Sunday, April 24, 2005

TheGoodReverend's Tour of Stanford

One of the strangest areas on the Stanford campus is Lake Lagunita (Spanglish for "Little Lake Lake"), or, as the students know it, "Lake Lag" (Spanglish for "Lak Lake"). The scenic lake--nestled at the junction of the main campus and the foothills, home to boating, swimming, sunbathing and all sorts of watersports, pictured on Stanford literature from the admissions propaganda to the alumni magazine--has only one downside: it doesn't really exist. Not any more, not year-round, and never any more scenic than several hundred square feet of mud, frogs, endangered tiger salamanders, thorny bushes, and flesh-eating bacteria.

On the northwestern bank of Pit Lagunita, across a gully, a line of trees, and a fence, is the Stanford golf course's driving range. Occassionally a ball struck by an athletic golfer will land in the gully. Rumor has it that Tiger Woods was the only one ever to hit a ball from the driving range into Lake Lag.

This is all well and good, but Lake Lag and the driving range are not the kind of secret campus spot we're looking for. There is, however, a tiny little getaway tucked in between: the treehouse. This treehouse is not to be confused with the capital "T" Treehouse, the campus eatery whose name is a pun on the palo alto in the Stanford seal and the Band's mascot. This is a real treehouse--the kind of backyard fort you always wanted when you were a kid. You'll have to do some searching to find it--it's back there in the lake's drainage basin in a huge old oak. When you do find it, be careful. There are several dangers of the treehouse:

(1) There may well be poison oak at the base. No fun.
(2) The steps leading up to the treehouse are precarious and difficult to manage.
(3) The treehouse itself is little more than a platform consisting of a few planks, some of which are not secured. There are no rails. To top it off, you're higher than you think you are, because the tree leans out from where you climbed the steps over a sloping basin.

Nevertheless, you can enjoy the experience. When you're up in the treehouse, you'll feel like the only one in school who knows about the spot. And you'll wonder where in the hell it came from. Some rudimentary googling reveals that it's been sufficiently widely known and around long enough to be used in at least one permutation of that Stanford scavenger hunt tradition, The Game:
The hot pink color suggested by John pointed one out clearly. It marked a location by Lake Lagunita, where after some searching Chris found a man sitting up in a treehouse. This was Nathan, who said he designed the hieroglyphic code but had forgotten the key.

Link. And a Daily article from 2000 suggests the turbulent origins of the structure:
As Van der Ahe and Markham began hammering boards into the oak tree, however, the police stopped their work.

"The police have stopped our awesome tree house, because they do not want to be asked why they did not know about it. [They] were really stoked on the tree house, but said they we needed a building permit," said Van der Age.

According to Imogen Church, manager for undergraduate housing, "People can't just start building without an appropriate permit. There is a whole process they have to go [through]. First the tree house has to conform to safety rules and [Americans with Disabilities Act] guidelines.

Link. Still, I have a hunch the treehouse has seen more regeneration than the Van der Ahe-Markham version. When I stopped by in Spring Quarter, 2004, scraps of new wood surrounded the tree's base, and recent paint markings decorated the house's surfaces. I'd know that shoddy craftsmanship and pseudo-hippie graffiti anywhere: the coops had been working on this structure--if not EBF, then Synergy.

Previously on "TheGoodReverend's Tour of Stanford" . . .

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Blogger The GraveDigger said...

That's not the only arboreal treat available at Stanford campus. A bicycle of which the license and serial numbers have been eradicated sits nestled (not to mention U-locked) in the high branches above the Mauseleum/Angel of Grief.

4:12 PM  
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