a grown-up treehouse makes me ponder my cross-country junk food binge

The final destination from my exquisite May road trip to the Great American South was the Hostel in the Forest, a hippie gathering of tree houses, hidden in the backwoods of Brunswick, Georgia. It was a beautiful place, the inhabitants believed in their beautiful lifestyle, and I left with beautifully mixed thoughts about environmentalists.

Out of respect of the technologically-phobic forest folk, I only took pictures of our tree house, which was a bit set apart from the rest of the hostel’s naturey outcroppings. But it gives a good idea of the unique and creative design that each structure possesses.

After driving down the long, winding, and incredibly rutted, needs work now, ispotentiallyacommentary onusingagasguzzlingvehicletovisit suchanenvironmentallyfriendlyplace road, we arrived at an ordinary parking lot, filled with a few cars of various state origin. I was nervous and uncomfortable. As excited as I had been to see the place for myself, my shyness set in, and I wanted to stay in the car. Plucking up all the courage I could muster, we headed up the trail to find the spot to check in. Sure enough, we soon found a pair of enthusiastic, young, hip, barefoot, oddly-attired, out of touch with reality and happy to be so youth (of which I often which I was one), nonchalantly engaged in a game of chess, as chickens wandered and clucked and pecked at the ground nearby. I felt shy again. Luckily I was with someone who is a much better socializer than I.

Tastykakes – a Pennsylvania delight, as enjoyed on the ride between Gettysburg and Seneca Rocks. Tastykakes were named as such because their creator’s wife pronounced them “tasty.” I find this earth-shattering. You heard it, folks: “With fresh icing and fluffy cake,  who needs boutique cupcakes when you can have a Tastykake?” Hmm? Anyone?

After checking in and paying our $25 per person in cash, we were given time to relax and feel at-peace before our tour began. The tour was a lesson on how to love Mother Earth. Gaia, for those of you more Captain Planet-inclined? Now. I was pretty sure that I already loved M.E. Mother Earth, that is. After all, I’ve spent the past six years learning how to effectively manage the resources our nation holds dear. How to manage them sustainably, if you’re into buzzwords. But here are some new tips that I picked up from my time at the Hostel in the Forest:

Nature loves your pee. Go forth and give it.

Nature doesn’t love city soaps, or anything with labels.

Nature loves Dr. Bronner’s soaps, with labels.

Square-shaped ponds that appear man-made are peaceful spots for finding your inner earth sprite [I found this to be true!].

I Luv Pie! The owner of Mrs. Sullivan’s Pie, Big Jim Lawrence, loves pies too, and is a pie fanatic. I find this earth-shattering. Don’t worry, Big Jim didn’t start this good ole’ fashioned Southern pie company. That would be Mrs. Earl who started it! Love pie?

Despite my misgivings about self-righteous hippie folk, I was fascinated by the buildings that surrounded us. Some were quite ornate. A bathhouse featured lovely tile-work, while our home for the night was walled entirely by screens. A new building, not yet completed at the time of our visit, was a geodesic dome of exquisite craftsmanship. Coincidentally, it was partially built by another hostel owner, who calls Maine home.

Earlier that day we had been worlds away. We lunched at a really great taco joint called Tia Cori’s in Daytona Beach, Florida, where I devoured three wonderful shrimp tacos. We swam at a heavily populated beach near St. Augustine, surrounded by sun-soaked individuals who were living in the moment. And yet after spending some time at the hostel, surrounded by individuals with proud mindsets and admirable moral stances, it crossed our minds that many of those around us… appeared much less at peace than the bronze gods goddesses adorning Florida’s sandy beaches.

Behold the Golden Original Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake, purchased at Florida supermarket Publix – a name that makes me feel uncomfortable. The eaters of this cake declared it “debaucherous!” After all, this rum-laden cake, with poorly-distributed but aesthetically nice-looking walnuts, is known to be the #1 export of the Cayman Islands. Don’t you want a 12-month Tortuga cake club “GOLD” membership?? It only costs $379.95. A bargain, really.

For this at-times painfully shy individual, having to hold hands while sitting in a circle around a fire and giving thanks for anything and everything was the most difficult part of the visit. Lunchtime started to feel as if it had been days or weeks before, as others waxed poetic about large things, small things, important things, other things. I appreciated that they seemed to care so much about… so much.

I also appreciated the greenest of green vegetarian meal, when it rolled around post-thanks. There was good conversation, my glass had margarita mix in it, and the Georgia evening was fine. Slipping away from the crowd after doing a few dishes, I wondered about the trip I was nearly done with. Could I justify the roughly 4,000 miles driven just for two weeks of fun? Was it possible to claim myself to be environmentally-friendly? What about all those trashy snacks I’d been packing into my happy tummy?

Del Sur Guava Cubes. Sweet little pâtes de fruits. Oh, wait. Look closer. My mistake, these are Guava Cubs.

I don’t think I feel bad about driving 4,000 miles. Or eating junk food. And I do consider myself a friend of the forest. Do I also feel inclined to quote a fellow grad student’s UCal Berkeley t-shirt stating, “Not all trees deserves a hug?” Yeah. But only because it makes me laugh… and then say “Too true, too true” under my breath like the crazy forestry student I am.

I was impressed, strongly, by the Hostel in the Forest. As in, it left a strong impression on me. My thoughts were mostly positive, and I was glad that we had been able to make the pilgrimage. It had been a planned stop since long before the trip was planned – funny how that works, hmm? In thinking over the goals of the hostel, I feel hopeful that they would consider my visit a success, because they left their mark on me. I hadn’t planned on blogging about this hostel, but sure enough, I’m still thinking about it two months on. And that, my friends, is true hippie love-power.

Italian ice, flavored like something and something else, from a parking lot near-beach stand in St. Augustine, Florida. The waves were big and nobody stole my belongings (despite everyone looking like hoodlums from my fuzzy glasses-less vantage point 150-feet offshore). This is where my weird sunburn turned into a weirder sunburn – drat that lost sunscreen. The flavors in question were strawberry and mango, b t dubs.

I really oh-so-strongly recommend the Hostel in the Forest. How many nights of vacation can you say you’ve spent in a tree house? Enjoying tree housey things while pondering the meaning of life? Pondering the meaning of life while ‘neath that old Georgia pine?

Oof, there’s so much I could say about that above link. Mullets. Checkered vest and matching guitar. More mullets! Fringe. Soulful knee-bending keyboard playing. Mulllllllets.

P.S., As you may have noticed, there wasn’t much Georgia pine over our heads at the hostel.

The Hostel in the Forest

PO Box 1496
Brunswick, GA 31521


All reservations must be made over the phone. Please consider staying here if you find yourself near Brunswick. I highly doubt you’ll regret it… as there’s nothing to regret.


10 thoughts on “a grown-up treehouse makes me ponder my cross-country junk food binge

  1. Glorious mullets and super tight acid wash jeans – my word.
    I loved this post.
    It sounds like a wonderful place to stay, and I do believe that junk food binges are good for the soul. Even for the hard core.

    1. sarah: Ah, the glorious mullets. This song has long filled me with joyous imaginings of simple country folk ambling along dusty, country roads. But now, all I see are mullets.

      It was a great experience, visiting the Hostel in the Forest. We were lucky enough to have breeziest tree house, which made for a delightful nighttime treat. And I made sure not to bring my junk food onto the premises – although if I had, I would have put it in a label-free container!

  2. My darling friend, you are absolutely forbidden to feel bad about any part of a holiday. I remember eating a six-pack of vending machine iced donuts while in a hotel in Memphis, and by golly if I wasn’t going to embrace it as a move Elvis would be proud of, rather than one my digestive system would cry about!

    Well done for breathing through the lunchtime circle… and I’m fairly certain I ate those pecan pies during my travels too :D

    1. Hannah: Are we talking about fat Elvis or skinny Elvis here? Because… I believe they were two drastically different animals. Neither of which grabs my fancy in particular, to be honest.

      And I definitely didn’t feel too bad about enjoying junky roadside treats. I planned to celebrate such things, hence the photos. It only seemed fitting, afterwards, to compare them with the wholly different experience of the forest hostel.

      I hope you enjoyed the pies as much as I did. Luv pie!

  3. Even if it brought forth inner conflict about distance driven and snacks consumed vs M.E, the scenery certainly looks heavenly…a real proper get-away from it all :)
    Also, I for one clicked through and OMG that mullet. The black and white film only serves to highlight its many curves and layers.

    1. Laura: You got it! After several days of endless people, commotion, and traffic in sunny Florida, a stopover in this hostel’s quiet nook of the woods was just what was needed. Tranquility is always a-okay by me.

      Hehee, so glad you enjoyed the mullets as well. There is so much to Diamond Rio…. so much. Like mullets!

  4. Loved this…what a batch of sweets…how are them hips doin’? Yikes, every sweetie looked good, especially the Tastykake–but did it have a creamy filling like Hostess Cupcakes? And those Cubs…mmmm. Your experiences in the woods were a very interesting and obviously self-reflective read. Thoughtful.
    “…neath that old Georgia pine”…girl, please! How much money is involved in those hairdos do you think? Wow, really makes them taller, doesn’t it?

    1. My hips are nice and padded, THANK YOU FOR ASKING, MOTHER. They have been properly antioxidantized (hmm) from the roughly six pounds of wild blueberries that I picked and ate this weekend! Perhaps I am exaggerating… but only perhaps:)

      Girl, please. At least 9 bucks is involved in proper mullet cultivation. Or so I’m guessing. Having never harbored the desire to cultivate one myself, I couldn’t truly be sure.

      Glad you like the look of those Tastykakes and Cubs. Cubbies. Indeed, the Tastykakes had a creamy filling just like Hostess’. But does Hostess have cheap square frosting laid on top just so? I don’t thiiiiiiiink soooooo!

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