“Just 10 more miles, and we’ll be at the lake!” I couldn’t wait to show my new husband my family’s secret getaway situated in the mountains (the same ones Zane Gray is famous for setting his Westerns in).
Google maps was just generally routing us to the lake. No address, but I knew how to find my grandparents’ cabin. I’d visited 4 times, although paid attention 0 times, fighting carsickness from the backseat.
Mule deer crossed the curvy highway to the meadow. A black bear stared at us as we zipped by in our sportsy red car.
My car — perfect for parallel parking and looking like a pending race at stoplights — then hit the inclining washboard road just as the sun closed up shop for the night. The custom tires caused the whole thing to vibrate like a matchbox hot wheels.
We arrived at our first fork at 9:00pm, about a mile from the lake.
“Go………..left. We don’t want to go to the boat dock.”
My husband (bless him) is used to my uncertain navigation, but tonight would be the culmination. I forgot to plan for arrival under a moonless blackout.
Next up, a T in the gravel path.
“Go right.” I pressed my forehead against the tinted window. “Seems like a good idea.” The one thing I do know is the cabin on the right side.
We dead-ended into the shoreline next to a private patio. “Is this their cabin?” Luke asked.
“No. I feel like it’s further up.”
The water was eerily still. All the lake houses were dark, except for one remote three-story.
I pointed. “See the cabin that’s all lit up? That’s where we’re going, Babe!”
But which maze of outlets should we drive on? Each one seemed to bring us to someone else’s cabin, tent site, or the water. And each one was less of a road than the one before.
We found ourselves ascending toward the boat dock, hugging the side of a mountain. What a view we would have it were day time. “Right now, I am 100% sure the cabin is below us,” I said.”I don’t know where the correct road is, but I know this one isn’t it.”
My patient husband u-turned, relying on my acute (if not accurate) intuition.
Our cellphones were out of service, battery, or both.
Trial and error, we covered each finger of washboard streets. I couldn’t decide if it felt humorous or hopeless. The only road left was guarded by a sign with huge letters, “No Trespassing. Dead End. Private Entrance. Russell and Sue Something-or-other.”
Tonight didn’t feel like a night to trespass.
Finally, we parked the car and started hiking. Silence except for the crunch of our feet on the shifting, sharp rocks. We knew we were spooking anyone awake at 9:45pm and even possibly the mountain lions.
The cabin appeared to me to be a mile away of sheer steepness. And my sandals kept sidestepping off my foot.
“Let’s just sit for a minute.” Luke pulled out my phone and zoomed in on the frozen map.
Helplessness started creeping in again, because this cabin I knew was my grandparents? Now it looked like it was right on the water’s edge. It shouldn’t be right on the shore. Was the darkness just creating an illusion? The terrain was all so disorientating.
We will laugh about this later.
A spotlight shone on the cliffs above us.
“They’re looking for us!” I stood up. “Oh they’ll be so worried when they find our abandoned car.”
A truck rolled by above us.
“Dad?” I called weakly for the sake of the sleeping campers. “I’m sure that’s my dad.”
Luke observed something more important. “That’s a road.”
We scurried up the jagged stones to the flatness. “Is that the cabin?”
My siblings, mom, and grandparents were on the porch, happy to see us and my dad returned shortly in his truck. The no trespassing road……..it was the cue I had missed.
“It’s so good to be here.” I exhaled.
The next morning we awoke to a stunning view . . . and a flat tire, locked in with lug nuts so tight we would need to acquire the specific tool.
So this coming weekend will be Chapter 2. Return to the cabin with fresh tires. A real bummer, right?
At least we’ll know every misty mountain and twisty turn backwards and forwards.