birthday bazaar

Boys with tools, off to chop the wood

View from the cabin in the White Mountains

25 bucks-a-night lodging

There had been a few explosions on this cabin’s outhouse seat that left little to the imagination. Either someone didn’t make it onto the seat fast enough, or the explosion was that comprehensive. Regardless, there’s something about getting away from your own day in and day out that’s refreshing, and necessary.

We all lived in dry cabins anyway–with outdoor toilets and five-gallon water jugs that we hauled from the water station mid-winter, but there’s a difference between a place, no matter how similar in infrastructure (or lack thereof), that you have to regularly maintain, versus a place that offers reprieve from your daily grind. It’s why people go out to eat. Or on vacation. Every now and again, you gotta forget about the mice traps in your cabin’s corners, or the ice rind building up around your windows, or the icicle of shit forming in your own outhouse.

That’s why a little weekend getaway with some friends, somewhere in the great outdoors before winter had us hunkered down, sounded like the perfect revelry for a birthday. Get out of town for a while. Take in some fresh air. Enjoy a change of pace from having to maintain our own daily chores.  So I found a public use cabin about an hour outside Fairbanks, in the rolling White Mountains, humble in the shadow of Denali, that cost an unbeatable 25 dollars a night.

Given our schedules, we all had to leave at varying times, and when the second wave of people arrived, at about 11 o’clock at night, after hiking seven miles with backpacks, booze, and gallons and gallons of water, because there’s no indoor plumbing at this place, my greeting was “happy fucking birthday.” Some of the party thought the trail leading to the cabin was challenging, what with the ice and the hills, and that I’d asked a lot for my birthday–even after I’d put on a fireworks show with a left behind roman candle as they walked up the last stretch of trail to the cabin.

After a few drinks and a couple hands of Gin Rummy, though, the toil had been forgotten. And the next morning when I made coffee, cooked eggs and bacon on the wood stove, and the third wave of folks arrived with a rum cake–held in place at the center with a roll of toilet paper–life seemed pretty good. The boys cut some wood and kept the fire roaring, we watched the Northern Lights when the sun went down, and after a dinner of beans and rice, we resumed our Gin Rummy bout. My mom, along for the adventure, dominated us with each and every game.

On the way back into town we stopped at a roadhouse and had a few beers, watched a Sunday afternoon football game. Just to draw it out some more. When I got home the shitcicle was still there. And I probably dealt with it, knocking it down with a sturdy stick. But I did it, at least, with a refreshed state of mind.

Mom sizes up the wolf track, which could have been a dog track


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