My Tree House Adventure

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Joan Lunden

Joan's Blog /

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When I was a little girl, my dad built us a tree house and we loved spending time up there and occasionally we even slept overnight in it! My dad was a surgeon but he loved designing and building things around our fly-in ranch, and a few of his patients who couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills loved having the opportunity to come and help him out. Those nights in the tree house have always been great memories.

So when summer was over last year and my husband was deciding what winter projects he wanted to undertake at Camp Takajo (his summer camp for boys in Naples, Maine) and told me he was thinking of building tree houses, I thought it was a terrific idea and agreed that his campers would thoroughly enjoy them. Thus the tree house adventure began for Jeff and his year-round facilities staff, who spend their snowy Maine winters repairing bunks and shower houses and building new facilities for Takajo and nearby Tripp Lake Camp (Jeff’s all-girls camp in Poland, Maine).

The idea of building tree houses was met with total glee by the building crew – this rugged group of burly men could barely wipe the grins off their faces! I have often referred to my husband as Peter Pan, at the helm of his very own Neverland – a place where all these grown men never have to really grow up. And certainly during the summer months when camp is up and running, and Jeff and his staff are on the playing fields and basketball courts and roller hockey rinks….and running whacked up relays and “make your sundae” nights, it confirms my “Neverland/Never grow up” theory about all of them.

Mind you I watch all of this with an envious eye! They have managed to create and live a fantasy life that parents everywhere read to their children about at night! Meanwhile the rest of us toil away in the hectic, busy world of suits & ties and emails. While others push paper and have board meetings, they are organizing color wars and swim races. While the rest of the world debates over “efficiency spread sheets” they are planning adventures – white water rafting, hikes & rock climbs, lake swims, and overnights in the tree houses.

Now back to the designing and building of those tree houses. Jeff’s building staff couldn’t have been happier with their assignment. They ventured into the acres of thick forest that Jeff owns which surround the pristine camp ground of Takajo. They forged a path and found the best trees, and then sat down to design three different tree houses. 

The first tree house they built was so high up off the ground, that when Jeff and I came up to Maine last Fall to check on the progress, Jeff decided to have them install a LONG enclosed curly slide, to provide a really fun and really safe way back down to the ground.


The second tree house they designed is two-story and has a fire pole for the little campers to slide down. It is just far enough away from the first tree house so that when campers are sleeping out in it, they can’t really see the campers in the nearby tree house and thus feel like they are out there in the woods all by themselves.

My favorite of the three tree houses was the last one to be built by the crew --- it is an Octagon shape and has a “rickety wobbly bridge” you must cross over in order to go inside. Each tree house sleeps about 12 people.

Throughout the summer Jeff sent bunks of his little boys campers out to spend the night up atop the trees in the magnificent woods. There are picnic benches below each tree house—and the campers loved this new outing now available to them.

Jeff has been promising our own children since we arrived up here in June, that they too would get a chance to sleep in “daddy’s new tree houses”. So with camp finally over, Jeff was ready to make good on his promise to our four little ones, Kim and Jack now 4 ½ and Kate and Max now 6.

Last night we all gathered together our sleeping bags and pillows and flashlights and set up our tree house. Before retiring to the tree top abode, Jeff built a roaring fire up near the pioneering building on camp (I didn’t know he had it in him quite frankly). We all roasted marshmallows and made s’mores and the kids absolutely loved it. My only issue with the smore’s was that it made them thirsty, and I didn’t want them downing a bottle of water, because all I could think about was how many times they were going to have to pee during the night high above the ground. Of course Jeff had thought of everything, so there was even a “bucket” out on the balcony which runs all the way around the perimeter of the tree house – just for those kinds of emergencies. 

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When the time came for our tree house adventure, we piled onto our golf carts (with all of our supplies; sleeping bags, pillows, lanterns and BUG SPRAY, and made our way to our “TREE TOP HILTON”. Lanterns in hand, we carefully navigated our way up the steep steps and set up our sleeping bags. Max brought along his new chapter book called the “Magical Tree House” which I read by flashlight. Then it was time for “Lights Out”! But Jack and Kim at 4 years old were too tickled by the whole adventure and couldn’t stop jumping all over all of us. It was finally decided they would have to go back to the house. Kate chimed in she wanted to go too. So Jeff said he would take them back. That left Max and Mommy alone on the tree house adventure. I actually thought Jeff would leave the kids with the others in our home and return to us, but when I awoke this morning to the sound of several Crows talking, it was only Mommy and Max. 

I called our fearless leader who had spearheaded this whole adventure (who was sound asleep in our cushy comfy king size bed) and I queried “What happened to our big overnight group adventure”. He replied “I knew you guys would be fine since I knew what an adventurous soul I married”. I said “Bring me coffee to my tree house please”. He did. We sat there and enjoyed our morning cup of coffee as the sunlight began to stream in through the windows, signifying the beginning of another gorgeous sunny day on Long Lake. 


I wish for all of you that you take advantage of the moments that come your way, to enjoy nature, to enjoy each and every opportunity for peacefulness and solitude, to take every chance that comes along to play like a kid. Nature, play, challenge, hiking beautiful mountains, swimming in the lake or ocean, camping out, or just taking a walk with a neighbor or friend is good for the soul. 

“Namaste”, as my good friend, trainer and Reveille collaborator, Beth Bielat, always says at the end of each of our workout sessions. It means “I see the goodness in you”. May you all remember to see the goodness in your world!

Categories: Joan's Blog
About The Author
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Joan Lunden truly exemplifies today’s modern working woman. An award-winning journalist, bestselling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, one of America’s most recognized and trusted television personalities, this mom of seven continues to do it all. As host of Good Morning America for nearly two decades, Lunden brought insight to top issues for millions of Americans each day. The longest running host ever on early morning television, Lunden reported from 26 countries, covered 4 presidents and 5 Olympics and kept Americans up to date on how to care for their homes, their families and themselves.

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