It’s almost the one year anniversary of when I got the keys to my little haven in the woods. As I was reflecting on what magic this place has brought into my life I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the work that goes into it and the little bit of crazy that happens each time I come up here.
Like this morning.
It’s just after Labor Day weekend, and all the tourists have left. That late summer cold snap that heralded the approach of winter was upon us and we were snuggled up in bed enjoying the early morning sounds of birds. Our apartment in Silver Lake is on the reservoir that has been under construction for almost 9 years and has more recently been dubbed “Silver Pit”. We also reside on a street that people like to drag race down in the wee hours of the morning so one of the cabin’s most satisfying perks was that we could arise to the sound of Stellar Jays and woodpeckers and not the infernal Beep! Beep! Beep! of construction trucks backing up at 6am.
Imagine my chagrin as I was lightly dozing and this familiar noise starts to invade my sleep. I vaguely recognize the sound but it can’t be right. Maybe I’m dreaming? Or more accurately having a nightmare because that couldn’t possibly be the Beep! Beep! Beep! of a vehicle backing up. Not here in my cabin paradise.
I opened one eye and looked out the window directly into the taillights of a van backing up adjacent to my bedroom window.
This was going to be a trying first morning in paradise.
While the cabin is on a small dirt road and there is a large, well signed, public parking lot across the lake, people still weave their way through the whole campground, find the dirt road, ignore the “Private Cabins” sign and proceed to bring their cars to park directly in front of the cabin. This is sometimes amusing when you see these massive dually trucks fight their way down the super narrow dirt road and then realize there isn’t really a way to turn around. Their answer? Just drive right over my front yard or the shrubs and grasses. Because in a national forest the rangers just love it when you drive over the trees they are trying to protect.
Sometimes we get whole caravans of families in cars trying to get to the waterfall. This is always interesting as now you have a line of 3-4 cars with no place to go. There is a reason there is a lovely, large, parking lot across the lake but somehow our entitled nation feels as usual like they deserve the closest spot no matter what the repercussions. This is also amusing when you consider that they are all here to go HIKING.
The taillights were followed by watching this older man casually go through his morning grooming by brushing his hair in the rearview mirror. This at least was an interesting departure from the normal. It was so weirdly charming I decided to just roll back over in bed and not worry about spending the morning looking at a van instead of the lake.
That’s about when the screaming started.
As I rolled back over I saw two large wolfhounds leaping out of the van. They looked just like the direwolves from Game of Thrones. They were gorgeous beasts. One slick and black, one skittish and white. There was also another multi colored one in the driver’s seat of the van. Gave new meaning to the term “Unleash the Hounds!” Hmmm, maybe this was the Doc Brown version of Ned Stark?
Doc was very busy chasing these wolfhounds around and screaming at them at top volume. It was 6:45am.
Sigh. I guess I had better go out there and have a polite conversation about squatter etiquette. If you are going to park your van in front of my house, go through your grooming routine and let your dogs out, you could at least not chase them across my lawn at volume’s reserved for 5 alarm fires, alien invasions, and Guns N Roses concerts.
I opened the door to the hounds running circles around a tree with the man still screaming at them just outside my front door.
“Hi? Excuse me but the public parking lot is across the lake.” “Huh, sorry I’m short of hearing.” (No kidding.) “I was saying that the public parking area is across the lake.” “Oh, Jack who owned this place before you has been letting me park here for 10 years.” “That’s all fine but could you stop screaming on the front lawn, people are sleeping inside.” “Oh, sorry about that, yeah no problem.”
Confrontation dealt with politely. Morning noise resolved. Climbed back into bed for a little more sleep. Then the horn started honking. ‘Have the lambs stopped screaming Clarice?”
I did remember after the encounter Jack mentioning when he turned over the keys a year earlier that there was a man that would sometimes come by with wolf dogs. I guess I had now met him and inherited a little bit of an eccentric visitor.
As I mentioned earlier there was always that little bit of crazy.
Now that I was officially awake I started my morning cabin routine.
- Start the coffee pot.
- Build a fire.
- Kill the 2 spiders in the sink.
- Kill another moth and pick up the carcasses of the 2 I had killed the night before.
- Pull a cup out of the cabinet and dump out more dead moths.
- Wonder why the water pressure is so low.
- Make a plan to go snake the pipe again.
- Sit at the window looking out across the lake with my coffee to remind myself why I deal with #’s 3-7.
The bugs I was getting used to. That morning I was using a fly swatter to rid myself of a spider’s web that had popped up overnight when I somehow managed to catch a fly in the web that was on the flyswatter. I don’t imagine the makers of fly swatters had considered advertising this extra feature. Multi tasking at it’s finest.
Now if only the fly swatter would also fix the problems with the water system.
When we arrived the afternoon before we turned on the water only to find out we had none. Being briefed on how to snake the pipe properly by the plumber on the last trip up I heaved a heavy sigh, put on my boots, threw the snake over a shoulder, and headed up the hill to have a little chat with the pipe. The chat turned into an argument. Followed by a fist fight. Or at least that’s what my body felt like after I had to yank 2 pipes apart, snake them for an hour, and then use a rock to bang on the pipe in the hopes of shaking out whatever was blocking them.
We finally managed to get some movement in the pipes and although the water pressure was low at least it was working. I was desperate for a shower after the 5 hour drive and my extended debate with the pipe. The new showerhead had worked amazingly on the last trip up and I was ready for a luxuriant, decadent shower. That’s when problem # 2 came into play. Not only was the water down to a trickle in the shower but the on demand hot water heater was not working. The hot water heater that was sending out scalding hot, rushing water through four showers in a row on the last visit was now not working at all.
The honeymoon was officially over.
Have you ever taken a cold shower? Ok,now let’s say you’ve done that (and it doesn’t count if it was after a sweaty workout or if you live in Louisiana and are just trying to cool off!) have you done it under a trickle of water to where you have to stand in said freezing water for 10 minutes trying to get the shampoo out of your hair? Did I mention the water was from a mountain stream not known for it’s cozy natural temperature. At least it wasn’t snow melt anymore. I could be thankful for that.
We googled troubleshooting the heater. Drained the water off, unhooked the pipes, cleaned the filter with q-tips, took it apart to find spider webs coating the circuit board, and yes you guessed it more dead moths. How the hell did those guys fly in THERE?!
Somehow I survived this afternoon and settled in for a nice French duck confit out of a can (those French are pretty brilliant) dinner. Nothing a little French food and wine can’t fix.
The water worked at a low water pressure level for another 24 hours and then stopped again. Timing itself perfectly with my mother’s visit from New Orleans. She’d only been in the car for 2 days driving across Texas with her van loaded to bursting with a bunch of amazing antiques for the cabin. Running water and a shower probably didn’t appeal to her at all. Lucky for her she got to bear witness to “Pipe Snaking Throw Down #2”. She coached, she encouraged, we got it going again, we celebrated, and then it stopped again. We gave it a 2 hour try and then finally decided the top pipe was so corroded all the snaking in the world probably wasn’t going to solve the problem. I guess it was time to put my homesteading skills to work again and figure out how to replace that pipe.
Not only was the honeymoon OVER but some seriously counseling may be in order!
Luckily my mom is a good sport and we didn’t let that ruin our visit. She was there on the first day that the Devil’s Post Pile road was open for the shoulder season my favorite time of year to visit. Rainbow Falls was raging, the colors were starting to turn, and the park attendance was low. At least some things were going our way!
The cabin is certainly a journey like any relationship. One that is challenging and rewarding and keeps me coming back for more over and over again. Despite the spiders, wolfhounds, corroded pipes, and that little bit of crazy.