Bonding in the trees: A visit to the Cannaley Treehouse Village

by Mary Helen Darah

My parents, Jim and Sue Scheib, have been supporters of the Metroparks of Greater Toledo for as long as I can remember. It, therefore, came as no surprise that they would proudly support the unique Cannaley Treehouse Village located in the Beach Ridge area of Oak Openings Preserve. The Cannaley Treehouse is the largest overnight treehouse in the nation. Two of my daughters, a young woman I claim as my child at every opportunity, my soon-to-be son-in-law and I were thrilled when my dad announced that he was able to obtain a reservation for an overnight experience amongst the treetops.
We were assigned a six-person treehouse called the Stables for our overnight stay. The Treehouse Village also features a four-person, and two 2-person treehouses as well as three tent/hammock platforms in the trees. Upon entering the village an extremely wonderful woman, Aimee Newman, who informed me she was the “treehouse chick,” for lack of better title, helped us with where to park, showed us where wagons were for transporting our overnight bags and supplies and even tracked down my logistically challenged middle child who was MIA somewhere near Mallard Lake in Oak Openings.
The first thing I came upon when entering the village was the donor plaque with my parents’ name on it. I melted, for we lost my mom unexpectedly before the “COVID craziness” and having a part of her there was very comforting. We called her our “Ranger Rick” and loved when the family gathered at our lake home in Canada. Since we were unable to give her a proper send-off up north and share time in the woods together, being nestled in the trees was an amazing Plan B and a way to connect with her.
Rooms were divided and conquered and the realization that the shower gel we brought would not be needed (no shower) sunk in. Thankfully, a compost toilet was part of our dwelling, although it took far longer than one would think for our group to come to the conclusion that there was no “flusher”-just a downward projectile to a tank below. The structure also had electricity and electric heat/air conditioning. The kitchen contained a small fridge, a microwave slightly larger than one would see in the average college dorm and an electric grill. Also, the treehouse is BYOB (bring your own bedding).

My adult children quickly morphed into a preadolescent frame of mind and dumped their things quickly to hit the bike trails. The treehouse has direct access to 12.1 miles of MOUNTAIN BIKING TRAILS, not “bikes you’ve had since junior high trails.” A word of caution, a few areas of the bike trails are not for the average bear. My daughter, who did not realize that there were a few adventurous obstacles to conquer, had a memorable but thankfully teeth-still-in-tact flip over her handlebars that would have scored an “8.6” from the toughest of judges. Overall, they enjoyed the experience and the chance to get out of their comfort zone as they conquered new terrain.
Dinner time quickly came upon us, which, being the chef of the family, I took the helm of. I brought an eclectic assortment of munchies, marinated steaks for the electric grill, prepared potatoes I could warm up in the microwave and a salad. There are no serving utensils of any kind. I am grateful for remembering plates, and silverware, but I forgot serving spoons and (gulp) glasses. I thought we were going to have a territorial “Lord of the Flies” moment until the educator of the group produced a Sharpie to identify the six paper coffee cups that were on sight. Speaking of coffee, they have an environmentalist’s worst nightmare-a Keurig coffee maker. But when in Rome and/or desperate for caffeine, I succumbed. I highly recommend bringing an electric skillet which proved handy for sauteing mushrooms for our steaks and with a QUICK rinse off, scrambled eggs in the morning. By the way, sausage links are great prepared on an electric grill. My only culinary regret was forgetting the makings for s’mores. They would have been ideal for our communal camp fire. However, l have found that campers are known for sharing. Our treehouse neighbors came to the rescue with some needed chocolate and highly sticky marshmallows.
Speaking of sticky, the treehouses are supplied with 5 gallons of water. In normal conditions that would have sufficed for our crew of six. With marshmallow fingers as well as conditions during a pandemic (with a few of us still singing the little handwashing song in our heads for timing) we ran out about an hour before leaving. I suggest bringing an extra water supply.
The time of bike riding, hiking, card playing (dad was victorious in Five Crowns) sharing meals, enduring monsoon-like conditions at 3 am, and countless memory-making moments flew by far too soon. As we shared a few laughs as well as a few beers and a lovely Cabernet in the trees with our patriarch, our departed “Ranger Rick” was smiling somewhere above the trees knowing the seeds of her love of nature and her treasured Metroparks that she planted continues to grow through her saplings.

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