The treehouse near Whistler, BC that became a global sensation

With free materials found on Craigslist, Joel Allen built a treehouse hidden in plain sight on Crown land. Now that he's shared it with the world, it's going to be hard for him to keep it to himself.

The Hemloft, Joel Allen's secret treehouse near Whistler, BC
The Hemloft, Joel Allen's secret treehouse near Whistler, BC © Geoff Steventon via flickr

Definitely part of the Tiny House Movement, the Hemloft is made entirely from free and recycled materials.

After 2 months of filling his home with thousands of dollars worth of recycled materials donated through Craigslist, Joel Allen finally had all he would need to build the Hemloft, his egg shaped stealth mountain hideaway.

Originally a software designer, Joel had decided it was time for a career change when a fortuitous meeting with an inspiring mentor set him on the path to creating something truly unique.

Interior of the Hemloft
Interior of the Hemloft via Flickr, Runthesundown

"When I started building it, I was just a fledgling carpenter, living out of my car. Building an experimental orb deep in the woods, with no electrical power, isn’t the recommended way to ease yourself into carpentry. However, I was armed with a couple of the most powerful tools a carpenter can have: blind naiveté and supreme determination." Says Allen.

While a random hiker likely wouldn't think to report it, being on Crown land means there is always a threat of discovery by the wrong people, and losing the Hemloft. Afraid of such a fate while being buzzed by helicopters just before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Joel stripped the Hemloft to its skeleton and camouflaged it.

When that threat passed, Joel rebuilt it with the help of his partner Heidi. He successfully kept it a secret for close to 3 years, until convinced by a friend to share it. So Joel submitted photos of the Hemloft to Dwell magazine, where it was published in April 2012, marking the beginning of his global notoriety.

The Hemloft's kitchenette
The Hemloft's kitchenette via Flickr, Runthesundown

While still well hidden, there is certainly an increased risk of discovery now that this is a global sensation. So the challenge for Joel is to find some legal way to keep the Hemloft, whether that's privately or by somehow making it public. 

A situation like this raises interesting conceptual ideas about land rights. Long before the advent of deeds, mortgages and property rights, there was a time when you could simply wander into the unknown, choose a nice spot and park yourself there.

Divvying up land to the quarter inch is a product of the modern age and an exploding global population, and arguably necessary in many cases. But it's still hard not to long for a time when you could find a suitable spot, build a big egg in a tree and get a little peace.

Watch videos and read the full story here Joel's blog.

The Hemloft,Joel Allen's secret treehouse

The Hemloft, Joel Allen's secret treehouse
The Hemloft,Joel Allen's secret treehouse © Geoff Steventon via flickr