Experience a digital detox up in the trees

Ding, ding, ding. That’s often the sound you’ll hear around our house. My husband and I tend to be leashed to our phones and computers as emails come in. While I limit their electronics,  it’s the time our children look forward to most. I was worried we’ve become too digitally dependent.

I wanted to get us all outside in nature to reconnect, recharge and reignite our relationships and imaginations. My family decided to visit The Mohicans in northeastern Ohio, where there is no WiFi, but an eclectic village of cabins and treehouses (their Little Red treehouse was designed by Pete Nelson for season one of the show, Treehouse Masters).

Going into the woods without internet took some preparation, as we printed directions, prepared supplies and board games. We borrowed a Ford Expedition for a roomy ride to our destination, about 400 miles from Chicago. While it did take most of a day to get there, it allowed us to slowly disconnect from the world. My husband happily told folks he would be unreachable for the weekend. 

It was a bit eerie to see the GPS display go blank as we neared our destination. We were literally off the grid. Navigation stopped working as the trees grew taller and scenic hills rolled by. We powered up some steep hills in the forest, and there was our retreat. The Mohicans is a collection of different, adorable treehouses, as well as cabins and a Grand Barn wedding venue. El Castillo, our home for the weekend, is a two-story octagon-shaped treehouse accessible via bridge in the trees. 

The inside of El Castillo (Spanish for “the castle”) is quite homey, with a pretty glam bedroom loft upstairs. Downstairs is the kitchen (hot plate with mini fridge) and bathroom (standard shower, toilet and sink). There’s a high-top table for meals, cushy couch and a bed that pulls out from the wall. The windows allow you to gaze out into the trees and the adorable owl mugs made us feel at one in the forest.

My daughter was the first to get grumpy. Without her usual toys and entertainment, she didn’t know what to do besides pick fights with her brother. The next morning, my son was the cantankerous one. My husband, on the other hand, was literally dancing he was so giddy to be out in the fresh air, away from responsibilities, and building giant campfires.  

It took almost a day for the detox to take a full effect on the family. The kids finally stopped complaining and delighted in the simple pleasures of running through the woods, collecting sticks and hanging out on the swing under our treehouse. They held hands, told secrets and remembered how to just play.

The benefits of forest bathing are real. Slowing down and sucking up the natural, mossy air can melt stress away. Stopping to enjoy the amber, burgundy and gold autumn leaves can cause you to think about what’s really magnificent in life. Feeling the crunch of twigs under your boots and the sounds of birds singing can connect you back to the magic of the Earth. Time melts as pressures seem to ease and shoulders straighten.

The Mohicans property is peaceful and remote. You’re given a code to come and go to your treehouse as you please. The surrounding area includes the Mohican State Park, with numerous hiking trails, countless popular campgrounds and Amish country. You’ll also find canoeing, ziplining, horseback riding and mountain biking.

We spent the days hiking to Lyons Falls at the state park and exploring the various treehouses on The Mohicans property. The View treehouse features floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor shower. The Silver Bullet has a 1978 Airstream built into the treehouse. All the treehouses have spectacular bridges, which make accessing them both easier and much more grand.

Chef Drew Slane prepares food for on-site weddings and events. In 2020, he will be implementing a culinary program for treehouse guests. We were treated to a beautiful lunch delivery from Chef Drew that included spice roasted chicken and brisket, roasted vegetables and a Boursin cheese dip with fresh made Indian flatbread, served with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco.

Like a little addict, my son was ready with his iPad as soon as we left the treehouses. But the affects of our time amongst the trees continue to make a lasting impression on my husband as he seems more lovey and relaxed, despite the daily stresses back upon him. It’s easier to get the kids to play outside these days. As for me, I’ve tempered my usual exhaustive pace. I’ve realized that maximizing every moment doesn’t mean running around like a crazy person. It’s about appreciating the awesomeness that’s around you.

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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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