I arrived at the cabin in June this summer. I love it here. There is always so much to do to keep me at peace. I am balanced here, very Zen. This summer my nephew, Nathan, and a friend of mine, Nick, accompanied me. Nick drove his Harley out and stayed for the first couple weeks. There was a snafu with the internet service provider and we didn’t get internet until the evening before Nick left for his return trip. This wasn’t much of a problem because we took to focusing on more organic activities, like eating special pastries and traipsing through the woods in search of stove-worthy species.
There was much struggle on the journey. The van broke down 96 miles east of Sidney, Nebraska on I-80. Something electrical popped and the van shut off, leaving me to fail passing a trailer truck and coast off to the shoulder with almost no brakes and diminished steering control. Nick had went on ahead of us and made it to Loveland later that night. Luckily we got a phone signal and AAA gave us the free 100 mile flatbed tow into Sidney, NE to Sauders Inc., the AAA service station. They really had the opportunity to screw us because even after my thorough explanation of the events and the smell of burnt PCB or wiring, they were determined it sounded like the timing chain cut loose. We had no choice but to get a room at the Best Western in Sidney (the world headquarters of Cabela’s) and wait for Sauders to properly diagnose the issue the following day. We would have stayed at the Motel 6 but they reported they were all booked up. Having two dogs along limited our options.
Good fortune had smiled upon us. The damage was, in fact, the ECM computer that blew from a short with an injector. We discussed the options, called in monetary assistance, and got the wheels in motion for repair. Meanwhile, there was no way in Hell we were staying another night in Sidney. It was starting to feel like being in that movie U-Turn, where if we stayed any longer, we’d be involved in some catch 22 situations of severe misfortune. So as desperation gripped us, and since Nick already arrived in Estes Park, we took to Craigslist to find a transporter. We found an individual named Jim in Thornton that drove a Saturn View. We explained our predicament and Jim said he’d come get us and drive us to a Budget Car Rental in Fort Collins for $120. Good deal, all things considered. Jim turned out to be a retired biker complete with bitchin skull tattoos and several interesting stories. He really helped us out of a tight spot. He could have been the devil himself; it wouldn’t have mattered, there was no way we would stay another night in Sidney. We managed to stuff the essential luggage, myself, my mother, Nathan, and the two dogs into Jim’s Saturn View. It was an arduous journey through work zones and lowered speed limits but we finally arrived at Budget in Fort Collins and we paid Jim $140. We rented the car we reserved earlier. It turned out to be a fairly new Impala, very nice. We headed up to Estes Park, met up with Nick and arrived at the cabin with daylight to spare for opening the cabin. Finally, some much needed relaxation.
The very next morning, we are greeted by a moose wandering about the cabin. I took a lot of video I might make available but this photo will do for now.
Days pass, and we decide to head up Trail Ridge Rd. to experience the view, the cold and the snow.
And you just can’t beat the simple pleasure of good company with the great view of the cabin’s overlook.
There was an amusing incident at The Wheel Bar that merits notice. Nick and I had discussed earlier that Nathan, my 18 year-old nephew, could make for an excellent wing-man on a night out. Indeed the idea must be tested. By now we had driven the Impala out to Sidney to retrieve the van, so finally I’ve got access to a vehicle I’m insured to drive. So Nick, Nathan and I head into Estes. We find a damn good parking spot near the park behind and walk up to the backside of The Wheel Bar. It’s looking kind of dead downstairs in the game room, so we continue around to the front. The place is packed and definitely happening, as everyone is upstairs drinking at the bar. We walk in up to the bartender and Nick asks about a couple of beers. I notice Nick is shifting from side to side and the bartender does similarly and mouths some gibberish I cannot hear over the crowd. Nick then asks where we could get some decent food and the barman, quite rudely, points toward the door and replies “Out that way and to the left.” We leave and we’re headed off to find somewhere else and Nick exclaims to Nathan,
“You’re a shitty wingman, Nathan! The first fucking place we go and we’re kicked out.”
Apparently, Nick sensed the barman’s intent to gauge Nathan’s age so he was trying to obstruct his view. What I failed to hear the bartender say was he could serve the two of us but he (Nathan) has got to go. Nick explained Nathan would not be drinking, but the bastard wasn’t having it. Eh, to Hell with them. So we went to Chelito’s to have nachos and beer. Fuck the scene. We salvaged the night our own way. We didn’t return.
It’s easy to get spoiled when you wake up every day with the ability to view such monumental magnificence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve photographed the same mountains in the same light, but something compels me to capture more. You just can’t harness the vastness of it all in a photograph.
The flood last summer must have severely damaged the other watering holes because we keep getting moose coming to our pond to drink. They also like eating the branches off the young aspen trees on the dam. This time it’s a big bastard of a moose with little to no fear of proximity to the cabin. I got some excellent video and photos. Here’s a decent photo of the beast.
By now, Nick had left to head back home and the cabin was humming with internet access. We decided to travel up to the Stanley Hotel one evening because Nathan had not been inside before. It’s a grand place, and quite haunted in the deep recesses of the upper floors. We walked inside to view the whiskey bar. It’s certainly a “World’s End” caliber of bar. An idea begins to form.
After Nick left I began to focus more time on making practical property improvements. Our method for clean water is taking a blue 6 gallon Igloo container to fill it up at the spring in Allenspark. We would then just set it on the kitchen counter with a hose that ran down inside of it and also hung over the side. We would siphon the water out into the glass or whatever when we needed it. This was a frustrating practice, as you had to maintain the proper nozzle level for the siphon to remain intact and the hose end had to be manually capped with the tapered top of a honey bottle. This just wouldn’t do anymore. I took a trip to a number of hardware stores and collected the items to fix this once and for all. Currently, the Igloo container resides on the second floor directly above the kitchen along the southwest wall. The tube is now much longer and runs through a small hole I drilled in the floor. I’m quite proud of this solution, and I like the rudimentary look of it. The trek up the stairs with 50 lbs. of water can be tiring but the result is far superior. The following is a photo of the current potable water tap.
I can easily get a drink of clean water without hassle. I’m now more likely to keep hydrated while working outdoors. I decided to tackle a more interesting job. I was in dire need of a new sawhorse. So I recorded the measurements of the current rotting sawhorse and translated those into what they’re supposed to be. But to build such a device, I would want a more precise construction tool. I found an ancient Stanley miter box in the attic, which no doubt was used by my grandfather in the creation of the window frames and other cuts more demanding of precision, so I decided to screw it to a plank and bolt it to an a-frame in order to keep myself from going crazy with free hand cutting angles. This is the beginning of a whole agenda of projects to come.
Now that I got my cutting station set up, I went out to buy some lumber. I quickly discovered there wasn’t a decent place to keep the lumber. So I quickly crafted a spot to span lengths of eight footers.
I was feeling pretty accomplished with the outdoor efforts so I pitched an idea for upgrading the electrical entertainment capabilities of the cabin. I was informed of an ad on Craigslist for the exact same HDTV Vizio model I have back in South Carolina. It was the SV421XVT. This tele features a 240hz refresh rate that makes even the most expensive blockbusters seem like they were made by Sundance. I love this effect. The ad said it came with a sound bar and the total was $300. This is a damn fine deal. I emailed the guy, he called me back and he set a time to visit him the following day. He was in downtown Denver on East 11th Ave. He was a musician named Gerry living in nicely preserved old apartment housing. Wow, such a pleasant structure. He had a badass playful wise cat named Hemingway that was extremely interested in everything visitor related. Gerry also had a Roku he was willing to sell for an additional $30. Bought that too. The cat was not for sale. I had brought my Xbox 360 from SC in the hopes a television could be acquired for the cabin. So I wired and set it all up in the upstairs hallway. I also acquired a Netgear GS108 gigabit 8-port switch to uplink and wire us into the router. The WiFi on the CenturyLink DSL modem they’ve supplied us can be quite faulty and downright unreliable at times. Even after optimizing the channels and adjusting the signal strength, it still just sucks. But we’re all wired up good and proper now.
And so I finally built the sawhorse. It’s pine construction and I’m going to wait a year for it to weather the mill glaze off before I finish it with the TWP 100 rustic stain. However, I have coated my cut ends of the construction with gorilla glue to seal them up. The internals of pine boards have a capillary action and I don’t want the feet or tops absorbing any excessive moisture. The guides of the sawhorse are the same artificial planks used on the back porch. They can take a beating and will outlast the rest of the design.
All things begin to fall into place and I feel at peace. I am the most complete while working outside to build up my environment. The satisfaction of working with my hands creating structure and tools is abundant. I went into Estes Park to eat at Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant and walk around a bit. I saw this cool miniature waterfall along the path. I love Estes Park, it’s a small town but it seems of my own design.
BEARS! I finally saw my bear. Big furry bastards scavenging for human leftovers. This was early the next morning after my mother’s cousin, Sugeet, arrived from Oregon. Personally, I’m certain his luck brought the bears to greet his arrival. Bears are good fortune. Or perhaps he smuggled them into the Tahosa Valley in his Honda Fit. It was 3:45 am and I heard metal crashing that I at first thought was part of my dream. I woke upon determining it was external stimulus matching the sound of the aluminum trash can we use for recycling being struck. I knew no human would be on the porch making such noises at this early hour so I sat up to look out my window overlooking the back porch. It was very dark. I saw a black blob of unidentifiable form around the debris of the toppled trash can. The form began to dissipate as I heard patterned grunting sounds coming from the area of 320 (the tool shed transformed from an outhouse). The grunting was growing near and I knew it had to be something big, perhaps a moose. When the beast came into view, I was ecstatic. It was a bear! A great big bastard of a grunting bear. I quickly had the thought this great wise bear was not grunting, but laughing at the smaller bear that had made all the noise toppling the recyclables container over. The photographs didn’t take at that hour because of the lack of light and the screen between me and the target caught all of the flash but this is the aftermath of the event photographed in the light of that morning.
I went to a talk at the Aspen Lodge today and listened to Master Chen speak of Taoism, the benefit of stillness, learning to hear the message of disasters, and finding the Yang for the Yin. I really like him. He is wise beyond his age and he doesn’t fear to show it. He will do a lot of good for Tahosa Valley and its people. As soon as I returned home from Aspen Lodge I decided to finish a project I have been working on for a week. I laid out two lengths of pine trunks over the stream supported by stones to prevent them sinking into the soil. This was to be a sturdy level platform for a step bridge over the stream south of the dam. It consists of eleven 1×6’s cut in 28″ lengths laid across the span between the two trunks and spaced 1/2″ apart. I sanded and stained the pine 1×6’s. I think it came out quite well. I must wait until next summer when it’s properly weathered to apply the finish coat. You’re not supposed to stain new wood, but the sanding helped clear the superheated pine glaze from the surface and the stain took acceptably. It’s a sturdy build and I think it looks good.
So that’s just about everything to catch you up to date. Now that I have a new sawhorse, I expect I’ll be cutting lots of firewood. I am at my most content of being walking through the forest collecting aspen. The simplicity of the task, knowing the land provides me such comforts, I cannot be saddened. It is a solitary gift. No one thing matters when I am striking wood with axe. And there is no sound finer than the tearing of the grain. I appreciate all that is given to the senses, unobstructed by cheap alteration. The interaction with the wild environment eclipses any electrical panel stimuli I’ve encountered. Few can be so lucky to find solace among nature. I lack the wisdom to explain my joy. I thank a history of restraint for such simple pleasures.
-Jeremy Edward Dion