I awoke to the sound of the creek running its course outside the little cabin. Some time in the last week it had caught its spring run off, and quadrupled in size. A whispering winter time trickle had turned into the rushing waters that I will fall asleep to all summer. I pulled my nose out from under the flap of my sleeping bag hood and exhaled. The breath shot out towards the north side of the room like that of some old steam engine inching along on frozen tracks. Out over the Apgar Mountains the sun was rising, and letting enough amber light show through the window that I could see the designs I had been drawing on it all night. Each of hundreds of exhales stacking a collage of spikes, and icy spirals on the glass.The white dog pulled her nose out from beneath the horse blanket under my cot, and blinked the sleep from her eyes. She sleeps here visiting the cabin during the colder months. Both of us conserving and sharing each others heat throughout the night, though some nights when the temperatures outside get bellow the minus 20 mark I’ll make room on the cot, and she’ll share the sleeping bag with me. I laid there a few minutes rubbing her head and studying the window, trying to decipher which designs were mine, and which hers.
When we got the nerve we got to our feet simultaneously, and climbed down the stairs to the main floor of our two hundred square foot cabin. A hand to the top of the stove metal revealed some life still left in it, so I opened the flue and front door to get a draft going and the stove breathing again. I let the white dog out for a bathroom break, and grabbed a hand full of kindling splinters from the metal bucket on the front porch. I tossed the match size pieces of wood onto the coals, and they erupted almost immediately. I picked enough wood from the stack to get the blaze going good and hot, and watched the mercury in the thermometer on the window sill inch up a few notches on the tube, 41 degrees and climbing. I sat down in the red rocking chair by the wood stove and stuffed my feet into stiff boots. I grabbed my heavy coat from the nail behind the stove, shook it free of a nights worth of dust, and put it on. By the time I had the blue coffee percolator in hand the white dog was back at the door. She came back inside puffing and snorting frost off of her whiskers, and pranced around the room dancing the snow from her feet. I dropped a coffee cup full of kibble into her bowl, patted her head, and started down to the creek for water.
This time of year, after packing down a good trail through the forest that leads to the creek, unless I’m pulling in a “pulk” (fancy term for heavy-duty sled) full of supplies there’s no need to strap on snow shoes. A step off the trail in either direction however, and I will be into it just shy of my waist. When I got to the edge of the creek I stepped down into the pit I had cleared along the edge for safety the day before . I had nearly lost the white dog coming in to the cabin that morning when the 3 foot ledge of snow she was standing on while waiting for me to catch up gave way, and she went in. I struggled to undo my pulk harness, and rush to the edge of the water. I got there in time to see her get pulled under, and washed down stream. I sprinted along side in my snowshoes, tripping, and falling ounce in the heavy snow. Struggling to catch my breath I ran hard to catch up with her, as she bobbed in and out of the waves trying to dog paddle up-stream. I made it to a narrow spot in the creek where a snow burdened group of alders had collapsed onto the water’s edge, and created a sort of woven bridge that stuck out a foot over the water. I dove down onto it and grasped for the white dogs collar. Catching it in time I heaved her out of the water and onto the snow above the creeks edge. I pulled my self back to my knees, and climbed up next her to catch my breath. As I assured her she was alright I looked down stream to see the creek disappear under the shelf of ice that was still present over the lake. Thirty seconds later, and she would have been swept under the ice.”That was close girl” I said as we walked back along the hundred yards or so she had been carried down, so I could retrieve the sled, and our supplies for the week. I shook the image of the ice out of my thoughts and dipped the coffee pot into the cold water.
As I set the coffee pot on the stove to boil, I sat back down in the rocking chair by the fire, took out the note pad I had bought in town the day before, and wrote down this very journal entry. I wrote with apprehension, and anxiety. I wrote with thousands of question in my head that had no answers, and many times more that I hadn’t yet thought up. There was to be so many memories, adventures, tears, complexity’s, and full filling days to come. More than I could have known as I sat there sipping coffee and writing in my notebook. It was the first morning I had spent at the cabin since building it that I wasn’t just visiting for the weekend. There was to be no hike out on Sunday afternoon. No snowy drive back to an apartment in town. That morning the Kadiwhompass cabin became my home.