nostalgia

Reluctant Pioneer

The day trip to the Cabin was a bit of a disappointment … because I hated to have to leave after only a couple of hours!  The walk in was slushy with dangerously slick mud hiding under the slush.  Whole chunks of trail slid out from under me in places, so I finally gave up and walked through the brushy kinnikinnick at the side of the trail.  The lake is still frozen, but doesn’t look solid anymore.  As the snow melts on the lake and above it, water builds up on the surface of the ice.  So to my eye it looked like open water all along the “ice road” that my neighbors use, and although I was assured that it was still plenty solid for a vehicle, I’m a chicken.  The trail worked just fine!  

My footprints!  Going back I took the slightly firmer high ground to the right of the trail

My footprints! Going back I took the slightly firmer high ground to the right of the trail

Doesn't look great for walking to me!  The ice should be completely out in another few weeks

Doesn’t look great for walking to me! The ice should be completely out in another few weeks

On my way out I stopped in to accept a dinner invitation with my friends, Susie and her husband, who live up there year round.  They had a real treat for me.  They had come across a book written by a woman who had come to Alaska in the 1940’s with her husband and two small children.  Amid the trials and tribulations of pioneer life in Anchorage, this woman found the money, time, strength and courage to build a remote cabin.  My cabin as it turns out!  I am so excited about reading and sharing this book that I’ve decided to relax my strict policy of not disclosing personal details that could give away my location.  But in order to learn more, you’ll have to read the book!  “Reluctant Pioneer” by Cecile Betts.

reluctant pioneer book

As we had suspected, the cabin is built from a kit.  Cecile had recently divorced her first husband and acquired the property on the lake after a round of court battles over child support.  The ruins of the tiny log cabin that I have long referred to as the “trapper’s cabin” on the property is actually the original dwelling that her family used when staying up there.  She reported that it was too small and the roof leaked which prompted her to find the Quik Log cabin kit which she purchased for $900.  She then enlisted a local man to haul it from Anchorage for her for $50.  She and her children carried the logs up the hill to her building site.  Over the July 4th weekend of that year a military friend helped her build the Cabin, which likely explains the military bunks that were in use there until just two years ago.

 Cecile unfortunately passed away just 3 years ago in California.  I hope to make contact with some of her family and already have a letter on its way to a young lady whom I believe is her grand-daughter.  As I read the book, I am finding more and more names of folks that I recognize from stories my parents have told about their early lives in Alaska.  One gentleman that Cecile worked with was not only the father of my dad’s best friend but he took out my tonsils when I was 11 years old! 

 I am so excited to have come into this bit of history of a place that I hold so dear to my heart.  I promise to share more as I learn more.

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How to learn to downhill ski…

Writing about the ski train the other day made me think back to the day I learned how to downhill ski. OK, let’s be honest…by most skiers standards, I didn’t really learn anything. Instead let’s call it the first day I made it down a hill with skis on. This was in the 1980’s and my then-boyfriend earned some mighty big karma points that day for his patience with me!
It was a double date. Both of us girls were new to skiing. In fact our friend’s date, Debbi, had never been on skis at all as I recall. I had a teeny advantage of having done some cross-country skiing as a kid.
The first part of the adventure was getting fitted for rental skis. Even slim as I was then, my chubby ankles – cankles – required that I get extensions on the boots. Embarrassing and frustrating to say the least, as boyfriend and rental dude fussed over my fat legs trying to squeeze them into the hard plastic torture device they called a ski boot. Finally I was outfitted and on my way.
Anchorage has a lovely little ski area called Hilltop with a single chair lift and two or three basic trails from the top of the lift back to the chalet at the bottom. The trails are short and easy, perfect for a beginner, but to us beginners it looked like we were going to the top of Mt. Everest. The boys had their first chore getting our butts onto the chair lift.
“But it’s moving!”
“JUST SIT DOWN!”
“Don’t SWING it!” (Girly screams)
As the lift chugged its way to the top, I was torn between the beauty of the view and the terror of having to exit the chair without getting bonked on the head as it made the turn and headed back down. Never mind the terror of having to get myself back down the hill… (Both boyfriends insisted that we could NOT just ride the chair back to the chalet!)
Luckily we picked a fairly quiet evening to do this. Fewer witnesses…
At the top of the hill, having successfully gotten both of us girls out of the chair lift and out of the way of other skiers, the real lesson started. Poor Debbi was the first to go. It went something like this:
“How do you make the skis go?”
“Just point them downhill…” (Exasperated sigh)
“Like this? AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh…….” (Long, LONG drawn out scream, followed by a distant thump and a little puff of snow as she crashed halfway down the hill.)
Then it was my turn. I didn’t know her well, but she seemed like a nice girl… How the hell am I going to get down this hill? I’m ashamed to say there may even have been some tears…
I was still standing there arguing and procrastinating when Debbi came up behind me.

Wait…really?
She was grinning from ear to ear. “That was awesome!”
“But I was sure you were dead!”
It was what I needed to finally get me moving – proof that she not only survived but was eagerly doing it again, complete with screams and crashes and laughter and crazed exhilaration.
Needless to say, I also survived and enjoyed myself to boot. If you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like flying, complete with the spectacular aerial views and the soft shoosh of the skis on the snow.
I went many times after that, though never often enough to justify buying my own equipment. In other words, I enjoyed it enough to deal with the rental place each time! When my knee blew up, my downhill days were done, but our evening trips to Hilltop and our one big (expensive) trip to Alyeska are wonderful memories of younger days.

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Somewhere, at the bottom of the lake…

My brother and I grew up in an era before backseat DVD players and handheld video games.  We also grew up with intelligent, creative parents who were always looking for ways to survive a long drive while boosting their children’s creativity.  As a result, road trips included the shoe box.  Inside the shoe box was a little pile of entertainment, carefully doled out so that it would last the entire 7-hour drive to the Cabin.  Mom usually included puzzle and coloring books, paper and crayons, and no more than one toy each.  Between the shoe box and the road trip games we played as a family, the drive was less hideous than you might think for an active little boy, a bratty adolescent sister and two patient parents.

One year the shoe box produced a little toy horse for me and a little brightly colored matchbox style truck for my brother.  Arriving at the lake, Dad lowered the boat from the top of the car and filled it with gear.  My brother was to ride with Dad while Mom and I hiked in on the trail. 

Can you see where this is going?

The wide gunwhales of the homemade boat were perfect for running a little truck up and down and making “vroom, vroom” noises in spite of repeated warnings by Dad.  Sure enough, a careless moment led to total disaster…the twinkling colors of the little truck were apparently visible for quite awhile as it sank to the bottom. 

(image courtesy of Wikimedia)

Children have to learn about loss, about not getting their way all the time, and about mistakes that can’t be undone.  My brother got all of those lessons in one fell swoop, luckily at the cost of only one small toy. 

We, of course, were entirely sympathetic as always!  (Children also have to learn about being teased and tortured by their loving family!)  No amount of crying convinced Dad that he should go swimming to try and find the truck.  No amount of sulking could get Mom to produce another equally desirable toy out of the shoe box.  One of us helpfully pointed out that the stickleback fishes would now have a toy to play with! 

Send more toys!

Somehow he wasn’t comforted by that notion at all.

Like the “Cream of Wheat Incident” this story is one that gets dragged out at every opportunity when we feel the need to further torture my now 40-something brother. 

Oh the joys of a family that never forgets!

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The Cream of Wheat Incident

So the sight of the Dall sheep on the mountain last weekend reminded me of the hunting trips I used to take with my Dad, and I can’t tell about any of them without sharing this still-disputed story about the Cream of Wheat incident.  And by the way, Dad, I’m telling MY version…

Hunting in the Talkeetna mountains is hard work by anyone’s standards.  The terrain is steep and covered in thick brush.  Where it levels out it’s usually boggy…and covered in thick brush.  When you break out of the brush, it’s often because you are blocked by massive rocks and unstable shale slopes, so you carefully angle your way back to the thick brush!

A bare and jagged peak visible from the trails behind the Cabin. It looks solid but a huge section of the right face fell away a couple of years ago

We are fortunate that the Cabin property backs up to lots of empty land, albeit mostly vertical land, where hunting is easily accessible.  (We are even more fortunate that our acreage combined with that belonging to the gated camp provides a bit of a buffer zone between us and the guns!) 

Dad and I started hunting together when I was old enough to follow him around with my little hand-carved bow that he made for me.  He never actually killed anything when I was along, but it probably had more to do with having his chatterbox daughter tromping alongside of him scaring off the game than any squeamishness!  I did get to help skinning rabbits that he got when he hunted by himself. 

Often mistakenly referred to as “goats” these are Dall ewes that hang out close enough to the highway to NOT be little white dots in the photo!

This trip was primarily a sheep trip as I recall, so we were way back in the back country of the Talkeetna Range.  The hiking was rough going in places and we walked for days it seemed just to get back to where we started hoping to see game.  Although I carried a pack with my own sleeping bag and some of the other items, Dad carried the majority of the food and supplies. 

We always had to be conscious that we were in bear country, so food handling had strict rules that had to be followed.  One morning, far into the back country, Dad made us a breakfast of Cream of Wheat.  Somehow he didn’t get the memo that I don’t like Cream of Wheat. 

…still don’t like it by the way…

No, wait, back-up…I actually loathe Cream of Wheat.  So much so that I wouldn’t eat it. 

Dad was – understandably – pretty angry with me since he’d hauled it on his back for miles and couldn’t just produce another breakfast to sustain me for the day’s hike, but … and here’s where our stories diverge … I swear he told me that if I wasn’t going to eat it, I had to go away from our campsite and bury it as deep as I could.  That’s my version, and that’s what I did.

His story is that he didn’t tell me any such thing.  He says he caught me sneaking away to bury my Cream of Wheat and then got angry…and stayed irritated all day…and for years to come.  I’m pretty sure it was the first thing he told Mom when we got back to the Cabin.  Not a report on whether we saw or shot any sheep, not a description of the beautiful country we saw…the stand-out moment of the trip for him was “catching” me burying the Cream of Wheat.

An all purpose tool for putting out the camp fire…or burying your yucky breakfast cereal!

This all happened nearly 40 years ago, and to this day the merest mention of Cream of Wheat…or oatmeal…or even breakfast, can make Mom break out in laughter and Dad scowl and shake his head.  Then the hapless person who brought it up has to listen to the whole story.  Both stories actually.

Dad’s story.

And mine.  (the truth, I swear!)

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A milestone in a marriage…

Got back Sunday afternoon from a really great weekend with my family.  My parents were in their glory as friends and far-flung cousins joined in their celebration of 50 years together.  Dad’s musician friends sat and played and sang into the evening, the younger cousins took off briefly for a couple of hours at the local go-cart track, and the rest of us meandered about, acquainting or re-acquainting ourselves with one another.  My free-spirited aunts were a big hit with my camping friends!  

An impressive shot taken with a self timer and a lot of determination!

Dad pulled out a bunch of old photographs family and of past gatherings, laying them on a table in the entryway of the apartment we were using for the party.  In one, he pointed out that of all the grown men in the photo (taken nearly 40 years ago) only he and an ex-husband of an aunt (does that make him an ex-uncle?) are still alive.  The women, especially on my Mom’s side, are very long-lived.  If I can dodge the family bullet of breast cancer, I can expect to be around for another 30-50 years!  Even with two bouts of that miserable disease and a terribly sedentary lifestyle, Mom is looking great at almost 75. 

 In the spirit of protecting unsuspecting family from public exposure on my blog, I won’t be posting any pictures of the party, but the drive to Soldotna and back was lovely. 

This is not a dog that had to be tricked into liking to swim!

On the way down we stopped at a campground to let Filson out of the motor home for a potty break and a chance to run for a bit.  The sunshine felt glorious and the lake was beautiful. 

You still here? Why won’t you play with me?

Filson found a dead fish carcass and kept trying to get it to play with him.  He would swim out to fetch his tennis ball and then would detour on the way back to show the ball to the fish…”you sure you don’t want to play?”  (Apparently during his week on the Kenai River he got used to the freshly caught salmon flopping on the bank.)

 

When the top buds bloom or “top out” we say we have six weeks til winter

The fireweed is especially brilliant this year, probably because there hasn’t been a great deal of sunshine to fade the blooms, although Friday’s weather couldn’t have been more perfect. 

 The day of the party, Saturday, the rain came and went all day.  Luckily, prepared Alaskans that we are, we had a total of four canopies between us, so there was plenty of shelter over the outdoor eating area.  Filson was a hit with everyone, even the assorted little dogs brought by other family members.  He had no trouble finding people to throw the tennis ball for him, and of course he loves the rain!

 Sunday’s drive back to Anchorage was not quite as nice as the trip on Friday.  Although it didn’t rain, the sun never quite overcame the thick layer of clouds.  Still, my stop at Tern Lake netted me some nice shots of spawning red salmon and king salmon (sockeyes and Chinooks) in Dave’s Creek.  And you should have seen the one that got away!  Friend D. came back to town Monday and said the kings were thick in the creek.  The red coloration occurs when they hit the fresh water after living the bulk of their lives at sea.  They are literally rotting to death as they make their way upstream to lay and fertilize eggs in the gravel beds.

 

Not good for eating at this stage, but beautiful to photograph

I was once again thankful that my Cabin is NOT on the Kenai Peninsula as I fought miles of steady traffic all the way home.  I hope to make a quick trip up to the Cabin this weekend.  Although I may endure some heavy traffic – 3 lanes deep and as far as the eye can see – on the way out of town at rush hour, I will soon have the whole highway to myself.  I lived in Los Angeles for a few months and I understand that some folks will find my definition of “heavy” traffic amusing, but everything is relative. 

Raven on the chimney of Summit Lake Lodge on the Seward Hwy

Anyway, a weekend trip is something to look forward to regardless of traffic.

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Pets at the Cabin

Pets have often been a part of Cabin trips.  As a kid I remember we had a German shepherd mix named Chena as well as two cats, PC (for Pussy Cat…original huh?) and Lucifer (‘cause he was solid black, another original.)  I don’t remember if PC ever went with us, but I do remember Lucifer being up there once and Chena always went along.  I was pretty young and had only recently been granted boating-by-myself privileges and Lucifer decided to join me.  He thought he was really something sitting in the bow and peering at the water as I paddled around.  There is photographic evidence somewhere in Dad’s slide collection which I’ll have to try to get my hands on someday.  Other family dogs included a Corgi mix named Frisky and the current Corgi named Bitsy.  Frisky’s favorite part of trips to the Cabin was picking blueberries…although none of his ever made it into the bucket.  Bitsy loves exploring anywhere Dad goes.  She hasn’t discovered blueberries yet!  She is the smallest Corgi I’ve ever seen (she’s itsy “bitsy” you know…) and if it weren’t for her bold tri-color markings, she would be hard to see in the woods and tall grasses.

Bitsy at 6months of age…she did get a little bigger, but not much

In more recent years my friend’s dog, Shortie joined us for several trips.  He was a big goofy black Lab who was unreasonably attached to his momma and she to him.  Actually all who met him loved him, including Mr. Chitters who considered Shortie his personal dog. 

my friend…purr !

Standing guard with my best friend

We spent the first year or so of Shortie’s life trying to convince him that Labs are water dogs and he should swim.  At the dog park he would go in the lake up to his belly but no further… wayward Frisbees had to always be retrieved by another passing dog or lost to the lake currents. 

One day I had a brilliant plan.  I told my friend “Watch this, he’ll do anything for a Dorito.  I’ll get him to sit in the water and then he’ll realize it’s ok to get wet.”  I lured him into the little wading pool in the yard with the chip.  Then I told him to sit, the one command he consistently obeyed.  Sure enough, his butt would lower, back legs trembling, tail wagging and then his private parts would touch the water and he would bounce back up, eyes on the chip the whole while.  It was funny the first time.  And the second time…  And half of the afternoon!  We nicknamed him the hydraulic dog.

Anyway, she brought this non-swimming Lab to the Cabin for a long weekend.  He hiked in with us, and then sat in the boat between us when we went back to get the rest of our gear.  Other than rocking the boat a little in his efforts to peer over the gunwales, he was a pretty good passenger, but he was willing to do almost anything as long as he could be with his momma so that was no real surprise. 

 The next day we decided that we wanted to go take pictures of the loons, so we elected to leave Shortie on shore.  That day went down in Shortie’s history as the day he realized he could swim!  Actually all of us were in danger of learning about our swimming ability as we fought to lift a 95lb dog into a boat.  He was NOT going to let momma go without him!

How come nobody told me how much fun this was going to be!!

From that day forward Shortie was able to retrieve his own Frisbees from the lake at the dog park.  He learned that he loved to swim, though he was never very good at it.  If another dog spotted the Frisbee in the water there was no contest…Shortie had to concede the race every time, which he did graciously, sometimes turning around as soon as he realized the other dog was going to get it and meeting him with a big doggie smile back up on shore.

He succumbed to cancer a little over two years ago and a little bit of sunshine went out in the world.

RIP buddy…

 

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Saturday, July 7 to Monday, July 9

Saturday, July 7

46F at 6am.  Clouds in Alaska often mean slightly warmer overnight temperatures, even in summer.  These ones also mean rain.  Not just a sprinkle or spit, but the real thing today.  Chitters is mad at me.  He’s pretty sure I’m somehow responsible for the rain.  He asks to go out then comes right back in and meows at me.  This was a game we played pretty much all day. 

I stayed inside sketching and playing solitaire and reading by the fire.  A good old-fashioned lazy day at the Cabin.  I can remember spending hours sitting across the little table from my Mom as she played solitaire, annoying her by pointing out moves she was missing.  Sometimes we would each have a game going.  If the rain was serious enough to keep Dad indoors, he and I would play endless games of cribbage.  The whole family would get involved if one of the board games came out.  We especially loved Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Clue…games that make you use your brain a little bit, but Dad soon refused to play Pictionary because Mom and I were an unbeatable team!  We’ve always shared a wavelength for things like that.  He would glare at our meaningless lines and wonder aloud how we could have guessed the word so quickly. 

Today though, it’s just Solitaire and a Kindle to keep me occupied.  I brought my watercolors and I have sketchbooks here, but beyond some half-hearted sketching, I haven’t done anything very creative this whole week – unless you count the really creative attempts at carpentry on my new dock!  And I write every day of course for the blog. 

The needles of the black spruce hold little pockets of rain that create another whole rain shower when you walk under them the next day!

The chilly weather was perfect for soup for lunch, and since Fatso was humming along, I just opened the can and set it on the cooktop.  In no time I had steaming hot potato soup!

I’m all about energy efficiency! And I’m lazy – this way I didn’t have a saucepan to wash afterwards

Unfortunately the rain on the roof, the crackle of the fire, and the closed windows meant I didn’t hear if the moose or the loons paid me a visit today.  It was a prime recipe for lots of naps though! 

Into every sunny week, a little rain must fall. I miss my mountains though

Sunday, July 8

43F at 4am.  Yes that time is correct!  That’s what I get for all those naps yesterday!  I lay in bed trying to go back to sleep when I realized I was hearing loon voices.  Two voices for sure, but softer and more intimate than I had been hearing.  Less a series of loon calls than a quiet loon conversation.  I looked but the early hour was a little dark yet to see anything so I went ahead and built a fire.  As soon as it was light enough though my suspicions were confirmed.  We have a baby!!  It must have hatched just a few hours earlier.  The parents were both very attentive during its first day on the water.  They were also cautious and kept it on the far side of the lily patch alongside the little peninsula.  (I think I will rename that area the Loon Lagoon.)  Between the low light and the distance I didn’t attempt any pictures today.  (stay tuned…)

A low fog rolled up the valley and spilled over the hilltops this morning, looking almost like smoke in the blue light of early morning. 

My photo tag says this was taken at 5:18am, which would be about right for this amount of daylight. If not for the fog it would be even lighter

Although the rain mostly quit, it stayed cool and cloudy most of the day.  I spent the day on cabin-closing chores so Chitters and I can leave early tomorrow before the camp gets too active.  In order to manage a reluctant – and heavy – cat, I have to carry as little as possible when I hike out tomorrow, so today I hauled a load across in the boat: laundry, trash, the cooler, empty water bottles etc…  Non-perishable groceries can stay till the end of the summer since I’ll be back as often as I can manage it. 

Chitters was safely locked in the cabin for my boat trip, so I took a detour on the way back and wandered down to the end of the lake.  The sun actually came out briefly so I enjoyed a chance to just row around and look at the lake from a different perspective.  The loons stayed out of sight in Loon Lagoon.  Although they are pretty trusting of me when I’m in the boat, the chick is too young yet to manage the windy conditions on the water that I began experiencing.  The sun had indeed made an appearance, but the clouds just became thunderheads and soon rolled back over the lake to spit at me as I hustled to row back to my dock.  I pulled the boat out and flipped it and tidied up my construction area.

As evening approached the sun dropped below the clouds and brought me a rainbow as a perfect farewell for the last day of my stay.

The mountains are back and how pretty they are with a rainbow to dress them up!

 Monday, July 9

The camp was noisy this morning with kids moving in for their week-long vacations.  I medicated Chitters with the other half of that children’s Benadryl before doing the final closing chores; pulling curtains, bringing in the rugs, making the bed, etc.  A sudden lull in activity across the lake spurred me to quickly lock up and get a leash on Chitters.  As before, after a few hundred yards, he would head off the trail or hunker down and refuse to walk, forcing me to carry him for a short distance before he would resume under his own power and in the right direction. 

We made it out to the car with a minimum of fuss in spite of a noisy group of girls that startled him.  I carried him past them to my car, earning a few unintended scratches along the way as he squirmed to get free.  Once in his carrier he settled down immediately and slept all the way home.  Another year’s vacation at the Cabin is behind us, but there are some good weekends yet to come I’m sure…

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GET THE SALT!

When I was five and a half years old, my Ganny told me one day that Mom and Dad were bringing home a baby brother from the hospital.  I promptly went and hid my new pack of gum!

My brother was (and still is at 40+) all boy from the word go.  Rough and ready and smart and big hearted.  If today’s standards of watchfulness were in place back then, my parents would have been questioned regularly over his many scrapes and bruises.

Because of the difference in our ages we didn’t have a lot of years at the Cabin where we actually played together.  I do remember a really good hike that we took, just the two of us, before summer jobs kept me from going with the rest of them.  We took the boat across the lake, pulled it out, scrambled up the steep bank and just explored until suddenly we were on the edge of a deep gorge overlooking a big, fast running creek.  We found a trail down to the creek and splashed around some and then made our way back up and out of the woods to the lake.  I have tried twice to find that trail again and still haven’t managed it.

A favorite camera subject at the Cabin

We spent a lot of time down on the dock, though the water was cold for swimming even on the warmest days.  One day I gave up on catching sticklebacks and swimming and was just sitting on the dock.  My brother was wading, slowly getting used to the cold so that he could swim.  He was probably about 5 or 6 years old.  I would taunt him about taking so long; he would retort that he wasn’t going to give up like I had.  This went on for awhile before he did give up, climbing out onto the dock beside me.  We were both shocked to see that the lower half of his body was covered in tiny little leeches.  He had gotten into a nest of babies apparently and they found him tasty.

Mom remembers me screaming “GET THE SALT!  GET THE SALT!” over and over again as we raced up the hill to the Cabin.  I was sent inside and ordered not to look while they stripped him down right there on the deck and salted him.  In my pre-adolescent innocence the salt made me think to say “mama mia, thatsa spicy meatball” after some TV ad. 

 

Hysterical child, smart mouthed big sister and parents choking between laughter and sympathy!

Sorry dude!  Hopefully it’s funnier for you now than it was then!

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A Magical Morning

Many years ago, I worked at a photo lab with several other outdoorsy women.  (This was before digital photography!) I had recently gotten my own set of keys to the Cabin after not having gone for a few years, so I enthusiastically convinced two friends to join me for a weekend in late August.  The 90 minute drive was closer to 3 hours with three photographers in the car! 

Along the way, I realized that I didn’t have the right set of keys.  I broke it to my friends, but they were game to go on.  We all had sleeping bags and plenty of snacks and the weather was glorious so we camped out on the deck, drinking wine and enjoying the quiet of the lake as the sun went down.  In the morning coffee was prepared by means of a tiny camp stove that one of the girls always carried in her backpack.  We breakfasted on the remainder of the crackers and cheese and then decided to go up the hill to check out the view.  The weather was still cooperating, actually unseasonably warm and dry for August.  We huffed and puffed up the nearly vertical path to the blueberry trail above the Cabin.  There we paused to rest perched on the random boulders that litter the hillside. 

View from about halfway up to the blueberry trail

The view from that trail is beyond spectacular.  The whole valley lays before you framed by purple mountains, ice blue glaciers and the dark mirror of the lake.  The foreground is idyllic as well with white quaking aspen trees marching down the hillside before us, their silvery leaves fluttering in the breeze.  The forest floor is done in a thousand shades of green accented with orange and red berries of kinnikinnik and cranberries.  We burned several rolls of film between the three of us and then just rested quietly enjoying the early morning view. 

Colorful foliage

White columns of Birch and Aspen are more dominant as you go higher. This shot was taken in September of last year

The acoustics of an alpine lake are unique.  Although the camp is nearly a mile away from where we were perched on the mountainside we could hear occasional voices as people made their way to church.  Services were announced with a pealing of bells from their bell tower and then a perfect a capella chorus of Amazing Grace drifted up to us.  We were rendered speechless. 

That was nearly twenty years ago.  Since then I have listened every Sunday morning that I’ve been up there and have never heard them singing.  It was just simply a magical moment, never to be repeated.

Needless to say I didn’t have any trouble convincing those girls to go back to the Cabin.  One of them has since passed away and I’ve sadly lost contact with the other one.  But for a few years we made regular trips, not only to the Cabin, but all over the road system of South Central Alaska.  There are a number of great road trip stories that will make it to this blog I’m sure!

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Hide-a-Bed Hijinx!

I love bringing friends to the Cabin, especially that first time.  There is something exhilarating about seeing everything through the eyes of someone who is seeing it for the first time.  When the four of us were making regular trips as a family we didn’t really have space to have visitors as a rule.  But there were exceptions as I recall…

The full bed in the center of the floor is an old hide-a-bed that has had the back and arms removed.   It once had the ability to fold up like any normal hide-a-bed.   However, it was such a lovely target when jumping from the top bunk that it soon developed the “ability” to fold up all on its own – unexpectedly!  It had become a kind of a giant venus flytrap.  This was inconvenient (and startling!) of course, but it provided a great opportunity to play a joke on a visitor. 

An old school friend of Dad’s came out with his wife to visit us at the Cabin one afternoon.  We giggled and planned (okay, maybe Dad didn’t giggle…) and when they arrived, we got Mrs. M to sit in the exact spot that was known to trigger the folding of the bed. 

The new bunks I put in last summer - The mattresses came up the next weekend

Nothing happened. 

We sat and bounced on the other side, my brother and I somehow trying to bounce on a bed and still act nonchalant! 

Nothing happened. 

We even dove from the top bunk, trying to hit that sweet spot that we knew would fold the bed. 

Nothing happened, other than having to finally explain what we were trying to do.  As I recall, we never did succeed in folding Mrs. M up into that crazy couch. 

Dad eventually nailed the feet of the bed to 2×4 rails so that it is now just a bed.  No more hijinx!  Of course after 40 years it is doomed to soon be hauled away.  It will be replaced by something that can once again fold up out of the way and provide seating (stable and non-folding!) for guests. 

I know that Mom in particular is worried that I’ll be making a lot of changes to the Cabin, but I suspect even she won’t really miss the hide-a-bed!

Categories: nostalgia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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