The Cabin Fever Series I

My “living alone in a cabin in the wilderness” years weren’t really comparable to what people are experiencing now.

The outside world was proceeding more or less normally while I was living “off grid” in the Cariboo in the mid 1970’s and I could, I suppose, have chosen to leave at any time.

In some ways though, I felt I had to stay.

Most days I loved it and, on days when I didn’t so much . . . well, for much of the time I was there, I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a vehicle, so an impulsive exit wasn’t really an option.

I’ve been trying to think of which things I learned during those years that are handy now. I chose that experience instead of going back to school to do my Master’s degree. While there have been many times I’ve thought that was a crazy decision, now that I’m older I’m less sure. Every day I’m grateful for things I learned — about myself, mostly — in my Cabin Fever period.

As it’s a bit of a long story, I’m dividing it into a few parts and will end with a small summary of Cabin Life Tips.

june on bridge

Crossing the log bridge at low water.

The first cabin I lived in was an old dynamite shack, left behind from a gold mining operation. Located several miles down a road that ended in the rushing Quesnel River, it was pretty remote.

Only about half a dozen people lived further down Seven Mile Road than me, and getting to the cabin involved a twenty minute hike from that road, including the fording of the creek that fed into the main river, via the rather dodgy log bridge.

This was less, or more, exciting depending on the season and the water level.

7 mile road

Seven Mile Road

While at the dynamite shack I learned how to make bannock and discovered that no-see-ums can fly through mosquito netting. A fit of rustic craftiness almost lost me a finger when trying to cut a bracket fungus off an old log to make into a candle holder, as one did in those days.  I’m sure I must have learned some other things.

One of them should have been “keep a diary so you can remember this stuff forty years later.”

After a few months in the dynamite shack I inherited another, closer to the road, vacant cabin. I had stayed there before with my good friends, Richard and Denise, but they had two babies by then and were moving closer to the amenities of  “town” — aka Likely, where the one grocery store, bar and post office/gas station were located.

Likely Bar-late 70's

Beautiful downtown Likely, mid-70’s.

June&Tiko

It was during this period that Finlay the Magnificent arrived in my life.

A neighbour stopped by with two puppies that his dog had given birth to. Using a uniquely hard sell technique, he told me that, if he couldn’t find homes for them, he’d be hitting them on the head with a hammer. I hadn’t really been planning on getting a dog, but . . .

Of the two, one was much prettier. I picked the plainer one, confident that the  “looker”  would have a better chance of adoption.

This was the start of a beautiful 15 year relationship.

I was told that cabin dogs needed to be kept outside so they could keep watch for bears, so little puppy Finlay slept in the great outdoors. He would get revenge by crawling under the cabin and getting stuck under the porch, yowling, so I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and pry a board off the platform to pull him out.

He was so tiny that first winter, when we walked through the deep snow to visit the nearest neighbours a couple of miles away, his forward motion was accomplished via a combination of swimming and tunnelling.

babyfinlay

There are so many Finlay stories. He came tree planting with me for years and was a pretty legendary camp dog. His favourite sleeping spot was, not beside, but under the airtight stove in the cook shack. While I was out planting, he would stretch out in the blazingly hot sun beside the tree box supply. Sometimes when we got back we could hardly find him because he’d be completely and obliviously covered in dust.

There will actually have to be a whole separate post on Finlay for some of the other stories. The time he went missing for a week, the memorable day he brought me a bear, how he adapted, years later, to city life . . .

june in a box

My first winter in the log cabin was very enlightening. First I learned that a cabin made of logs needs to be “chinked” — i.e. insulation of some sort put between each log. This one had been built without such consideration, so when it was 20 below outside, it was about 18 below inside — with an arctic wind blowing across the floor. I would keep the airtight stove going all night and still the water bucket, located next to said airtight, would be frozen in the morning.

logcabin w

Log cabin in early winter.

Keeping that stove going all night meant lots of wood chopping, which meant a crash course in the care and maintenance of firewood.

First I learned that if you locate your wood pile under the eaves of the cabin, where three foot long icicles will inevitably form, your wood supply will become deeply encased in ice. It actually took longer to use the axe to chip wood out of its crystal prison each day than it did to split it. That’s the second fun thing I learned — splitting rounds in freezing weather is kind of fun as it only takes a tap with the axe and the wood explodes in a satisfying manner.

Miraculously, by the end of the first winter I had neither frozen to death, nor bled to death in the snow from an axe injury. And I had taught myself Fair Isle knitting.

In kindergarten I had been the worst knitter in the class. I still remember the humiliation of being the only one still forced to struggle on with a tangle of red string when all the others had graduated to actual wool.

Perhaps it was over-weaning pride in my new accomplishment, but I somehow concluded that, because I had mastered knitting Fair Isle socks, I was now ready to build my own cabin.

I headed into Williams lake and bought what was to become my bible.

illustrated housebuilding

It was the description “definitive layman’s book” that sold me. That and “for those who need a lot of help.”

As you can see, I still have the book “Illustrated Housebuilding.” I don’t think I’ll be building any more houses myself but I keep it handy in case either of my kids should feel inspired.

My goal was to build my “dream” cabin  — i.e. insulated to an extreme level, and close to a water source. The log cabin was only a few minutes walk from the road, but was a long trek uphill from the stream where water had to be hauled from. I decided I’d rather be further from the road and closer to the water.

So all that remained to do was get supplies and build it.

Since there was just me, and I still didn’t drive, there were a few technical details remaining to be worked out.

illustrated housebuilding inside

Stay tuned for the next instalment, Cabin Construction!

cabinbuilding june

Read on at:

 

logo with crow

23 thoughts on “The Cabin Fever Series I

  1. Oh, I love your cabin and off-grid living adventures. If I hadn’t been such a wuss I would have done it too. I did the next best thing in those days and became a farmer’s wife. It was pretty satisfactory, but you lived my dream!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Argh!!! Cliffhanger, June. Can’t wait for the next instalment.
    I would read “Illustrated Housebuilding” and plot an entire construction in my mind. Time to get my own copy.
    Your blogs have entertained and amused for a very long time. The Covid Entries have been particularly sublime. Thank you for sharing your many talents and opening your head to readers. Utmost appreciation.
    Donna

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful story telling. Can’t wait for the next instalment! We actually live in Williams Lake back in the 70s. Our very dear friends lived in an old school house near Likely. We loved to visit their rustic abode and they enjoyed coming to town for visits and hot showers. You’ve taken me back. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have known for years that you lived in a cabin in Likely on your own but not the ins and outs. This is marvellous and I can’t wait to hear more. It is so relevant to our current situation too. I’m full of admiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. More evidence that crow friends are the most fascinating people! I agree you should write a book June. You are a great story teller and they are all non- fiction. You have us spoiled now. I’m forever looking forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree! You have such an adventurous spirit, an amazing sense of humour and an obvious writing talent. There’s at least one book there! Looking forward to the next instalment in your saga, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I almost never leave messages online, but in this case I must. June ~ like the best of so many intimate and dynamic moments captured in your photos, your writing flows beautifully. The ‘snapshots’ of your history in the Cariboo read like water gathering momentum; a literary lens opening wide onto scenes and narrative so evocative and compelling ~ a beautiful dance in two mediums. Nothing short of a masterclass in creative expression!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You have lived a fascinating life! Talk about being bold and brave living in isolated cabins and then learning how to build one. Truly remarkable! So glad this tale is unfolding for us all!

    Warmly, Chris

    On Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 5:18 PM The Urban Nature Enthusiast wrote:

    > The Urban Nature Enthusiast posted: “My “living alone in a cabin in the > wilderness” years weren’t really comparable to what people are experiencing > now. The outside world was proceeding more or less normally while I was > living “off grid” in the Cariboo in the mid 1970’s and I could, I suppo” >

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always love your stories and observations, your humor and your beautiful photos. And like all the commenters before me (and after!) I am eagerly looking forward to more! You have lived a life that I have dreamed of for most of my life, but was never able to manifest. Thank you for sharing these spiritually uplifting and impressive experiences with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Cabin Fever Series II | The Urban Nature Enthusiast

  11. Pingback: Cabin Fever Series III | The Urban Nature Enthusiast

  12. Pingback: Cabin Fever Series IV | The Urban Nature Enthusiast

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