13,000 Hours in the Mountains: Whose Mountain Is It Anyway?

A big cat family roams Alaska Hill. Their presence has been been confirmed. At first, the evidence was inconclusive: sounds of an animal splashing around in the creek at the bottom of the hill and a barely visible tail near the sound of a branch snapping in the dark. Perhaps a murderous mountain lion, but perhaps a charming bobcat. Then, a cache was discovered near a neighbor’s propane tank. And then a spate of sightings around the area of the cache: the momma coming up a driveway, the cub disappearing into the woods, the duo crossing the road.

I have an unjustified feeling of certainty that I will be the feline’s victim. Much the way people panic when they see a gun, I’m certain, now that several people on my street have seen the beast (and its offspring), that it’s going to eat me, my dog, or both of us. Guns are all around; we simply aren’t aware of them because the owners have concealed carry permits, emphasis on concealed. The mountain lion has always been around but its territory is enormous and it’s mainly active at night. Logic often goes out the window when confronted visually with something you don’t like. I’ve hiked these woods many times with only my trusty but useless dog for protection. Now, suddenly, the caves and pits pockmarking the land terrify me, although my rational brain knows nothing has actually changed. Continue reading →

441 Days in Mountains: The (Long and Winding) Road

No, this post has nothing to do with Cormac McCarthy or the Beatles. It has to do with the impending winter and the requirements of living on a private, barely legal road. If you, like most of the sane and rational population of the United States, live on a paved road that is cleaned, plowed, and maintained by your town or county, you probably only consider the effort that goes into keeping your road pleasantly usable when it becomes unpleasantly usable, such as when a large pothole appears in the middle of it. My road, however, is a constant occupier of thoughts. Here’s what it means to live where I do:

  • Discovering your snow tires are useless and spending the whole winter creeping down the hill at two miles per hour, which was still too fast, terrified of plummeting over the edge and ending up like these guys

20160612_195334235_ios Continue reading →

Fifteen and a Half Weeks in the Mountains: What Makes a House a Home?

I’ve lived in a lot of housing units in my life. 31 now, to be exact, if you count living somewhere as a stay of at least one month. Even if you think the threshold should be three months, I’m still at 26. And all but two of those were after high school. So it’s no surprise I’ve never felt much of a connection to the places I’ve lived. They never were much more in my mind than just what I called them – housing units. Or domiciles, quarters, lodging, a roof, a pad. “Home” is not a status I’d confer on any of them.

This number 31 on the top of a hill hasn’t reached “home” status yet either, but only emotionally speaking. Acquiring a new property is like dating. You see it once and it’s gorgeous and you become infatuated; you see it a few more times and realize it’s something you want to get to know better; and then your feelings grow from infatuation into something deeper, so you decide to make the relationship exclusive, but even then, a long time might pass before you really fall in love. Although I suppose the analogy kinds of breaks down at the end there because in the case of buying a house, you’re really getting married and moving in together before you fall in love. So I guess this was an impetuous wedding in a chapel in Vegas, although my partner would beg to differ given the months of extra special frustration associated with acquiring a mortgage and insurance for a property in an area prone to wildfires. But true love can’t be far behind the fascination we both still very much have with this house and property. Here’s why. Continue reading →