I’d like to say that I fell in love with the cabin at first sight. But that didn’t happen. Shoney had sent me the listing, via e-mail, for a 560-square foot cabin in Meeker Park, a place I was only vaguely aware of, existing down the road from Allenspark, toward Estes. The small black-and-white picture showed a small woodframe cabin sitting among tall pine trees, with two chairs on the deck, and a big front window. It looked good, the size was perfect; it had electricity and a wood-burning stove but no plumbing, although it had a compost toilet. I liked the idea of roughing it a bit, bringing water in from the outside pump, chopping wood for the wood-burning stove, some romantic notion of being a mountain dweller.
It was early in May when I drove up, one of the uglier months in the mountains when the snow has melted, leaving behind a brown flattened landscape that is still a month or so away from greening up. On top of that, it was a gloomy day, and my mood matched it, worried about jobs and juggling work and planned activities for the upcoming summer. The directions told me to turn off Highway 7 past Allenspark on a road called Cabin Creek Road, then two miles down a winding dirt road, past cabins tucked into the woods. I came to a “T” in the road, where I faced the park, a broad valley, largely treeless in the middle, where I turned left and went two-tenths of a mile up, turned right on a nameless road that looked more like someone’s driveway, but with signs nailed to the tree with people’s names. Through the woods I went, with more cabins on either side, until I saw the address on the fence and recognized the cabin from the picture.
It was cute, there was no doubt about it, especially with the two old-fashioned metal chairs on the deck, looking very inviting. The small wooden-shingle cabin was surrounded by several very tall ponderosas but also by several other cabins, closer than I would have liked. When I had imagined my dream cabin, it was off in the woods by itself, like something in a Thomas Kinkade painting, with wisps of smoke fluttering from the chimney. But the cabin I faced had another cabin almost in its front yard, and there were other cabins, of varying size and building materials, all around—one next door with several cars parked in front. There was a definite lack of privacy and it felt a little too “urban.”
But when I climbed the stairs to the deck, careful to step over a broken stair, and peered in the window, I was smitten. Inside was the cabin I had been looking for: knotty pine walls and ceilings, a sandstone fireplace anchoring one end of the living room, a small kitchen beyond. Because I couldn’t get inside, I wandered around the property, only a third of an acre, with a fence on two sides and a garage/shed behind it, on which were nailed old mining implements and antique signs, one that said “Burma Shave.” This place had character, I could feel it already, had some history. The house next door looked like it might have been built by the same builder, but bigger. Outside was a large wooden table and ornate wooden chairs, and something about it reminded me of the Swedish painter Carl Larsson. It indicated some beauty and creativity of mountain living, as if elegant, three-course meals were regularly served under the pine trees. And on the west side of the cabin were several aspen trees, not enough to make a forest, but the start of something promising. I liked the cabin but I didn’t like the fact that the other houses were so close, and, in my gloomy mood, I didn’t want to stick around, hurried off to come back another day with Shoney.
Yet, strangely, when I e-mailed a friend about seeing the cabin, in my descriptions, I referred to it as “my cabin,” as in “my cabin has aspen trees around it,” as if, even before my rational mind had decided I wanted it, my subconscious had already laid some claim to it.