Out on a limb overnight: Five great tree houses in the South

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Out on a limb overnight: Five great tree houses in the South

There is just something about a tree house isn't there. They start with the tree of course. They take us back to our fond childhood days of climbing trees, an activity that meant close contact with perhaps Mother Nature's most accessible bigger-than-life feature. But not so big as to be nebulous and impersonal like, say, mountains which are typically too remote and too ill-defined a landscape feature to elicit much of a personal connection. Rivers and lakes are great but often rather remote. There are usually hills close by and they're fun but still not as interesting as trees.

And then there are the actual tree houses. Neither my dad nor I were industrious or handy enough to ever build one in our yard but at least one neighbor had one. It was the site of many a secret meeting, pitched battle against various imaginary enemies, and long afternoon childhood conversations.

Adam Laufer knows. He has been building tree houses and all manner of other structures in the trees for over 20 years. He lives in a house in the trees of Weaverville, N.C., just north of Asheville, where he runs World Treehouses

"When your shelter is so intimately connected to a tree, it is hard not to gain the perspective of how much bigger and more magical the world is," said Laufer. "Tree houses can make you slow down so that, once again, you hear the voice of the heart and the voice of our friends the trees that give so much to us humans. Maybe we aspire to be more like trees, in their wisdom and acceptance, and just need an excuse to spend more time with them."

Now imagine sleeping in one fixed up for overnight lodging, in which case stylistically it usually (but not always) is rendered as a two-word Tree House for some reason. When they're upscale, as many are, I suppose one might refer to that as glamping, though yurts and such typically come to mind with that term. And not all tree houses – not even Tree Houses – are luxurious. There are those, like the Edisto River Tree Houses in South Carolina that are primarily functional and, though they have a certain rustic cache, are hardly luxurious.

In any case, there are lots of places to hang out overnight in Southern trees. Here are five of the most appealing places to do so.

The Bolt Farm Treehouse sits up in the woods on a 40-acre South Carolina retreat in the rugged mountainous terrain of Walhalla, just a little over two hours up the road from Atlanta. Bolt Farm opened its doors to the public late in 2015. The tree house has electricity and indoor plumbing and chic design amenities like a royal king bed, outdoor rope bed, 2-person hammock, outdoor shower, chandeliers, antique furnishings and record player, as well as offering organic food and genuine Southern hospitality.

Bolt Farm Treehouse, Walhalla, S.C., 829-894-4636, www.facebook.com/boltfarmtreehouse/

Treetop Hideaways calls its tree house "part glamping, part boutique hotel." The arboreal rental unit provides a private tree house bathroom with hot shower, refrigerator, memory-foam pillow-top queen mattress, climate control, toilet, sink, microwave and the Chattanooga area's internet service, arguably the fastest in the Western Hemisphere. Some of the outside wood of the tree house are repurposed from an old barn dating from the 1860s.

Treetop Hideaways, 576 Chattanooga Valley Road, Flintstone, Ga., 615-300-5173, sleepinatree.co/

A really good and convenient option for Atlantans is this beautiful tree house nestled in the woods not far from Atlanta Memorial Park. It's actually three separate rooms connected by rope bridges. There's a living room with 80-year-old butterfly-filled windows, a 12-candle chandelier, seating for six, and a balcony overlooking the woods; a deck with a hammock and dart board; and a bedroom with a pillow-top double bed, and a small desk. The house has WiFi. Guests are provided a bottle of wine and snacks. If you wanna enjoy Atlanta's coolest tree house, you'd better plan well ahead. Buckhead Tree House was recently named "AIRBNB'S #1 most wished-for listing worldwide."

Buckhead Tree House, Wilson Road NW, Atlanta, Ga., gallivant.com/stay/buckhead-treehouse/

If you want to go full-resort tree house, try Primland, the luxury resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains town of Meadows of Dan, just over the Virginia state line in its southwest corner. Primland has three cedar tree houses to choose from that sleep 2-4, 4-6, and 6-8 and neither children nor pets are permitted. Golden Eagle, Cooper's Hawk and Barn Owl offer luxe accommodations and amenities including things like private deck overlooks, king beds, 400-thread count Frette sheets, stitched quilts and pillow shams, a bathroom with soaking tub, flat panel television, daily housekeeping, nightly turn-down service, Keurig coffee maker and high-speed internet. Each offers its own different views from high above the Kibler Valley.

Primland, 2000 Busted Rock Road, Meadows of Dan, Va., 866-960-7746, primland.com/accommodations/tree-houses/

If you're an avid fisher or just want a true outdoors experience with a little indoors respite, Edisto River Tree Houses are a mighty fine option. Just a car isn't going to cut it to reach these special secluded tree houses. Each is back up in the woods on the river's edge and out of view of any other. They must be accessed by canoe as they are about half-way along a 23-mile self-guided canoe trail on an undeveloped river. A tree house package with Carolina Heritage Outfitters includes canoes, shuttle service, and trip logistics. The Tree Houses are comfortable but basic. There's no electricity or pumped water. There are torches and oil candles, a propane stovetop, an outdoor grill and dining deck, cooking utensils, futons and it's screened-in. You should bring a cooler of food, drinking water, a sleeping bag and pillow case, and anything else you don't think you can survive without. Somehow, for me anyway, that sounds oddly appealing. You'll be a long way from Primland, Bubba.

Edisto River Tree Houses, 1 Livery Lane, St. George, S.C., by GPS estimation but actually on the river on Highway 15 in Canadys, S.C., 843-563-5051, www.canoesc.com/treehouses.html

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