There’s something mysterious and slightly amusing about arriving at a place in the middle of the night. It’s the feeling of knowing where you are, yet lacking reassurance in your surroundings. The relief of “we’ve made it” mixed with “but I can’t fully grasp it yet.”
And if your destination is really secluded—so far away from the road that no headlight or streetlight can reach it—the contrasting views that appear the next day are all the more severe. What looked like inky shadows and dark, shapeless figures can completely transform at first light.
I know this shift in perspective well because it was my exact experience when I arrived at the Human Nest.
Testing the waters
Leaving San Francisco on a foggy summer afternoon, I got on the road much later than anticipated. This particular trip was layered with an additional complexity—I had recently decided to give someone a second chance and this would be our first road trip together as a newly reunited pair. What better way to test the connection than to remain in a confined space for multiple hours?
Blame it on nerves, traffic, or the need to appear unrushed and utterly cool, we finally made it to the Pacific Coast Highway just before 6 p.m. From there, it was only 180 miles before we would reach our final destination—a large, wooden structure that blooms from the side of a cliff in Big Sur, California.
The Human Nest seemed like such an intimate, beautiful place to test the waters of a second chance.
Built by local artist Jayson Fann, the Human Nest is a 20-foot-tall structure made entirely out of eucalyptus branches that have been bent and curved to form a giant, elaborate hideaway. In fact, every branch used in the nest was collected from neighboring land. Since eucalyptus trees are highly flammable and an invasive species in California, almost all of the harvesting sites were provided by local residents who wished to remove the trees from their properties.
Fann, who has lived in Big Sur for more than 25 years, started making nests when he was 13 years old. Inspired by the delicate craftsmanship of bird nests in the wild, Fann wanted to replicate that sense of security for people.
“Throughout the natural world there are numerous species of animals crafting nests for comfort, safety, and a sense of home,” Fann says on his website. “We find inspiration in the intuitive nature of nest building.”
What started as an innocent, artistic passion has since grown into a full-time career. Fann now sells his “Spirit Nests” all over the country. And while a few of these nests have been bought by individuals for their private properties, most are sold to museums, hotels, and campgrounds. One of Fann’s most recent pieces—a tall, standing nest made entirely out of driftwood—sits outside the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, California.
It was well after 10 p.m. by the time we reached the Human Nest. Pulling off the Pacific Coast Highway, we wound our way through a gloomy canyon lined with cypress trees. With the music off and windows rolled down, I thought I could hear the ocean somewhere off in the distance but couldn’t make it out through the darkness.
After a series of switchbacks, the canyon opened into a small parking lot for the Treebones Resort—a secluded collection of hillside yurts, pristine campsites, and one highly-coveted, man-made nest. After checking in and grabbing a map from the front lodge, we snaked our way through the trees, using our cell phones and the occasional glow from a neighboring yurt to light our way.
As we turned a bend in the path, there, located out on the very edge of the bluff, set off from the rest of the resort grounds and guarded by a small wrought iron fence, sat the Human Nest. Barely discernible in the dark of night and partially hidden by an old tree trunk, I didn’t grasp the nest’s sheer size until I was about two feet away from it.
Sitting on four stilts made entirely out of gnarly tree branches, the nest looked mighty but grotesque. An old, warped ladder leaned against it, and the only way to get inside was to climb. Once inside, all we found was a round mattress, damp with mist. Immediately we set about laying down towels, blankets, and sleeping bags. We worked quickly and efficiently despite the lack of light and the limited space (the nest is built to house a maximum of two adults). And before I knew it, we had nestled into our sleeping bags, the gentle wind passing through the gaps in the branches sang us both to sleep.
The morning brings new light
I awoke early the next morning, when the light was still gray and foggy. After getting my bearings, I started to notice the stunning details that surrounded me—the intricate braiding of the branches, how smooth the wood appeared, hidden stones burrowed deep within the confines of the nest. With just a little bit of light, I was able to grasp how unbelievable the structure really was. And best of all, none of the details had been drawn on, initialed, or otherwise ruined by the selfish desire to mark one’s territory. It’s nice to know there are still small corners of the world where humans can respect the beauty of naturalness.
Outside, the sun continued to rise, turning the sky from milky gray to a warm yellow. And slowly, as the fog began to drift and pass, another surprise was exposed. Through the opening of the nest, filling our entire view, was the glistening Pacific Ocean. I knew we had been close, but I had not expected to look out and find nothing but blue water for miles and miles. The view was unlike anything I had seen before. It made me feel small but deeply grateful.
There was something magical about being enclosed so high up—a great whorl of sticks, atop four solid pillars, overlooking the ocean. In the confines of our little nest, my decision about a second chance became more solidified. It was easier to open up, to share, and to confess when feeling so safe and so close. As we talked, I became vividly aware of our surroundings. We weren’t having these conversations in a car or a bedroom or a restaurant. We were having them in a place where real light shone through. Where the previous darkness now made everything seem brighter, more beautiful, and more hopeful.
Fann was right—his nest did feel like home.
If you go
The Human Nest is located right off Highway 1 at the Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California. Renting the nest starts at $175 per night, with a minimum two-night stay over the weekend and during peak summer months. No children or pets are allowed in the nest. If you book it, try to arrive at least two hours before sunset. All reservations include free breakfast at the lodge, use of the pool and hot tub, and access to the 24-hour restroom facilities (including showers).