Walking down this residential road in a quiet area of the lake, you would never guess that hidden just a short distance into the woods is a magical place. Even if you had heard a rumor that it existed, you probably would never find it, unless you were prepared to wade through knee deep mud and water, cross a small river and fight through five foot high stinging nettles. Even then, you still may never find it.
Four days ago, there was a knock on my door. Lucy went wild, barking and letting me know that people were here at the cabin. (We rarely get visitors.) As I opened the door, I saw five smiling faces. Glancing down, I saw five pairs of rubber-booted feet. The children introduced themselves and explained that they were building a fort. They were wondering if I had any plywood or any other materials I could donate to their project. Their request came at the perfect time as I had just begun sorting through the scrap wood I had inherited when we bought this place in order to see what I could salvage for the chicken coop. I invited them out back to show them the wood. Lucy was unsure of them at first. She barked for the first few minutes, then cautiously sniffed each child, one by one, while we pretended not to notice. A few minutes later, she had five new lifelong friends. The kids petted her, played with her, scratched her and got her to do all kinds of tricks. Lucy just soaked up the love and attention like a sponge.
Meanwhile, behind the cabin, the kids took a look at what I had and found some things that were useful for their project: two small railings, broken pieces of corrugated roofing, a small roll of discarded carpet, wood of various sizes, even a pair of crutches. They left, carrying one large piece of plywood and the roll of carpet. Then they returned with a wheel barrel and a little red wagon to haul the smaller pieces. They thanked me and said that when they were finished the fort, they would invite me over to come and see it.
Just three days later there was another knock at the door. My new friends were back and were ready to show me the fort, which they had just completed that afternoon. I grabbed my camera, jumped into my rubber boots and headed off down the road with them (leaving Lucy behind. ‘Sorry my girl, too muddy!’). I followed them down the road, then we turned off onto a trail leading into the woods. We walked, waded through deep water and mud, ducking under tree branches and tried to avoid the stinging nettles along the path.
We continued to walk, crossing a small river and as the path turned around a bend, I saw the fort and it took my breath away.
It was magnificent. The most splendid fort I have ever seen, far better than the ones I built when I was younger. The fort was two stories tall and nestled in between the thick curving branches of a tree, which added to the stability of the structure.
The lower floor has a bright green door. Inside, there is a bench and a shelf holding a bucket and soap to wash your hands. Believe it or not, this fort has running water! Rigged up above is a bucket to catch rainwater. There is even a stainer to filter the water before it flows down.
Also inside the lower floor is a small window made from a natural gap between the boards and covered with a piece of snowmobile windshield, cut perfectly to size.
There are two sets of ladders leading up to the second level, one made of lumber and the other made of tree branches. Upstairs, there are three places to hang out: the main open area, a small side area with railings (pictured below), and the roof, which is carpeted and very comfortable.
The floor of the main open area (above) also serves to shelter an area down below. There is even a handy place to hang your coat. I was invited to climb up to the second floor and was amazed at how solid and stable everything was. The kids explained that they used screws, nails and even string to hold it all together. If you look closely at the structure, you can see the resourcefulness of these builders as they used everything, from crutches and broom handles to scrap lumber and tree branches to build this fort. Many of these materials were probably headed to the landfill but instead were now put to good use in the making of this beautiful, solid, weatherproof, top secret fort.Off to one side of the fort is a bridge to cross the river (the water is low at the moment) and a length of rope serves as a handrail.
Beside this is one of three sturdy swings.
I was so impressed with their handiwork! The fort really demonstrates the creativity and problem-solving abilities of my five new friends! Even the spot they chose for the fort felt very magical, surrounded by river and woods and with a large tree wrapping around it. This tree provides shelter and a place to walk on without having to touch the muddy ground. Impressed, I complimented each of them on their building skills.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, they asked if I would like to see the dance floor. Dance floor??? Yes, this fort has it all! Very close by, propped up on (and nailed to) two saw horses was a very stable piece of plywood, just big enough for a small group of people to dance on underneath the stars.
I would like to thank my new friends, M,M, K, E and J for allowing me to contribute some materials to their amazing fort and for inviting me over to see it. (Sorry, I cannot tell you, dear readers, where it is located as I am sworn to secrecy.) It was a delight to see that my old, discarded materials were now useful, appreciated and given a new life in your fort. It was a pleasure to meet you all and spend time with you. I hope to come back again soon, take off my rubber boots, and boogie, once more, on your dance floor!