Treehouse at Grizzly Flat
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 by Frank Shortt
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The ladder, fashioned from slender, young fir trees stripped of their bark, has begun to deteriorate. This leads up to the “Camp Grizzly” treehouse built from discarded plywood, weather-beaten two-by-sixes, left by the previous owners, and plenty of sweat by the builder. It was built, hoping that whoever visited its portals would leave with greater confidence and peace than they had before climbing up.

She’s not too much to look at but has already served at least three generations of city kids. Her home-made and painted sign welcomed children as they ventured out to explore the acreage surrounding the Shortt’s Grizzly Flat property. To a small child the prospect of climbing the, somewhat rickety ladder, must have seemed monumental. Eventually, the most timid child climbed up as they saw the contented looks of the other children who had already made the ascent.

Grizzly Flat is an old abandoned Gold rush town four-thousand feet up in the Eldorado National forest in Northern California. The settlement, consisting of sub-divided lots of an acre and a quarter, some larger, some smaller, lies about twenty miles (as the crow flies) from Placerville, California known locally as Hangtown! Grizzly Flat’s greatest assets are evergreen trees aplenty and plenty of fresh air. Their motto is “Four-thousand feet closer to Heaven!” The settlement consists of a multi-ethnic population of about twelve-hundred souls, give or take a few, as some are not permanent dwellers.

Timothy, Jr. was the first grandson to grace the mountain home. He was taught how to camp, fire a rifle, shoot a bow, and how to catch fish by his father who passed this life when Timothy, Jr. was ten years old. The lot of being a father figure fell to me, his grandfather, who prayed that he would be a good example to all his grandchildren. Timothy, Jr. loved to spend time at the Camp Grizzly treehouse sometimes with other neighborhood children and sometimes alone. He learned early on how to entertain himself when no one else was around. He would often talk of spending the night in the treehouse, but this never seemed to materialize as there were night varmints prowling the neighborhood. There had been rumors of sightings of bear, mountain lions, raccoons, coyotes, opossums, and a few other night prowlers. The young are hesitant to meet night prowlers, especially while sleeping in a treehouse that was about fifty yards from Grandma and Grandpa. Timothy and the other grandsons did spend part of the evening alone in a tent, but that is another story.

The next two grandchildren to come along were Eddie and Katie who were one week apart in age, Eddie being a week older. These two grandchildren were very competitive from the get-go. If we purchased one tricycle, we would invariably need to purchase another as these two competed for who would ride first. Then, one of the tricycles had a bell on the handlebars which always necessitated a race to see who would ride that one. When it came to the treehouse, as to who would first climb the ladder, Katie used her feminine wiles to outsmart Eddie and most of the time went up first. When they were playing in the treehouse, we just let them work out their differences in Neanderthal fashion. Neither ever suffered irreparable injuries, so all must have worked out accordingly outside of an occasional sliver from writing on the rough walls with sidewalk chalk.

Along came Kenneth, the youngest grandchild! He was, and is a very athletic child. He had no trouble climbing the ladder to the treehouse, although a little hesitant at first. When I went up ahead of him and assured him there was no danger there, he never hesitated again. Kenny, as he was known, used the treehouse as his headquarters. He loved to ‘hunt’ around the property with a rubber-band gun, and as he grew older I taught him how to properly handle a BB gun. This led to his being gifted with a Red Ryder BB gun on his twelfth birthday.

Thank God, none of our grandchildren were ever hurt as they came to ‘Camp Grizzly’ for summer camp. Their grandmother and I tried to occupy their time making sailboats for Steely Creek, erecting miniature log cabins from small, fallen limbs, or we would do sketching sessions later to be painted with watercolors. A lot of quality time was spent in the treehouse where great plans were made, conquests were planned, Lego building was the norm, and if Katie could persuade the boys, tea parties happened. All in all, we are sure that we did all we could to make “Camp Grizzly” a safe and enjoyable environment for all who used it. Through the years other families have brought their children who were drawn magnetically to the treehouse. They too stood in awe before ascending the rickety wooden ladder to greater heights.

The treehouse still stands as a monument to the growth of all our grandchildren and other adopted city children! Timothy has a farming business, Eddie attends Junior College, Katie is at Davis University near Sacramento, and Kenneth entered high school as a freshman in September. Where do the years go? As for the treehouse, we will just allow it to deteriorate at its own pace and hope the raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and smaller varmints will enjoy it as much as our grandchildren did.