Grown-up treehouse: Couple creates their own resort, zip-line and all

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 28, 2014

Welcome to the “Silver Spoon Resort,” otherwise known as Charlie and Chris Thompson’s house on High Rock Lake. Though not your typical resort — the stay is free, after all — the Thompsons have it all: Jet Skiing, tubing, kayaking, and new this year, zip-lining through the trees from a giant treehouse.
Yes, zip-lining.
“It’s like being a free spirit. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the wind blowing by you,” said Charlie Thompson after zip-lining through the pine trees. Up in the treehouse his wife, Chris, prepared for her first ride of the day.
Retired teachers from Pennsylvania, Charlie and Chris Thompson found High Rock Lake online. A perfect location for a vacation home, it was halfway between their family in Pennsylvania and their winter home in Florida.
“It only took three days here and we decided we wanted to live here all the time,” said Charlie.
With a combined five children and three grandchildren between Chris and himself, 67-year-old Charlie’s focus is on fun things he can do with family. “I said, ‘Build it and they will come,’ and the family loves coming here.”
Charlie’s newest creation, a substantial treehouse and 200-foot zip-line run, was inspired by a deck that overlooked the pool at his home in Pennsylvania. “That was where the kids took their popsicle or push-pop and hung out.”
Construction on the treehouse and zip-line began in April and finished Memorial Day, in plenty of time for the Thompsons’ “July grandchild camp” deadline. The treehouse stands 8 feet off the ground, and zip-line riders are suspended anywhere from 12 to 18 feet over the course of the run.
Designing the treehouse came easily to Charlie, who taught school for 30 years, 20 of them at a carpentry and building vocational school for high school-age students.
“Designing and building the treehouse wasn’t too much of a challenge,” he said.
For the zip-line, the website had everything Charlie required, including brakes, cables, clamps and a trolley. They’ll ship you the parts, but that’s it. “You have to do the engineering on-site on your own.”
So far oldest person to ride the “Silver Spoon” zip-line is 74 and the youngest 3 years old. And the ride gets plenty of action.
With 30-40 visitors each year, the Thompson house really is something of a resort. Chris Thompson said, “We jokingly named it ‘Silver Spoon Resort’ because we like our guests to be able to come here and really relax.”
Chris even has a logo and Facebook page for their lakeside retreat. “I invite people because we like sharing all the fun,” she said. “My goal is to have more visitors every year.”
This past weekend was no different than usual. The Thompsons had four friends from Pennsylvania visiting. Guest Chris Krager was afraid of heights but dug deep for the courage to zip from treehouse to the lakeside.
“It was awesome,” Krager said. “Just that first step is hard. I just don’t look down.”
During their winter months in Florida, both Charlie and Chris Thompson work part time at Disney theme parks. Charlie is an emcee at a special effects water show, and Chris takes photos of visitors with Disney characters.
When they return to the lake, their neighbors are happy to see them. A believer in what he calls “volunteerism,” Charlie and his next-door cohort, Bob Semrad, are recognized by nearby residents as the local “fix-it guys.” In May the men built a playground for the community, and can be seen doing good deeds on a daily basis like landscaping shared areas.
“Charlie is always doing something for our community,” said neighbor Debbie Scott.
For Charlie, this is simply who he is.
“When I worked at the vocational school, we did public service projects 120 days a year. You just do stuff,” he said.
A self-proclaimed kid at heart, Charlie takes plenty of breaks to zip through the trees and make plans for his next big project.
“Have I been a little crazy?” Charlie asked with a smile. “Most of the time, yes.”