The dead of winter in the Yaak brings short days and long frigid nights. Here, only two miles from Canada and well off the grid sits our 15’ X 25’ log cabin.
I made it myself, with local logs 33 years ago, using a chain saw, pickup winch, and a variety of hand tools, such as a draw-knife, tow-chains, comalong, pulleys, hand-crank-drill, sledge hammer, and plain old muscles. It’s my first building venture, so it doesn’t necessarily embody the finest elements of the cabin-building craft. For example, even though the cracks between the logs are stuffed with insulation, wisps of frigid outside air still often find their way through the cracks to leave little collections of frost clinging to various spots on the log walls inside the cabin. Still, my crackling little homemade wood heating-stove keeps the place toasty warm, as long as I keep the fire going.
Although, I have many conveniences, such as propane-powered lights, stove, tankless water-heater, and refrigerator, along with battery-powered running water, there are none of what most people consider virtual necessities. I have no TV, radio, or telephone, no nearby neighbors, and very few human callers. I do, however, have lots of non-human visitors. For 33 years, I have been shooting pictures and videos of those wild critters — whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, moose, coyotes, wolves, lions, black bears, grizzly bears, lynxes, water fowl, and a plethora of other birds. I have supplemented that collection the last two years by installing several trail cams outside to catch the secret and intriguing lives of my wild friends in digital stills and videos. Even though the technical quality of these trail cams are not quite comparable to traditional professional imaging devices, the clandestine nature of the content they produce can be fascinating.
My entertainment standby at the cabin through the years has largely been reading books. However, the added value of the occasional wolf-concert outside can richly increase one’s enjoyment. During the day, it’s hard to beat the invigorating experience of cross-country skiing and reading the sign left by my wild neighbors while I slept. The art of reading sign (i.e. deciphering the activities of wildlife by studying tracks and scat) can provide many enjoyable hours while I investigate the area around the cabin on skiis. Periodically stopping to break the ice from the neck of my canteen with a knife and picking the stiff snow off my mustache and beard just go with the territory. Tying fishing flies for the next summer is another enjoyable and fruitful winter endeavor.
So, yes, I am an average working stiff, but I have been gifted with a rich and unique life, indeed, thanks to a primitive little log cabin in the Yaak. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.