The Idaho Springs Cabin / by Rebecca Tillett

Do you ever have one of those moments, or events, that are so amazingly ridiculous that you just know it'll be something you never truly forget? Like, in the midst of it happening you can already appreciate its value, or memorability, in hindsight? I had one of those moments, or weekends in my case, this past weekend. My husband, Mike, and his cousin Steven and Steven's partner Chelseigh (here visiting us from the Atlanta area), were also along for the ride.

The plan was simple. They were here visiting for two weeks. Mike and I would be working most of the duration of their visit. In fact, the two weekends they were here were the only days we all got to hang out together. We decided that one of those weekends should be spent at a beautiful mountain cabin, if we could find one (as we sorta waited until the last minute to book anything). We found one we all loved on AirBnB. The price was a bit steep but it sat at 10,000+ feet, in the mountains, in the always lovely Arapahoe National Forest. Fairly Isolated (aside from the hikers passing-by), and right on a beautiful lake we felt we'd definitely lucked out.

The trip started out on a bit of a frustrated and sour note when after dealing with rush hour traffic for about 20 minutes Mike realized he forgot his jacket (or I forgot it; the jury will be out indefinitely on that one!), and had to turn around and head home to retrieve it. Since Mike and I had to work that day, we were already late on getting on the road, and were really just trying to get to the cabin before dark crept in. The entire drive, including the drive up the mountain on rough terrain should have taken about an hour and a half to two hours. Oh, we stopped for pizza too, immediately prior to heading up the mountain as that was the plan for dinner that night.

So once the jacket had been retrieved, and we'd gotten back on the road, and eventually made it to the tiny town at the base of the mountains to grab our pre-ordered pizza, we were in the homestretch. We only had about an hour to go to get to the cabin, where we could unload all of our things, build a fire, and finally relax with some pizza.

No such luck.

The owner of the cabin had warned us that some snowpacks might still be lingering on the narrow dirt roadway taking us to the cabin. He warned us that nothing less than a 4WD would do. Luckily for us, Mike works at a car dealership and was able to secure us a 4WD for the excursion. We were set. 

Or so we thought.

Just short of a half-mile from the cabin, we approach a pretty gnarly looking snowpack but nothing insurmountable. Or so we thought. We began what would be our first of many many attempts to cross that hurdle. Or at the very least, break free from it. You probably see where I'm headed with this. Yes, our first attempt to cross that snowpack ended with our vehicle becoming lodged and stuck in said snowpack. By this time it was probably around 7 p.m. and we were losing light fast. While Chels and I agonized over the what-ifs, we watched Mike and Steven attempt in vain to break free from the snowy-watered-quicksand-horribleness with no suck luck. Unfortunately, when it was pitch black out, after all of us had fallen into that icy, snowy, dirty water (which we'd been ill-clothed to deal with, btw) trying to free our vehicle from the clutches of mother nature, and screaming at each other in frustration in the process,  we eventually had to cut our losses and accept that we'd be karting all of our bags and supplies to the distant cabin by foot.

And by the way, we had loads and loads of bags and supplies because the owner had told us this cabin was pretty bare and whatever we needed, we needed to bring. We'd later discover this was not at all correct and that cabin was absolutely filled with shit, shit we brought and didn't need to, shit we needlessly brought that we carried a half a mile to that cabin, on foot, in the cold, fighting exhaustion.

So we left our truck buried in the invisible snowy trench. Like pack-mules we carried everything on foot. We dropped everything on the floor of that dark cabin once we finally reached it. We started a fire. We pulled out our now freezing cold pizza and tried to eat. I'd just gotten spacers put into my teeth the day before in preparation for braces so as soon as I bit down and experienced the pain that only sore teeth are capable of delivering I began crying in frustration, joining Chelseigh who had had her own breakdown about a half hour previously when she fell into the cold water our vehicle was now ensnared in.

We all went to bed around midnight exhausted, hungry, and defeated that night.

For some reason, we were all up before dawn the next morning. Finally, we could see the cabin in the light. It was lovelier than the photos had made it seem except....except it was filthy. It seemed as if nothing had ever been dusted in that place. There were used blankets and linens everywhere. The night before we'd found children's clothes in one of the sofa pull-outs. That morning we'd made the unfortunate discovery of men's underwear on the floor of the larger bedroom (which none of us decided to sleep in, as both bedrooms were filthy and honestly, creepy as hell; pretty sure the queen-size bed and bunk beds were no less than 40 years old). Being the den-mother that she so often is, Chels immediately began cleaning up, and re-organizing the abundant supplies, all seemingly left behind by past houseguests while she made us all breakfast. Clearly the people who had stayed before us spent absolutely zero time cleaning up after themselves so we were forced to clean up after them before we could even make ourselves comfortable. Even shittier is this was an off-the-grid cabin with no cell service so we couldn't even call the cabin owner to issue complaints. We just had to make the best of it. (...because we couldn't leave either since our vehicle was still trapped!)

After breakfast the boys walked back down the hill to again attempt to free our vehicle. Some hiker-passers-by stopped to see if they could help before quickly going on their way once they realized the futility. One had let us know that there seemed to be some pieces of burlap in the snowpack further down the road that someone else had obviously used to cross...or free themselves, as were now having to do. Chelseigh and I headed in that direction to grab the material while the boys continued trying to dig us out. 

I was also taking a bunch of photos because well, this experience was certainly worth documenting!

The burlap material ended up being pieces of an old bulletproof vest. Weird. We dropped the materials off and headed back to the cabin while Mike and Steven continued the endeavor.

It was probably around lunchtime that they'd finally returned....VICTORIOUS. The vehicle had been freed, and it only cost us 5-6 hours of our 36-hour trip. We spent the rest of our last day there trying to relax, taking pictures, talking to hikers walking by (and petting their adorable dogs), watching fly-fishers, grilling food, fighting off ridiculous allergies (me anyway....and well, trying), and hummingbird watching....because there were apparently several hummingbird nests nearby and it was mating season! By Sunday morning, we'd packed up all of our things once more and headed back down the mountain, a little more tired and worn out than before we'd arrived. It was a whirlwind of crazy but the company was top-notch, the scenery was absolutely jaw-dropping, and after talking to the owner upon our return, we had our money refunded for the shittiness of the situation, so all was not lost.

Most importantly, I'll never forget that weekend, the good and the bad it brought! It was nothing short of a true adventure....And that's all we can really hope for isn't it?

The photos below were shot with my iPhone immediately after getting stuck the first night.