3. Up the Down Staircase

For the last few weeks we have been living under overcast skies which lay like blankets over the mountains, providing a bit more insulated warmth. While this warmth is treasured, they also bring a black and white hue to everything. Which is not in any way less beautiful, at times it almost seems to invoke a quietness that really strums those inner chords of solitude, but after a while, a world drained of color begins to feel a bit monotonous.

So when Tuesday arrived bringing blue bird skies, we had to chase it.


We hurriedly ate a hefty and warm breakfast of pancakes and fried eggs (yes, twas I that made it, and it was delicious!), and began sorting and packing our gear for the days adventure. One back pack, the camera, granola and apples, a back up scarf and sweater, hatchet, and two water bottles. We took Dolly on a romp around camp, built up a nice fire for her and settled her in for a few hours nap. Ruff however, donned a sweater and booties. For the most part, he refuses to be left behind. We dug our poles out from the closet, double checked our gear, and ratcheted on our snow shoes.

We hardly made it past the camp sign (in picture above) before we realized Ruff’s shoes weren’t going to cut it. He had been leaping about and tromping through the snow and they kept flopping off. We tried to take them off, but without our insulated blanket in the sky, the daily temp was mid to low teens. He kept alternating lifting paws and looking devastated, torn between cold toes and an adventure. We took him back to camp were he sulked to his bed, licked his paws, and watched us leave with yearning eyes.

Onward! We trekked back out and were finally on our way. The packing and dog care had ended up taking us a few hours. It was early afternoon, and we still felt the day was destined for adventure. We chose a trail we had yet to explore, and set out.


The walk so far had been exquisite. We were quite warm from laying first tracks and the brilliant cold was bright against our flushed cheeks. It felt like we had truly arrived, this was the stuff we hoped for in our coming to stay here in the mountains. New experiences, daring a trail you’ve never been, and wading the wake of fresh powder beneath your feet. We stepped upon the trial and felt as if we were infinite.

That is until about twenty feet in on the trail when Zach blew out his left snowshoe. We had noticed a bit of twine latching the shoe pad to the outer structure, but in our bright blue thirst we had swatted any concern away. We had no material to fix the shoe so we had to turn back, lamenting on the way that we would remember to pack rope, duct tape, and zip ties forevermore. While our day of adventure was short-lived, we learned a few more things.

When we got home we cooked a nice meal, and did the rest of our daily chores. Our batteries were mid-low power, so Zach went to turn the back up generator on (the first generator is already down), and the thing lulls tired groans. All fluids are filled, all switches correct, everything as it should be. We are stumped. We message to the owners, and they give us a few ideas to try. None of it works. We decide to turn all power off, and save what energy we have stored left for choice times of communicating out, and of course, emergency. We played a few rounds of our favorite strategic board game. We are beginning to really hone our skills, so we now each play two hands as if there are four people playing, and make up rules to make the game harder.

Wednesday passes with another clear cold day, and no power. We try a few more tips on getting the generator going, but alas, to no luck. I spend the day deep cleaning the cabin, stoking the fire, sorting food, and doing inside chores. Zach does snow chores outside and plays fetch with Ruff. I made pork and beans for lunch. It is such a simple meal, but on a day deep with cold and filled with chores and work, it warms you up from the soles of your feet to the top of your noggin. We spent two hours teaching ourselves a new strategic card game that keeps us intricately busy and engaged for the evening. The night is very cold, -19 degrees. The bright depth of the stars against the obsidian sky is enchanting, and we take a moment to stare into it, before we go to bed.

The frigid Thursday morning makes it hard to get out of bed, but the dogs are whining to be released. I watch Zach notice something, and charge out of the bedroom, only to return in less than a moment. Eyes wide, he stares at me with no words, until a few syllables squeak out. “The water line is frozen!”

Our water source is a creek that runs near the cabin. The whole system is run from a gravity pump, so the actual source of our water is about 600 feet up the mountain behind us. We keep the sinks running cold water at night, which runs with enough pressure that the pipes won’t freeze, but apparently, not this night.

Having not prepared for this, we have not saved any back up water. We quickly start hauling buckets of snow into the cabin; to melt into water, to then boil, to then haul up to the source in an attempt to unfreeze the exposed piping. It is astonishing how a large mass of snow can yield only a slight amount of water. It takes us five and a half hours of collecting, boiling, hauling, and pouring to finally unfreeze the pipes. However we managed to maintain humor through it all.


Friday, tired from hauling nearly 30 gallons of boiling water up hill between the two us (not to mention collecting the snow and boiling it down to get our 30 gallons) we laid lazy-like near the fire and read. Zach got a small generator going that has enough gusto to keep our electricity charged if we are not willy nilly with it, which provides us internet and access to the larger world outside of ours. At this time we feel content, warm, and a bit proud of ourselves for digging in deep, and meeting all of our challenges without yielding. I laugh to myself through all of these hectic moments of unknown and problem solving and recall a quote from the book “Up The Down Stair Case”. The quote is a statement from an administrator to a teacher who is always trying to find a way to make things work without knowing how: “Let it be a challenge to you”.

Saturday we have visitors and run about cooking, getting gas, and visiting. It still surprises me to return into social mode after a few days of pure silence and unexpected adventures. It almost feels like two worlds.

Today, Sunday, we do chores, I write while Zach uses our refound internet to look up football statistics. It is a good, exciting life we are leading, and through it all, we are happy that we came.

Also, the sourdough bread turned out absolutely delicious! We ate it with homemade plum jam.


Ta ta for now,


10 thoughts on “3. Up the Down Staircase

  1. We love sharing your experiences in the wilderness! Your writing is superb and we are so happy you both are able to live your dreams. Just like grandson, Tucker! I’m sending the blog cite to our three kids and my two sisters. G & G

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Grandpa!
      Thank you! We are having a blast, and are learning so much. I’m so glad you are able to join us on our journey! You didn’t send me to all that college writin schoolin for nuthin! 🙂


  2. I was somewhat envious until I read it was 19 below at night….. Thank god you have those dogs to generate additional heat in your bed!! The pictures are fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Aunt Andrea!
      Thanks! Ha, ya, it was a bit of a shock, but all four of us in bed generate a pretty fair amount of heat. The hardest part is getting over the dog breath. Makes you almost ready to bear the cold 😀


    1. Hiya Louise,
      There is a manual for the caretakers, but it is a bit outdated. The owners (who are extremely kind, responsive, and helpful) also had to leave early in the morning the day after we got here, so we are learning many things as we go. We were aware that the water lines could freeze if we didn’t take preventative action (we did, Zach even buried the line and source for insulation the day before it froze) but the steep drop in temp must have been enough to freeze it through the night.
      The first thing we did after our water was back was fill as many pots, bottles, and jugs as we could! We are surely prepared if there is a next time!
      Ha, thanks! We are a couple of goofs most of the time. I’m glad you enjoy our sense of humor 😁! Think warm thoughts for us in sunny Melbourne!

      Liked by 1 person

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