This second installment of the Cabin Life series, is really just a description of the cabin and its surroundings. I had intended to jump right into my childhood, but I thought that it may be helpful to paint a picture of the location so that when I talk about the places I spent my time, you would have a clearer vision in your head. So thank you for staying with me as I continue my journey through my memories, and the landmarks and experiences that shaped The Passage at Moose Beach.
An introduction to the cabin.
As I mentioned in part one of this series, when my family arrived at the cabin each summer, my grandparents, my mother’s parents, would already be waiting. The cabin was built by my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, and it has remained in our family ever since. My grandparents were retired by the time I began visiting, and lived just a few hours away from the cabin location. During the winters, the water to the cabins around the lake would be turned off because of freezing. But as soon as the water was turned back on for the summer, my grandparents would immediately head there and take care of opening the cabin. This involved taking off the shutters from the windows, general cleaning, fixing any pipes that might have burst during the freezing months, and getting the boats into the water. They would remain throughout the summer, eventually closing the cabin in September or October for winter’s arrival once again.
My family actually has two cabins on our property, one which is considered the main cabin, with separate rooms for a kitchen, living/dining area, bathroom, bedroom, and front porch. When I was young, the master bedroom and bathroom did not exist yet. These were added during my early teens. So as a youth, my grandparents’ bed took up a corner space in the living area. There is also a large bed on the screened in front porch, which overlooks the lake. It is a wonderful place to sleep. You get to hear all the sounds that the night creatures make, including deer moving through the brush, and noisy “loons” on the lake with their bird calls that sound like crazy laughter, hence the name.
The second building is a small, one-room cabin, where my parents and we kids slept. The space was large enough for a queen bed for mom and dad and bunk beds for my brother and I. Cots with super warm, downy sleeping bags were added later as my younger sisters were born. There is a small table for breakfast, and a quaint little kitchen with a sink, stovetop, and a refrigerator. In one corner is a beautiful old wood-burning stove and oven, which my father would be sure to light first thing in the morning to fill the cabin with warmth and chase away the night’s chill. We had an 8-track tape player, which I used a lot to listen to classic music from the 50s and 60s, along with the wonderful songs of John Denver.
The final building on our property is an outside bathroom and attached shop. There was also a large cement patio that we eventually replaced with an even larger redwood deck. And down the small hill from the main cabin is the dock. From the dock, there is an unobstructed view of almost the entire lake, with the exception of a small cove just around the corner to the left.
The mountain lake.
The lake itself is the perfect size, at least I have always thought so. It is a little more than half a mile wide, and 1.5 miles long, stretching north and south in a valley filled with pine trees and surrounded by mountains. The size is great for both water-skiing in the afternoons and fishing in the mornings and evenings.
For a mountain lake, the water is surprisingly warm. Or I should say not cold, but that is subjective. It also depends on the time of year. In early June, you can get in the lake and while the initial shock of cold is intense, after a bit you can get used to the temperature. July and August are very nice as temperature of both the air and water rise, making swimming extremely enjoyable. I have been in the water as late as October before, but last year I tried that, and the pain I felt in my bones from the cold had me struggling for shore and the relative warmth of the dock as fast as possible!
The blue water of the lake is only 4-5 feet deep off the end of our dock, but it drops off pretty quickly just a couple yards out. The lake is filled with Rainbow trout and Mackinaw, so there is always good fishing. At times, the surface of the water is so calm and still, it looks like glass. A mirror, reflecting all the world around it. In the mornings if you wake up early enough, you can see the steam rising off the lake, when the temperature of the water is warmer than the air. Most times, the sky is a clear blue, but when clouds roll in, they are the largest, puffiest, most grand clouds I have ever seen in my life.
Places to explore.
There are several locations worth visiting around the lake. The area has many naturally occurring hot springs, where barricades have been put up to collect the water into small bathing pools. There was at one time an actual swimming pool, not too far from our cabin, that was filled with the water coming from a nearby spring. Because of this, the water was always warm, day or night, no matter what time of year. It was in that pool that I learned to swim. My grandfather taught me. I have few memories of the pool, because the forest service closed the area and filled it in while I was still quite young. I do miss it though, and make a point to visit the location every year.
There used to be two lodges on the north shore. Actually, there are still two, it is just that one has been closed for several years. The new owners do hope to re-open this year. At either one you could get a delicious burger and a soda or beer, depending upon your age and tastes. The best thing to eat though are finger steaks. These are basically thin strips of steak, breaded and deep fried. Think chicken nuggets, except with steak. They are SO good, and they don’t have them in California or pretty much anywhere outside of Idaho. Whenever I go to the cabin, I must eat these at least twice, if not more!
There are some great hikes to find around the lake, especially up to one of the forest fire lookouts high on the mountains around the area. Nowadays those would be great for mountain biking, but in my youth, that activity just wasn’t a thing yet. There is also a horseback riding camp, where you can take a guided tour that lasts a couple of hours. And hiking in to Vulcan Hot Springs is an annual tradition that you will learn more about in the next post.
The stage is set.
So that is the world I spent my summers in. It’s changed throughout the years, with some roads being closed to traffic, other roads being paved to accommodate the increasing number of campers each year, and telephone lines being added to each cabin. We have done our own updates to our cabins, keeping them modern, while still feeling rustic. Your cell phone won’t work there, but we now have a television and internet. At first, I was resistant to many of these changes, but I see the benefits they provide, especially for those who spend months on end there and need access to quick medical response.
The next post in this series will talk about my youth, when many of these modern conveniences didn’t exists, and when a child’s imagination was all he needed to create a world of fantasy and fun, along with a few frogs and snakes. Thank you again for reading and I hope you’ll stick with me for this telling.