Posts Tagged With: cabin

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.

Categories: cabin, nostalgia | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Where is that lottery ticket?

I have given some thought to the total cost of this mid-life crisis (aka “retirement dream”) of mine.  For those who have built cabins, feel free to comment on my unrealistic projections!  For those who haven’t, understand that this is VERY rough…I’m sure that I’m in for some expensive surprises along the way.

If you visit Friesen’s website, you will see that the Plan 5 in a 20×24 with T-111 siding starts at $20,120.00.  If I’m reading the specs correctly, this includes the pilings, the floor, basic framing of outer walls, door(s), windows, and a metal roof. 

A sample of a plan 5 cabin built by Jay Friesen's crew.  Mine will be slightly larger and will have a deck and an extended roof over the front door

A sample of a plan 5 cabin built by Jay Friesen’s crew. Mine will be slightly larger and will have a deck and an extended roof over the front door

It does not include: insulation under the floors (approx $1368), one extra 4×4’ window ($368), 8×24’ deck ($3409), and a 4’ extended overhang at one end of the roof ($855).  It also doesn’t include installation of a chimney (no cost given) or the added costs due to the remote off-road location (I assume a number in the $1000’s). 

All told, I’m looking at right around $30,000 for the shell of a cabin.  Other expenses I will have to manage piecemeal (doing most of the work myself) will include: interior insulation, drywall and paint, the new woodstove, flooring, appliances, cupboards and fixtures for kitchen and bath, and lastly, furniture.    

For plumbing, I am researching eco-friendly grey-water disposal systems that won’t necessitate a septic tank.  This will be another Do-It-Yourself project.  The composting toilet is – so far – working out just fine which will save the need for a “black water” disposal system.  (For an amusing review of the Nature’s Head toilet that I currently use, visit the Good Luck Duck.   They use theirs in a big RV and have enjoyed not having to deal with the icky splish splash dumping of black water!)

Research is on-going as to feasibility and costs for electric but it will also be eco-friendly as far as I’m able.  Solar panels (iffy in winter with 4 hours per day of daylight!) and possibly a thermo-electric generator are possibilities, supplemented by my propane generator.  (The Kimberly Woodstove that I want supposedly has an optional thermo-electric accessory.)  Off-grid living isn’t a matter of choice on my property!

As I review and edit this post I realize that I’m going to be sitting at a desk for a few years yet to pay for all of this stuff…but as with any pleasant destination, planning the journey is often half of the fun!

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I got the power!

Here’s hoping everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving!  I know I did!  I threw all thoughts of dieting aside and stuffed myself in the great American tradition.

On Saturday we had Christmas because my snow bird parents will head south (health permitting) sometime in December.  They didn’t get out at all last winter due to health issues and they are missing their little home in Moab.  I already have plans to visit them there next spring.

The Cabin has been on my mind a lot lately.  Holiday and birthday get-togethers have kept me in town since September and I left things undone up there that I will undoubtedly regret.  I especially don’t look forward to having to thaw the composting toilet inside by the fire in order to be able to dump it…blech!

What I do look forward to, however, is being able to use my new toy…my family got together, with the help and instigation of my roommate, and got me a new generator for Christmas!

Ain’t she a beauty! 1000 watts all mine…

I think Dad is as excited as I am.  It won’t power anything very big, but I’ll be able to recharge electronics like power tools and my Kindle as well as possibly run a little electric cooler.  It would be nice to have real groceries like meat and dairy products for my longer stays. 

We had several good talks about my plans for a future cabin up there.  I showed him a floor plan from my builder’s website along with a price sheet of extras that I am including in my estimated costs.  (If you’re interested check out the website at  I’m going with Plan 5 in a 20×24′ size.)

Dad had several good ideas for things like the plumbing and electrical and wants to get up there to help me bring down some of the bigger dead trees on the property this winter. 

After we were done oohing and aahing over the generator, he turned to me and said “The next thing you need is a four-wheeler right?”  Whew.  Things are really starting to come together for this project fast!  With a little bit of spending self-control and luck, I could be handing Jay Friesen my down payment next winter!

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Winter is around here…somewhere

I had so hoped to get up to the Cabin last weekend, but birthdays and dog sitting duties got in the way.  Just as well.  The temperatures have taken a serious plunge into the single digits here in Anchorage and are almost certainly colder up in the mountains. 

Telephoto shot of one of the peaks across the valley from the Cabin – a month ago!

I don’t want to have to depend too much on an untested propane heater in those conditions.  Hopefully it will warm up a little in the next couple of weeks before we get too buried in snow for me to safely make the hike in.  I’ve been looking at snowshoes so that I can walk across the lake once it’s well frozen and has a little snow pack on it.

The extreme cold is somewhat unusual for this early in the season and may become a real problem here in the city.  The little snowfall we have gotten has mostly melted or evaporated (winter air is already deadly dry) so there isn’t any insulation to protect pipes from freezing.  Although I’m not crazy about driving on snowy roads after that first major snowfall, we really need it.

Besides, we manage the cold and endure the twenty hours of darkness by enjoying the beauty and fun of the snow.


Categories: Living in Alaska | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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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First, errrr, second snowfall

Saturday was our first real snow day.  A group of us went to lunch and one by one we each stared out the window and said some variation of “sure looks like it’s gonna snow…”  As if one of us saying it wasn’t enough to confirm what our eyes were seeing. 

The first of the flakes began drifting down as we headed home, but didn’t seem too serious. 

Time to say goodbye to the green backyard for awhile.

It’s a little more serious this time…

Another hour and it was clear that this was the real thing.  The puppy hadn’t seen snow before, but took it in his usual stride…what’s the big deal, it’s just white rain and hey, it’s tasty! 

Eating white rain…he hasn’t learned the fun of chasing snowballs yet

Surprisingly Mr. Chitters doesn’t mind the snow too much either.  He bounds across the yard, scaling  the fence to access the woods where the snow is less deep, and conducts his kitty business in the shadows just like any other day.  Then he comes inside and looks for a warm lap to dry his feet.

 As before, most of the snow is already gone (as of Tuesday), but it took longer this time and more is already coming down.

We will spend the next two weeks watching and worrying about snowfall for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  On one hand, a fresh blanket of snow greatly increases visibility for drivers dodging pint-sized pedestrians, but on the other hand it makes walking slick and makes costumes awkward at best.  Other winter areas may understand the dilemma…do we outfit our kids in costumes that fit and then hide them under the snowsuits?  Or do we put them into costumes two sizes too big in order to fit over their winter gear?  Or do we just get them a mask and a wand and call it good? 

Princess in a parka…, Scary Monster in a scarf… you get the idea. 

If I can get my act together and get those snow tires out of storage and on my car, I will be going up to the Cabin this coming weekend.  It’s been many years since I was there in winter and I’m really looking forward to it.

Categories: Living in Alaska | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fading Summer days…

Well, I did finally get up to the Cabin for a weekend in August, which was a good thing because September was packed with other obligations and if I’m really lucky, I’ll be able to sneak away this weekend for a “closing it up” trip. 

Remember that beautiful fireweed in the last post? This is what it looks like now!

The August trip was productive though.  I used my little battery operated chainsaw (HAHAHAHAHA!!  I love my tools, but that one sounds so GIRLY!) anyway, used it to cut up a couple of downed trees that I had dragged back to my firewood pile.  Then…I actually made friends with Dad’s big axe. 

Yep, I’m a real Alaskan Woman now. 

I split all of the rounds I had cut up, and I was having so much fun that I dug out all the other old rounds from the bottom of the stack and split them too!  Kerwhack!  What a sense of accomplishment to hear that sound bouncing off the hills and see my wood pile growing…

This was one afternoon’s work and produced about 3-4 days worth of firewood in moderately cool temperatures. A real winter’s day would use about half the pile in Fatso! A more efficient wood stove will be in the new Cabin…

I also packed out some of the less winter-worthy food items this trip.  There’s plenty still there for a couple more weekend trips before the lake freezes up, but I don’t want to waste food that won’t survive a six-month series of freeze-thaws.  Things like rice, instant potatoes, tuna pouches, and ramen noodles stay year round, along with granola bars and other snacks. 

Two years ago I had company during my vacation at the Cabin, and my well-intentioned guests brought things like beer and wine and then left them for me.  I rarely drink except socially, so I put them away and of course forgot about them.  The next summer was my big flooring project and as I emptied the cupboard I found the wine bottle…minus its cork!  Luckily the “cupboard” is just a crate on an uneven floor, so the bottle was tipped up just enough that only a few tablespoons worth spilled when I bumped it.  Also lucky that the flooring was being replaced anyway!  I later found the cork clear across the Cabin near the firewood box.  That must have been some really cold weather to explode a bottle of wine that hard! 

Oddly, the beer didn’t explode, though I chose not to drink it.

Tea is more my speed, especially as the temperatures drop. I love the gurgle of the pot as the water heats.

I’m more careful since then to police my cupboards for explodables if I think I might not be back before winter.  Besides, it’s a shame to waste the wine!

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Craft overload

I was working in my craft room yesterday morning before work and had to dig for a specific part to repair a bracelet.  In the course of my search, I once again realized that I have too much stuff.  And, as happens often, that thought led to thoughts of my future life at my Cabin. 

 The new cabin is going to have to be bigger.  Much bigger.

 I have several friends who are quilters and I have spent years resisting their efforts to get me to try quilting.  My current list of hobbies and crafts is full and there is literally no room for another space, money and time intensive hobby.  The list is as follows:

Books – The Kindle is great but I also have a lot of money invested in old books just because I like the way they look and smell and feel.  I have two large bookcases full to overflowing, and I can honestly say that I’ve read almost every book on the shelves…many of them more than once.

Photography – Again the digital world has reduced the physical footprint of this hobby, but I still have three large bins full of slides and negatives and another with photo albums from the decades before I went digital.  I’ve backed off of this hobby a bit as the expense of a truly good digital camera isn’t justified by my abilities!  Maybe if I get really good at the WordPress photo insertion thing…

I have barely made a dent in the project of scanning thousands of negatives and slides and prints.

Camping and road trips – This takes up less space in the house now that I have a little motor home.  I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to do any more real backpacking trips and sold my tent and my beautiful Eagle Creek pack a couple of years ago.  The motor home is small enough that we can take it all over the state to remote locations that the big rigs can’t get into.  I promise some of those stories are on their way to the blog!

“Winnie” as she is affectionately known. She has many stories to tell…

Papercrafting – Card making mostly.  There are digital techniques that can be used for this, but that would rob me of the delight of opening my scrap bin and digging for just the right shade of green to embellish that birthday card.  Friends who know me are amused that someone who rarely sends cards spends so much time and money making them.  There has been a small financial return on this hobby.

Trying to combine two crafts here…making my own earring cards for display

Jewelry making – This is my most current creative passion and the financial return has been considerable, though it doesn’t quite pay for itself yet.  Again it amuses friends who used to rarely see me wearing any jewelry!  I’ve been able to incorporate papercrafting into this hobby, making little gift boxes and display cards for my pieces.

Writing – mostly the blog now, but I’ve always doodled.  I had several notebooks of such doodles packed in a box that disappeared after a move many years ago.   Journals going back to junior high school, stories and poems written for various classes, even old resume’s all gone.  I suspect that the box got into the goodwill pile by mistake, but as I didn’t even miss it for several months after the move, it was far too late to do anything about it.  I couldn’t even remember for sure where I donated those things by then.  Going digital was supposed to keep me from doing that kind of thing again, but I still have my old laptop from three years ago because I haven’t gotten around to transferring old documents off of it! 

Watercolor painting – sigh.  I have literally dozens of books and magazines on the subject.  I’ve invested a tremendous amount of money in Arches and Fabriano paper and various brands of paints, both in tubes and pans.  I even have some decent brushes.  I faithfully take it all up to the Cabin every summer and then pack it all back out in the fall.  The punch line?  I’ve completed one painting that I liked well enough to frame.  (And then gave it away before I photographed it…) I haven’t yet learned how to “see” a painting in an everyday scene or photograph.  My hope is to have time this winter to take a class to help me break the block.

 Quite a list, huh?  You can see why my little craft room is overflowing!  Oh wait…in addition to these hobbies, I tried this summer to do a little gardening in there!  I have three monstrous cherry tomato plants, a lovely arrowhead vine that was left by the previous owners of the house, an Aerogarden (currently full of flowers), and some kind of non-flowering begonia that I’m fostering for a friend who is remodeling.  (She may not get it back…)

Chitters is running out of surfaces and windows from which to supervise the neighborhood!   

Designing a work space always has to include making room for Chitters!

Re-reading this list I’m skeptical about fitting it all into any one room!  Or any one Cabin for that matter…

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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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July 20-22 Weekend trip

I mentioned in passing last week that I was going up to the Cabin to finish building the second half of the dock frame and friends T. and D. both jumped on board to come help! 

We got out of town Friday afternoon about 4:00pm and headed up the highway in two vehicles so that D. could come back to town Saturday to manage other commitments.  After a stop for burgers Pinnacle Mtn Cafe, we arrived at the camp at about 7:00, hiked in to get the boat and soon hauled a load of water and gear across.  T. practiced her rowing…From the bow, I felt a bit like I was on an amusement park ride!  She’s getting better, but we still do a lot of circles.  In her defense, it’s always more difficult to maintain a straight course when the boat is loaded.  D. watched from the deck, offering to call the Coast Guard for us! 

After getting the gear stowed, we settled in for the evening.  D. is dogsitting a beautiful young chocolate lab named Filson, and he is the energizer bunny of the fetching world.  In no time the deck was littered with sticks.  He loves to run down to the dock and hop into the water to cool off.  Luckily we had lots of towels to dry him off before letting him into the Cabin!  While he settled down and dried off, the three of us played some Cribbage and ate our pie slices that we had gotten at Pinnacle Mtn.

Saturday morning even Filson was willing to sleep in a little.  Unlike my previous trip, the temp this morning was 52F, and with four bodies in the Cabin the indoor temperature was 58F, which, while cool by town standards, was very comfortable to wake up to.  D. prepared a feast for breakfast – scrambled egg and sausage breakfast burritos with a side of fresh fruit.  Sure beats my oatmeal or granola bar breakfasts!  We went down to the dock and T. took over the drill driver.  The dock frame was done in minutes instead of hours with an experienced and strong person running the power tools, not to mention a second and third set of hands to hold things in place while she fastened them together.  We lugged the second log bridge that Dad had made out to the water.  T. changed into sandals and went out to set the bridge, but it was much too tall for the dock.  Without Dad’s chainsaw to trim it down to fit, we ended up bagging the whole thing. 

After lunch D. had to leave, taking the ever playful Filson with her.  It was a challenge to keep him out of the water for the hour or so before she left so that he wouldn’t be soaking wet in her jeep.  Rain was starting to spit on us as we watched her head off up the trail, so they were doomed to be a little wet anyway, but it didn’t get serious until later in the afternoon.

One of the loons popped up right off the end of the dock after we got back with our boatload of gear!

Rain notwithstanding, T and I took a little hike up to the four-wheeler trail.  Along the way I showed her my potential building sites and got some input from her on the pros and cons of each.  In the evening, as we were getting ready for bed, T spotted a moose swimming from the blueberry bog over to the peninsula in the rain.  I so love having company to share these things with.  I get to see everything through new eyes. 

Late evening light and rain account for the blue look of this shot.

 Sunday morning, July 22

No elaborate breakfast this morning.  The clouds were full of holes this morning, and by the time we got our cabin-closing chores done the sun was out in force.  T. pushed me to get things done early so that if the weather held we could spend some time on the lake in the boat.  The loons came out for a family picnic.  The chick is two weeks old today and is visible as more than just a fuzzy black dot in my lens now!  The parents took turns diving for tasty treats to feed their baby.

I think the male is the larger one. The chick seems to stick closest to the smaller one

After getting our gear across the lake, we rowed around the camp end of the lake, watching as a small plane buzzed low overhead to land at the private strip nearby.  We then rounded the peninsula towards Loon Lagoon. 

A local resident or a friend of one. I see this plane often up here, but it was cool to be on the lake when he made his approach

I’ve mentioned that the loons here trust me and my boat, and today they proved it.  The whole family was out and swimming together near the lilies.  We were careful not to approach too directly, but papa loon broke away from his family and approached us!  T. was in the bow and was able to see him dive under the boat.  He popped back up just a couple of yards away from me at the stern and then swam unconcernedly away. Mom and chick gave us a wider berth, but never acted agitated or worried.  What a special treat!

I almost think he believes we are just a big clumsy duck! Check out the red eyes!

At two weeks old the chick already ducks his head under water to watch its parents diving. He’ll be diving himself soon

Back at the Cabin we pulled the boat out and flipped it and then closed up reluctantly.  It’s always harder to leave when the weather is so beautiful! 

View from the lake. See what I mean about how close those trees are?


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