Tree House Hideaway

This story appears in the Summer 2015 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below.

Story by MEGHAN JACKSON | Photography by LINDSAY APPEL 

"It's like a Third World country out here, without the airfare,” Anne Kennedy says, laughing. It may be a strong analogy, but her and her husband Scott’s canoe locale, Carolina Heritage Outfitters in Canadys, S.C., is located in true backwoods, almost an hour and a half from any metropolitan area. With no running water or electricity, campers are invited to visit the outfitters and explore the Edisto River whilst staying in one of the three tree houses located around 13 miles from the Kennedy’s downstream home.

As a swamp river system, the sides of the river flood when it rains. The tree houses, built in 1994, 2002 and 2006, were constructed to give the avid kayaking and canoeing couple a dry place off the ground to sleep during multi-day trips. And it’s no happenstance that the Kennedys set up shop on the Edisto. After 15 years of serving as the marina manager in charge of outdoor recreation at the Charleston Naval Station as well as president of the American Canoe Association, Scott had explored every river in South Carolina and many others outside of it during kayaking and canoe trips. Anne attributes Scott’s Edisto attraction to its unique features, like the entirely sandy bottom and the length — it’s the longest un- dammed blackwater river in South Carolina (both great conditions for canoeing). “It’s a great swimming river. It’s relatively shallow,” Anne describes. She talks about the river with reverence, referring to it as “our river.” Which seems perfectly acceptable considering she and Scott act as keepers of the river, making it accessible to other adventurous visitors, like photographer Lindsay Appel and Jeffrey Wall, executive chef of the notable Decatur, Ga., restaurant Kimball House.

The Kennedys are more than a quick check-in and checkout to guests; visitors often return. “We’ve had a good time here with Lindsay on several occasions,” Anne remembers. The feeling is clearly mutual. Atlanta-based Appel and Wall have nothing but fond memories of their tree house getaway.

“It’s fun to remember how to do everything. I think both of our families went camping a lot when we were kids,” Appel says, as she and Wall pore through their photos from the trip. The couple took their time getting to camp, basking in the warm weather, stopping to explore over 150 acres of land and forage for mushrooms.

“We were basically considering it a reverse race,” Wall laughs, and Appel agrees. “They call that winning on the river! If you are the people who can reverse race and spend the most time out there.”

They describe packing supplies, finding camp and surviving without power for a night without a hint of inconvenience, a feat that may come across as difficult for most people in a technologically dominated society. A gourmet meal made in a cast-iron skillet over a fire, it’s the obvious understated pleasure that the two of them found in doing things the old-fashioned way — the perfect fit for the type of people with whom the Kennedys are happy to share their rustic paradise. 

The tree houses, built by the Kennedys and their friends and relatives, are made from local, rough-cut lumber. Each one sits around 35 feet off the ground. “This is actually when we were pulling away from the shore to leave the next morning. It doesn’t look super tall, but it actually is pretty high up, so you feel like you’re in the trees.” -Appel 

The tree houses, built by the Kennedys and their friends and relatives, are made from local, rough-cut lumber. Each one sits around 35 feet off the ground.

“This is actually when we were pulling away from the shore to leave the next morning. It doesn’t look super tall, but it actually is pretty high up, so you feel like you’re in the trees.” -Appel 

The tree houses, while all located in the same vicinity, still offer unparalleled serenity to guests. “They’re positioned in this really nice way where you don’t really interact with each other. You see each other when you’re canoeing down the river and you pass each other sometimes. But that’s really it.” -Appel 

The tree houses, while all located in the same vicinity, still offer unparalleled serenity to guests.

“They’re positioned in this really nice way where you don’t really interact with each other. You see each other when you’re canoeing down the river and you pass each other sometimes. But that’s really it.” -Appel 

While foraging in the woods on the trip they found plenty of mushrooms. Though most were non-edible, they did get lucky and find a couple that Wall was familiar with: two varieties of the chanterelle, the yellowfoot and black trumpet. “These are a really tiny version of chanterelle mushrooms, and you can always tell those because they smell like apricots. They were super good. We had roasted mushrooms with the duck that night.” -Wall 

While foraging in the woods on the trip they found plenty of mushrooms. Though most were non-edible, they did get lucky and find a couple that Wall was familiar with: two varieties of the chanterelle, the yellowfoot and black trumpet.

“These are a really tiny version of chanterelle mushrooms, and you can always tell those because they smell like apricots. They were super good. We had roasted mushrooms with the duck that night.” -Wall 

“There’s no plumbing, there’s no electricity. This is a propane stove... There’s a little ladder [on the left] that you can climb up, and the sleeping loft is right there at the top.” -Appel 

“There’s no plumbing, there’s no electricity. This is a propane stove... There’s a little ladder [on the left] that you can climb up, and the sleeping loft is right there at the top.” -Appel 

The smallest of the three tree houses maintained by Carolina Heritage Outfitters sleeps two to four people and the largest sleeps five to eight. “We were actually in one of the larger ones this time, which was awesome because we had a ton of space to move around and a huge sleeping loft. It was super warm during the day; we went swimming, and then at night it was just the perfect temperature. The windows are actually screens, so they’re open.” -Appel 

The smallest of the three tree houses maintained by Carolina Heritage Outfitters sleeps two to four people and the largest sleeps five to eight.

“We were actually in one of the larger ones this time, which was awesome because we had a ton of space to move around and a huge sleeping loft. It was super warm during the day; we went swimming, and then at night it was just the perfect temperature. The windows are actually screens, so they’re open.” -Appel 

Duck was the main course for dinner. Wall roasted it in a cast-iron skillet and then used the fat to roast the foraged mushrooms. Appel attests to Wall’s skill, “[The duck fat] makes them amazing and then crispy, very crispy. Then [he] roasted a leek and a sweet potato in the fire.” 

Duck was the main course for dinner. Wall roasted it in a cast-iron skillet and then used the fat to roast the foraged mushrooms.

Appel attests to Wall’s skill, “[The duck fat] makes them amazing and then crispy, very crispy. Then [he] roasted a leek and a sweet potato in the fire.” 

When asked about the challenges of preparing a five-star meal in the middle of a camping trip, Appel simply responds, “It’s so much easier on yourself to keep it super simple, especially when you’re camping and you have to put it all in a canoe ... It’s just a few things, but you make them shine with what they have to offer.” 

When asked about the challenges of preparing a five-star meal in the middle of a camping trip, Appel simply responds, “It’s so much easier on yourself to keep it super simple, especially when you’re camping and you have to put it all in a canoe ... It’s just a few things, but you make them shine with what they have to offer.”