Summer Vacation

(This week, something a little different: a road-trip post. Originally posted on Facebook last summer).


Oh, no…


“That can’t be it,” he said as we drove past the creepy place for the third time.

“The ad said ‘charming, rustic cabin in an old-growth forest.’ We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.”










We looked at each other—obviously we were both thinking the same thing. It had been a long hot drive down to Mt. Hood from the Methow Valley, and all we wanted was to get out of the car and relax with a cold beer. We’d found the cabin on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). They’d never let us down before. How bad could it be?
“It’s probably cute on the inside,” I said.

As he went to find the key, I thought wistfully back to the previous week we’d spent in the Methow Valley. We had rented a sunny cabin at the edge of a wilderness, owned by a couple of middle-age hippie artists with a flair for hand-made details. It was 160 acres of meadow and forest, shared only by thousands of birds in the daytime and a hundred billion stars at night. Nature, peace, beauty, and solitude at its best.

In the distance is the cabin we had just spent the previous week. A glorious spot.


Black Pine Lake in the Cascades…we’d had a nice picnic here one day.

Maybe we should have stayed there for the second week, too.
“Got the key!” he said, creaking back across the sagging porch. At one time, this place was probably a cool little forest cabin, but it obviously hadn’t been maintained in decades. At the end of the deck sat an old hot-tub perched on rotting timbers. The cover looked like it was growing some kind of lichen.
“Let’s unload the car and then we can have our beers in the hot tub,” he deadpanned.
I laughed. Hot tub, indeed.
I’d sooner bathe in a vat of snakes.

The Next Morning


“You slept in your clothes last night,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said as I rolled up the outfit and sealed it into a zip-lock bag. I shook out my shawl that I had used as a pillow-cover and inspected it for signs of blood. I had spent much of the night fending off some winged-creature flapping around my head. Probably a moth…a very big moth, I told myself. But I checked for bite marks—just to make sure.
This dilapidated cabin wasn’t the roughest place I’ve ever stayed. I’ve done my share of tramping around the world—first, second, and third. I love rustic. I love the wilderness. I grew up spending summers in our own primitive family cabin way out in the wilds. I don’t mind nature-dirt at all.
But this place was just icky…dark, moldy, and with creepy black hairy stuff poking through gaps in the walls and hanging down from the ceiling. My imagination started to run wild—something along the lines of giant mutant cabin-eating fungus.
I shuddered, thinking about spending the next week here.
He frowned. “We’re getting out of here.” He grabbed his ipad and flipped it open.

Gotta Go Now


We chuckled as we drove away. The stinky little place was falling down…literally rotting to pieces, but it had WIFI. In less than 20 minutes, we had booked a new place—a cabin on the Sandy River, close to trailheads and all the glory that is Mt. Hood.
Ah, that’s America.
Killing time before we could check in, we headed up to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood, a historic lodge from the WPA era of the 1930s. Every detail of the place, from the paintings on the walls, to the stonework and hand-forged iron hinges seemed to have been made by some lucky artist, funded by Uncle Sam. The good old days when art and crafts were valued.

Mt. Hood in the Cascades of Northern Oregon


It was crawling with tourists…but the good kind, the kind that seem happy and excited about life. Actually, it seemed a bit unreal, like someone from Central Casting had just flown in and assembled a cross-section of humanity designed to fit the scene. There were people of every age, style, race and cultural background, and everyone seemed in a good mood. Harmony was in the air.
We rode the chairlift to the top – to what feels like the top of the world – behind a woman who was celebrating her 104th birthday. One of her relatives told me she had climbed the mountain in her youth, and wanted one more trip up the mountain. Later, I looked her up on the internet, and found an article about her with photos from her mountain-climbing days.

It was her 104th birthday! I wonder if she’ll go to Mt. Hood again this year.

As we rode back down, we passed a wedding party on their way up— the bride and groom riding the chairlift still in their wedding clothes.
It gave me a nice feeling to be up there at 7000 feet, on a warm day with blue sky and fresh mountain air and a view that went on forever—behind us on the chairlift a young couple just starting their lives, ahead of us an old woman, celebrating one more birthday in the place she loved most, with the people she loved most.
We were right in the middle. Right where we should be.

This One Will Do Fine


I held my breath as we opened the front door to the new cabin. It was only a few miles from the previous nightmare, and I wasn’t sure what we would find. As it turned out, it was new, and clean, and on a private woodsy chunk of land right on the river. No rot. No vermin. No disturbing issues with mold. And, amazingly, it cost about the same.

The rest of the vacation was a blast. We hiked old-growth around Mt. Hood and on the way home spent some time in the fabulous city of Portland.

Beautiful little pond south of Mt. Hood.


Old growth near the Sandy River


Portland’s Rose Garden

I’m looking forward to this year’s trip. We’re going back to the Methow Valley, and we’ll do some hiking in the North Cascades. 

This is us.