ASHFORD, Wash. -- From the moment you set foot on the trail to the cabin, the weight of the world begins to disappear. You forget all your worries as you begin to catch glimpses of the nature lover's playground at the other end.
"What we create here is a lifetime memory," said Bill Compher, owner of the Cedar Creek Treehouse, an Earth-friendly mountain retreat. "We don't want any unpleasant surprises, people thinking it's some kind of luxury type resort."
True, the treehouse isn't rich on amenities, but it allows you to feel as if you owned your own state park, if only for a weekend. It's perched 50 feet up in a giant red cedar tree. The neighboring trees that stand tall and the clear mountain streams flow nearby preserve an impenetrable sense of solitude.
"You don't need curtains up here," said Compher. "Nobody's going to be able to see in, unless it's a bird flying by."
Compher initially built the treehouse just for his family. Back in those days, just reaching the sky-high retreat was a challenge. The only way up was one long and narrow ladder nailed to the side of the tree.
When he transformed the treehouse into a getaway, he built a staircase five stories high. It takes time, but now just about everyone can reach the top.
Once inside, a wall of fame confirms you're in a very special place known all over the world and frequented by many.
"A lot of wedding anniversary couples, honeymoon couples. Sometimes a small group of friends that are real close," said Compher.
You're going to want to leave your laptop or any other electronics at home because there's no electricity here. You do have a battery-operated light. Your water comes from a well in Ashford and it sits in a 5-gallon jug.
The water's cold, but that's what you've got to wash up and wash your dishes. You've got an ice chest for a fridge.
"It's back to the basics here, just like camping, only a few more comforts of home," said Compher.
It's all wrapped around a 200-year-old cedar tree. Your private treehouse comes with a dining corner and a kitchenette. On Sunny days, you can hang out on the sundeck and enjoy the scenery, which is available from the bathroom as well.
You can also head up to the loft and stargaze or watch the clouds move from your double futon mattress.
"I had a full view of Mt. Rainier from the bed up in the loft, but unfortunately that's disappeared because the surrounding trees, over a quarter century, they keep growing," Compher said.
That's why Compher built the observatory on another tree twice as high as the treehouse. How do you get there? Using what Compher calls the "stairway to heaven," a set of steps that wrap its way up around the tree.
"After about 100 feet of steps, you're just about to the top," he said.
But before you get to the observatory, you still have to cross the rainbow bridge, which is less than 24 inches wide. You've just got to remember to keep breathing and not look down.
The bridge is only 43 feet long, but those 43 feet can feel very long when you're so high up and standing on a narrow bridge that shakes with each step.
But once you reach the observatory, you see that you were right to bear your rattling nerves and attempt the summit.
There you find your very own lookout point that captures a spectacular view of Mount Rainier. Sometimes you can also see some mountain goats as you sit 100 feet up in the air.
"A hundred feet. I would've gone higher but this is as high as I'd dare go," said Compher.
It's just high enough to take in a breathtaking view while letting your worries slip away. It's the place where you'll find a retreat through which Mother Nature will leave you relaxed, invigorated and a little closer to heaven.
The Cedar Creek Treehouse is located in Ashford, about 10 minutes from Mount Rainier National Park.