July 22, 2014

The Cinder Cone

 Throughout my travels, I reference the area I grew up in, the Columbia River Gorge, as a yardstick to measure a place’s charm and beauty.  After three years of living out of my camper, I’ve decided to set up a seasonal home base a stone’s throw from my childhood stomping ground.  Informed by my time living in the modest space of my VW and Toyota camper, and inspired by the work of friends like Jay Nelson, Tucker Gorman,  Trevor Gordon and Lloyd Khan, I decided to follow up on a lifelong dream and build a tree house.

I started working on ideas and plans with my long time friend, Tucker Gorman, in January for a cabin on piece of property owned by my family in the Columbia River Gorge.  The plans developed from a lone 200 square foot cabin to multitree house and finally settled on a studio suspended between two Douglas Firs connected via suspension bridge to an octagonal cabin,  35 feet off of the ground. Although competent working with wood and design, we needed help with the logistics and engineering behind tree house building and turned to family friends, Michael Garnier.  Michael is a pioneer in the world of structures in trees and came up with the Garnier Limb, a large metal bolt that a tree grows around and strengthens over time.  He told us what was possible given the trees we have,  large second-growth Douglas Firs, and plans were finalized.

The idea of building tree houses in the rain didn’t appeal to any of us,  so we decided to wait until summer to break ground.  One month ago, a crew of tree house pros installed the platforms and handed the project off to Tucker, myself and a group of friends.  We’ve been hard at work for the last month and are shooting for completion during September.  I’ve been documenting the build on my Instagram and on The Cinder Cone’s site and hope to put up a zine with photos of the build from myself and others that stop by and work on the project.

The Grateful Goats.  Two Soay sheep and three goats have been munching blackberries all summer.

Taco time after a long day of working on the the tree houses.

Looking west towards Portland, the night after work started on the trees.

Dean cleaning out the wood-burning hot tub.

Locally grown and milled 3×12’s for the foundation of the hot tub and the staircase stringers.

Rigging equipment and supplies.

Tucker lowering a limb and making way for the 16-foot octagon.

Stacking wood in the locust-framed shed.


Firing up the twin turbo tub.

Burning out a Douglas Fir log for a bath tub/dunk dank.

Trimming a 4×4 for a timber framed bunk bed.

Setting the glulams for the 28×16 foot platform.


Ian Weedman and his mobile tree-house building shop.

Organizing supplies for the summer.

The last month has passed in a blur as days of waking up balled in a sleeping bag, drinking coffee and climbing into the trees to work turn in to weeks. After long days, I fall asleep thinking about the day’s work and curious what will come the next.

Here are some more links,

The Cinder Cone,

Michael Garnier Treehouse Equipement,

Perspective Design Build,




  • Luisa
    July 22 , 2014

    Hey Foster your photos are great! Wondering what film camera you use?

  • Emilia
    July 23 , 2014


  • July 23 , 2014

    What a dream.

  • July 23 , 2014

    I shot this on a Mamiya 6 with Portra 400.

    Thanks guys!

  • July 23 , 2014

    sounds [and looks] amazing.

  • Sam
    July 25 , 2014

    Hey there, very interested in the stoves used to power the hot tub. What kind are they? Where do you get them? Got a link? I’ve been looking to make a similar tub and these look like the perfect stoves for the job. Thanks!

  • July 27 , 2014

    the wood stoves are called chofu. http://www.islandhottub.com/woodhtr.html


  • July 29 , 2014

    This is such an amazing dream. My wife and I are planning have the same calling as you. We will be leaving in the next year for a life on the road and then hope to settle down in a tree house when we are finally ready. Thanks for being an inspiration and a new addition to my reading list.

  • Tiffany
    July 30 , 2014

    I am attempting to buy a bus and live out of it and travel all over! I would love to get some insight into how your daily activites are functioning with lack of modern materials!


  • August 1 , 2014

    This is SO COOL. I love following your travels and this looks like a sweetass place to settle down occasionally. Awesome. =]

  • August 2 , 2014

    Jim and Rachel,
    thanks for the kind words.

  • Duarte
    August 5 , 2014

    You and your network of friends are doing what so many are afraid to do or don’t understand. Thanks for sharing this with the world.

    Btw, I’m going to meet Lloyd tonight in Santa Cruz: http://www.bookshopsantacruz.com/event/lloyd-kahn-1

  • Brodey
    August 8 , 2014

    Ive come to the conclusion that film photographers are the best photographers. you only have one chance to capture the moment. and you foster can! You are by far my favorite photographer and blogger.

    I know you shoot on a Mamiya 6 but I was wondering what lens you shoot with and also what it costs to develop a roll of 120 film. Im looking at buying a mamiya 6 for an upgrade in film camera and curios how much the cost will be…

  • Rosie
    August 11 , 2014

    Wow, that looks just like my beans selection! I *heart* Winco. But wonderful pictures–I love to see my beautiful home state being used for such inspiring projects.