Thursday, May 3, 2012

A cabin in the mountains

Let me speak briefly (well, maybe not) of the dark side of working for the national park service, forest service, and other agencies. Let me speak of the hovels known as bunkhouses.

For years and years and years, because of my seasonal wilderness lifestyle, I occupied a series of bunkhouses in various states of disrepair. They sheltered mice and cockroaches and hippies who played drums far into the night. Known as "government housing," they were merely places to dump a backpack and sort gear for the next five day hitch or 21 day fire assignment. At one, the sole phones were located in the shell of an ancient outhouse and on the barn wall outside, and woe to those who exceeded the unwritten time limit. At another, in a historic fort, a recording of Taps would come on at ten pm, winding with a ghostly sound through the bare, moonlit parade ground. Another, known as "Fred's Beds" for the Park Superintendent, was really an old motel cobbled into rooms. In another the employees had to wash their dishes in the bathtub since there was no kitchen sink. Many were trailers, most famously a left-over FEMA monstrosity with only one small swamp cooler as we cooked in the Florida sun.

We didn't care though; we spent most of our time outdoors, even dragging our sleeping bags (we never slept in sheets) to the lawn to slumber in a messy pile. Some people even eschewed the bunkhouses altogether and put tents up all summer long. In some parks, people actually did live in tents, officially called "Tent Cabins" to make them sound better.

Back in the bunkhouse days, sharing a room, I used to dream of the log cabin I would someday own. It wouldn't have yellow water straight from the swamp. It wouldn't be opened up on weekends by the refuge manager so the public could use our bathroom (yes, that really happened). Making five dollars an hour, it hardly seemed possible.

When I knew I was going to stay in this town for a good long while, I rented a forgettable house for a year while I looked for a house that spoke to me.  I looked and looked, at beautiful spacious log houses with acreage way beyond my budget, at riverside hovels with fabulous settings, and unfinished cabins. I looked and looked. When I bought this cabin, even the real estate lady looked askance. After all the previous inhabitants lived in a world of perpetual twilight, unmarred by overhead lights or many windows. They did not believe in counter space, closets or kitchen cabinets. Next door was a (nice) lawn Nazi who crept onto the property to spray dandelions. The driveway turns to a muddy mess in spring, but since the owners didn't have a car, they didn't know or care.

Definitely it was a project, but I could look at the bones and see what this house could be. Midway into the renovations, I've fallen completely in love with the place. While being outdoors is important, the place you come back to is equally so. In previous incarnations, I hated where I lived so much that it was a chore to even be there. I had no attachment; any chance I got I was gone. Not so with this place. This is home.

It will never be this clean again.
What it looks like today.

My cute table!

"Kitchen" before

A real kitchen! We can cook without headlamps!


  1. Love the table and the kitchen!

  2. Awesome. This will be 100% yours and perfect!

  3. That looks so nice! :) I'd want to come home to a place that looks like yours, too.

  4. Even though I've seen it, I've not seen it like this!! Love the kitchen and the gift table. During student teaching in Bay City, we had to wash dishes in the bathtub, too...felt most unsanitary! So glad for your home place.

  5. Good for you to see the "bones" and to have the vision to take it to how it looks now. Great place, Marre!

  6. Wow what a beautiful cabin!

  7. I adore your home :-) I could only dream of finding such a place.

    Ah,Taps. I remember it well. I think the wake up of a cannon blast reverberating through the room sticks in my mind the most.

  8. I love your place. Somehow this is how I imagined you would live. Wonder why.


Hello out there. If you liked this post, please leave a comment so I keep writing!