Just north of Payson, at the foot of the Mogollon Rim, my family owns a cabin.
She might not be much to look at, but as a kid, trips to the cabin were always some of the most anticipated days of the year. My Grandparents, the owners, spent almost every weekend all summer there, and they had a few rules: no work, no talk of work, no thinking about work, and no electronics. My giant cast of cousins combined with miles of forest to play in to ensure that the time we spent slowing down was never boring. The place had rhythm I loved, Mornings were cool, days hot, and afternoon thunderstorms were our metronome. I never wanted to go home.
We’ve been taking Jack to The Cabin since he was young.
And we’ve tried to make regular trips up there since.
But winters are rough in cabin country, and we haven’t been back since Fall. With my bad back putting me out of hiking commission for at least the next couple of weeks, and Spring having sprung, another trip was in order.
We got the the cabin just around 11 or so. Jack popped out of the car and wanted to explore from the moment his feet hit the ground. First things first, we needed some sammiches.
Sammich-ing done, Jack took on the creek with minimal bravery
And then slightly more bravery
And finally true courage.
Eventually he tired of Dadda making him climb rocks. Luckily Mamma was there to save him.
Going to take a nap whether he wanted to or not All tuckered out, Jack settled in for a cozy nap inside, and I managed to sneak away to a nearby river for a few hours of fishing.
It’s still a little early for the hopper-dropper fishing I prefer. The water bugs are out though, and the fish will be bitting soon. I returned to the cabin to find a very awake toddler and a wife who was not super pleased with my absence during his failed nap.
Luckily his cuteness is distracting, and all was soon forgiven.
In a flash, Jack realized there were horses in the pasture across the street. He was transfixed. Hi Horse, Bye Horse, Neigh Horse, Hi Horse, By Horse, Neigh Horse over and over and over again.
We tried going for a walk around the block, but all Jack wanted was to get back to the horses.
Hi Horse, Bye Horse, Neigh Horse the chorus continued.
But all good things must pass, and soon the horses were called away for dinner. Jack filled this equine sized hole in his life with the best game he’s ever invented.
Soon it was time for bed. After warming his blankets by the fire, we laid him down in his crib downstairs and he simply collapsed. Mission accomplished.
To some outdoors lovers, cabins are a nightmare. The thought of returning to the same place, night after night, year after year seems banal at best and clastrophobic at worse. They are roamers and they want to roam.
To some extent these people have a point. We spend time outside for the sense of exploration and the ability to leave society behind. Cabins offer neither of these things. That being said, there is real value in returning to a place time after time. For one, returning again and again is how you really come to know a place. When will the creeks flow? When will the trees bloom? Where are the squirrels living? Will we hear elk bugle? These are questions that take years, not days, to answer.
But more importantly, returning to a place again and again allows you to see the changes in you.
Life changes us, all of us, usually for the better. Some of these changes are big,
And some of them are small.
But the world changes too. And, as we and the world around us rapidly evolve with and around one another, it is hard to separate how we have grown from how the world has changed. Returning to a place over and over again solves this problem by giving us a reference point.
Cabins don’t change much and they aren’t visited often. They are a singular and stationary point around which our lives can revolve, visited just enough to provide prospective. And in this way we Halieys and Sams can go crashing through time, returning to our cabins every now and then for a few moments of clarity. Cabins are a mirror unwarped by the crooked bow of time.
Or, put another way, when asked why I don’t have more pictures of The Cabin in my cabin posts the answer is simple: Cabin posts aren’t about The Cabin,
They’re about us.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.