 feet above the ground, one of whose supporting legs is a big black walnut tree, while the other legs are 4x4 beams.

The fort is fully insulated on all sides and has electricity, so it’s comfortable in all seasons, with four windows that open, a window AC unit and a radiant space heater.

For entertainment, there’s a TV with DVD player and Wii, and outdoor floodlights allow for night-time play.

It’s carpeted and has a linoleum entry for muddy shoes.

The boys climb a metal chain ladder to get up to the fort but have options for getting back down. An 80-foot zip line crosses the backyard from one corner of the fort, and there’s a trampoline under the same corner into which they can jump. The fort has a trapdoor that allows the boys to enforce the no-girls-allowed-(except-Mom) policy.

“It is a fun place for our family,” Hauck says. “We have slumber parties up there and movie nights and game nights.”

The most fun thing for Dad is that he built it almost entirely of recycled material that he found for free on Craigslist or while Dumpster diving. The boys were allowed to paint the inside, which includes their hand and footprints.

• Mark Oxler has a treehouse in his College Hill backyard for his grandchildren, who can descend in a covered slide that curves out of one side of the treehouse.
• Seven-year-old Isaac Winter of Conway Springs woke up this past Christmas to find that Santa had given him some supplies for making a treehouse, along with a gift card to buy more.

“Then one day his dad, grandpas and uncles put the treehouse together,” Isaac’s mother, Melissa, says. “He had so much fun helping!”

Isaac can go up and down with either a ladder or a rope.

“It’s always the rope,” his mom says, laughing. (She uses the ladder.)

• The Rader boys of northeast Wichita have been building a whopper of a house over the last two years, their mother, Krista, says.

“It has five levels and has been built out of scrap wood that my husband brings home from his remodeling jobs. One of the things the boys like about their house is the drawbridge they built.”

• Judikay Boehringer always wanted a treehouse – and she thought it would be a cool thing to share with her grandchildren. Her husband died six years ago, and, the following Mother’s Day, her sons built a treehouse for her in her yard in west Wichita.

“It was really special,” Boehringer says. “The fun part was watching my sons build it.”

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