Playing Catchup: The 2015 Cabin Backlog

In addition to the year-old unpublished draft that became the last post, I found a bunch of notes from other trips in 2015, so it’s time to hit fast-forward!

March: Can’t Catch A Break

All fired up.

The cabin interior with the propane fireplace installed.

If our first trip of 2015 could be summarized as challenging, our second trip in March can really only be described with one word (and some critical punctuation): Seriously?! We already knew that it can get rather windy up there, but this trip really put us through the test. The wind off the Cascade Range was ripping East toward the river then right back up our ridge and pummeling the cabin. The budget roof shingles were flapping around like mad so I had to go through yet another tube of roof patch to cement them down. And when it came to eating, making dinner (the Watson camping classic of Brat ’n’ Tater Chowder) took far longer than expected on the camp stove—not the best lesson to learn when you’re hangry. We did successfully install the propane fireplace and cranked it up that evening to warm things up, but without insulation in the walls and just a 3/8” sheet of OSB between us and the exterior, it was a very cold night. We did leave the fireplace on low all night to help maintain the temperature, and that worked reasonably well aside from the gentle glow of the flame flickering around the walls. The second night was far more bearable from a wind perspective, and we actually took some time to enjoy the start of the wildflower season after working on more rough electrical wiring.

The back side of the cabin now houses the fireplace flue—a dual intake/exhaust pipe with a bell cap.

Eyes on the road.

April: The Third Time’s the Charm

The sunsets never get old...

We returned again in April for two reasons: first, to start work on drywall and insulation, but second, we had just put an offer in on a second house near our home in Vancouver that we intended to remodel and turn into a rental property. Our closing date was a few weeks away and we were in that awkward limbo mode of the house-buying process where you basically just sit there twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the bank to call. So we escaped, and this trip was leaps and bounds more pleasant than the first two of the year: nothing more than a light breeze, wildflowers in full bloom, and a little bit of excitement in the starry night sky.

But the trip was not without its frustrations! One of the important parts of owning a dog and taking him on a road trip is that typically whenever you stop, one person walks the dog and the other runs the errand or goes to the bathroom, especially if it’s warm out. Then you switch. Rather than haul all of our heavy materials up for a six-hour drive and kill the gas mileage, we stopped at The Home Depot in Wenatchee to pick up drywall and load it on top of the rest of our gear in the pickup. Justin took Zeus for a walk and I headed into the store to load up on gear. But anyone who has tried to move drywall before knows that a) they come two sheets to a pack to prevent them from breaking when moved, and b) each sheet weighs about 50 pounds, making it c) really difficult to move by yourself unless you’re a professional contractor with the arms to prove it or a bodybuilder. I am neither. Naturally there wasn’t an unoccupied employee in sight, so I stupidly started to slide the panels around by myself and didn’t get very far. Thankfully a fellow shopper had been through the same situation before and offered to help.

Insulation in place with a few drywall panels installed.

By this time the weather up there had really warmed up, with highs in the mid-80s—a stark contrast from Portland’s temperamental Spring. This makes for difficult work when wearing long sleeves and gloves to put up fiberglass insulation. We had considered the newer recycled denim variety, but at nearly twice the cost we thought we couldn't justify the costs for our first go-around. Despite the heat, we were able to finish insulating the lower walls, wrap up the electrical work, and start putting up drywall panels. Working with drywall is not my favorite thing in the world, and I made the mistake of getting 2-1/4” drywall screws instead of the typical 1-5/8”. This meant the already dried out studs offered a lot more resistance to the screws, resulting in an extremely frustrated Isaac. We also brought with us a new kitchen table—a folding gate-leg IKEA model that has some much-needed drawer storage—and happily put that together, taking the makeshift table that Justin built out of scraps last year outside as a dedicated cooking surface.

Zeus pretty much carries his ball wherever he goes up there.

Outside of the construction labor, we absolutely loved being surrounded by balsam root (we learned it’s edible and the root can be used as an analgesic) and all kinds of other wildflowers peppered throughout the hillsides. The sunny yellows accented by purples and pinks really cheered up our trip and made the frustrations all worth it. We also brought Justin’s telescope with us, and despite a really cheap, shaky tripod, were able to see Jupiter and three of its moons in the brilliant night sky—a first for both of us.

Tiny, delicate pink wildflowers.

Lastly, during this trip we learned that our 19-year-old truck’s air conditioning doesn’t actually work at all, and we spent nearly the whole six-hour trip home in silence with both windows down trying to stay cool. The wind noise made for a strange distraction but also prevented any deep thinking or conversation. One more thing to add to the truck repair list…

June: Fajitas and Meetings

Morning moon sky.

There are 146 parcels in the Chelan Springs Property Owners Association split across three divisions on both sides of McNeil Canyon (outside Chelan, WA). The POA, which operates much like a homeowner’s association, has an elected board that manages the annual dues (a whopping $60/parcel) and is tasked with maintaining the 20-some miles of gravel and dirt access roads as well as protecting the handful of community properties—originally natural springs that have since dried up. Each year the POA holds its meeting at a nearby park along the Columbia River to discuss matters relevant to the group and elect new board members.

Doh! Poor doe.

This would be our first year attending the meeting (we missed it last year due to a bout of poor scheduling), and since it eats up a solid two hours of our day, we hadn’t planned on doing much work on the cabin itself. The wind had picked back up that weekend and it was hot—temperatures in the 90s throughout the day. We did manage to put up a little more drywall and insulation before giving up and heading out on a hike through a neighboring parcel. It had just popped up for sale and shares about 100 feet of property line with ours (the dirt access road being the divider), and we wanted to see if it would be worth tacking on to our existing 12.5 acres. Along the way we found a half-eaten deer’s leg and a few other carcass remnants from what we assume were coyotes. Zeus was intrigued to say the least!

I also successfully cooked a new-to-us camping meal (don't worry, it wasn't leg of deer) that delivered delicious results: chicken fajitas! Paired with some fresh Coronas, the sautéed chicken breast, poblano and bell peppers, and onions with a packaged sauce made for a delicious and hearty one-skillet meal that took the edge off the evening really, really nicely. But perhaps more important, in between trips we shelled out to replace the truck’s A/C condensor and a few other parts, making for a far more pleasant trip there and back.

This is Justin's fajita face.

Back at home, work for both of us and the rental remodel project were starting to consume all of our time, but we were still planning on returning to the cabin in late July as a vacation after my biggest event of the year, the World Domination Summit. We had no way of suspecting that the next time we’d actually see the cabin would be mid-August, that our emotions would be riding a rollercoaster, and that everything on our property would change…