A Tahosa Vista Summer

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.

Moose 6/05/2014

Days pass, and we decide to head up Trail Ridge Rd. to experience the view, the cold and the snow.

Trail Ridge 6/08/2014

And you just can’t beat the simple pleasure of good company with the great view of the cabin’s overlook.

Overlook 6/09/2014

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.

Mountains 6/13/2014

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.

Big Bastard 6/15/2014

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.

Stanley 6/20/2014

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.

Water 6/23/2014

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.

Miter Box 6/24/2014

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.

Lumber 6/24/2014

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.

Entertainment 6/28/2014

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.

Sawhorse 7/01/2014

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.

Waterfall 7/02/2014

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.

Bears 7/10/2014

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.

Bridge 7/13/2014

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

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To the Cabin in the Woods

(Updated)

I’ve been at my home in Colorado for a couple weeks. There is much to do here and I haven’t found time to give my publishing the attention it requires. I’m too organized an individual to publish trivially or without giving serious attention. Finally, I have a moment to publish a bit of my journal.

It was an interesting car ride from east to west. I saw this interesting piece of art at a rest area on I-80 just as I entered Iowa. I suppose it’s to represent all the things Iowa is known for.

weird art

Getting out and traveling really forces you to realize the rate at which the nation is changing. For better or worse, peoples false entitlement to authority is getting absurd. I found myself having to put a few people in their place along the way. I even encountered a sign trying to tell me what to do, as if it had some ability to enforce its directives.

no smoking

I don’t smoke, but if I did, I would stand right in front of that blasted span of sheet metal and burn one. The absurdity of collectivists knows no boundary.

I was happy to get out of Iowa’s grasp of stupidity and decided to eventually venture through Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had never been to Cheyenne before and it was interesting to visit a place of legendary history.

cheyenne

The city was pretty cool with a few notable scenes but there wasn’t much to be fascinated by from the detour I took through town. The reality of the great western territories is much like the following photograph. A whole lot of nothing, and rattlesnakes.

lots of nothing

It wasn’t too long after Cheyenne that I arrived at the cabin in Colorado. It’s been two years since I’ve been here and I was excited to unload the much needed tools I brought. The first night came early and I was tired so I removed the downstairs shutters, slept for the night and removed the remaining shutters the following day.

cabin

With the cabin opened and everything unloaded I began tackling the problem of restoring the water supply to operational status. A couple days passed to get the project properly visualized and then I linked the hoses together and installed the water filter. The filter was designed by my grandfather and I imagine is a series of tubes with holes drilled in them and fastened together inside a wire mesh that is then wrapped in gauze-like material. It took a bit of quick magic to submerge the filter just under the surface.

water filter

With the supply line ready and fed into the pump box, I now had to install the old pump we had repaired in South Carolina. Some modifications had to be made to the orientation of elbows and hoses but I was able to get it hooked up properly. It took multiple attempts to get that old pump thoroughly primed but it works like a champion, and moves a lot of water fast.

water pump

After all of that, it was time for a break. Look at the beauty of this sandwich; constructed by my hand and waiting in all of its majesty to be eaten. Yeah, it was as good as it looked.

sandwich

Now that the water project is complete, I can pump some water and take a decent shower. Or so I thought. A full tank of water was pumped up into the attic, and to my surprise, it quickly ran down through the plumbing and out somewhere under the cabin. Once I discovered the cleverly disguised access to the crawlspace, I could hear and see the temporary resting place of a lot of pond water. Rattlesnakes! A day passes and then I begin to take a real look at my new project.

crawlspace

After a lot of cleaning, the trampling of old fears, a clever use of clothing, and some liquid courage; I begin the journey of discovery. I scoot through tight areas of sand, rocks, failed nails and the remnants of other 80 year old building debris and finally find the source of my frustration.

major leak

A threaded plug that had once sat at the end of a T-connector, which should be an elbow, had worked its way out and landed in the sand below. I guess 80 years of varying temperature and pressure will do that to a short plug with a cork washer.

80 year old plug

Well it was an easy fix. It just required a good brushing to clear out the pipe and some Teflon tape wrapped on the threads of a modern Chinese plug. It’s a beautiful thing when a problem is so easily solved. A great feeling of accomplishment sets in with obstacles overcome and all that tango. The result looks pleasing, even if you’re looking at it from the perspective of a 16 inch crawlspace.

new plug

Now that the tank is holding water, I let it fill the rest of the system but it’s taking an unnerving amount of time for the water to fill the system and settle. I head to the entrance of the crawlspace and poke my head in; I hear splashing. Double Rattlesnakes! I turn off the supply valve to the hot water tank and the splashing stops. All that is leaking now is the cold water faucet in the bottom of the shower that exists to drain the system. I replaced both ancient mangled faucets in the base of the shower with some modern Italian ball valves. Not a drop of water is getting by those in the closed position. The cold water plumbing is secured.

ball valves

A day passes and I take time to inspect the old drain faucets I replaced. The cold water faucet had a fairly eroded stopper washer that would let water by when it was in the closed position. The hot water faucet had its stopper washer completely dislodged from the internal retaining screw and was partially obstructing flow. This gives me an idea of the state of the rest of the plumbing. Now with modern valves at the bottom of the system, I reopen the valve to the hot water tank and take a look into the crawlspace. I can see the leak in the hot water line right near the entrance. I suspect from the look of it, the T connector has burst.

another leak

I take a day to ponder and discuss the options. I went for a walk out to the meadow and witnessed an odd effect of a sunset on Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker through some clouds. It burned its image into my memory but I photographed it for you.

awesome sunset effect

After many calming experiences, and an occasional alcoholic beverage, I decide to make the repair with plumbers epoxy. It was the easiest option for repair, and also the cheapest. I crawled under and prepped the split area of the T then mixed and mashed the epoxy and applied it well. The directions say it hardens like steel in twenty minutes. I poked at it after a couple hours and it was still a bit gummy, so I decided to gave it a day. Perhaps I applied it too thick, or the marketing of the product is generously exaggerated.

epoxy repaired

After all that, there is still another leak on the hot water line further in and around the corner. I suspect it’s on an elbow near my first repair on the other pipe in the photograph or on the T connector immediately down the line from that. This type of multiple plumbing damage occurs from water left in the pipe and freezing during winter. Perhaps what happened was the rubber stopper obstruction in the old hot water drain prevented the water from draining fully and froze in the traps of the system. This should only happen when there is a lot of water trapped along the line; enough to expand and burst steel. Perhaps none of the hot water line was drained last year. I don’t know, I wasn’t here.

So, I have yet another discovery expedition to undertake in the crawlspace. It’s very difficult because I have to wear a dust mask that always fogs up my glasses. Luckily, there are vents in the sides of the foundation that let fresh air somewhat circulate. I can only hope radon won’t be a problem, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t built an ion chamber to detect if there is much. Colorado, and specifically my county, is known for high radon levels. It’s from the natural uranium and thorium that breaks down into radium, which then also decays. Radon is the resulting radioactive gas that rises up to the surface and is often trapped under/in houses. It’s scary stuff but I expect it would require a great deal of persistent concentrated exposure to do serious damage. Or not.

Update:

I crawled back under to look for more breaks in the line. I found a nice one inch split along the line running to the kitchen sink. I ran my hand along the pipe and felt a bulge where it split, confirming that the breaks were due to water freezing in the pipes. The cabin wasn’t thoroughly prepped for winter last year. I checked the rest of the lengths of pipe and found no more bulges.

kitchen split

I then made my way over to the area of the first repair to check the elbows on the hot water line. Sure enough, I discover a gigantic bursting crack along the backside of the elbow. There’s no way I’m trusting epoxy to fix this.

burst elbow

I had originally thought to use one of these newfangled pressure couplers I saw at Ace Hardware to repair the one inch split in the kitchen line, but that would require cutting the pipe in half. That would have been dumb and a waste of time so I just pasted some plumbers putty on the split for a good seal and clamped a pressure brace on it.

kitchen clamp

The elbow repair required some time to prepare. I cut the short vertical length of pipe above the elbow and used the leverage of the pipe to unscrew it from the lateral pipe. Then I used a pipe wrench and a magical source of leverage to unscrew the cut pipe from the intact elbow above. I cleaned all the threads and had a brilliant idea for an easy and reliable repair. I installed a gender-changing nipple in the remaining elbow, wrapped the threads in Teflon tape and installed a steel-braided faucet supply line to cut the corner. Done.

faucet hose

It doesn’t look pretty but I doubt the ants and spiders will raise Hell about its looks. They might miss their indoor pool though. Take another look at this enormous bursting split. Wow.

elbow detail

Heck yeah! There are no more leaks and finally, three weeks after arrival, I can enjoy a proper hot shower. MERICA!

MERICA!(a Colorado delivery vehicle for sandwiches I photographed in Estes Park)

-Jeremy Edward Dion