The road twisted back on itself like a snake coiled to strike as we climbed through the mountains. Asphalt gave way to gravel, gravel gave way to rocky dirt as we went deeper into the forest, the trees wrapping their protective branches over top of us as we drove.
Dominic was reading handwritten directions while I kept track of the distance we traveled after each turn off. He peered through the windshield, scanning the left bank of trees. “How far have we gone?” he asked.
Glancing at the odometer, I told him, “Three point seven miles on this road.”
“Okay. The driveway should be coming up on the left. . .” Suddenly his hand snapped to the window, pointing. “There. It’s gotta be that little road right there.”
Looking in the direction he pointed, I saw what looked to be no more than a wide deer trail. “That little road?”
I made the left turn onto a road that wasn’t quite wide enough for a car. It was pock marked with pot holes, and the side was washed away in one spot, forcing me to drive the car into the brush on the other side. My eyes flicked to Dominic. “Good thing we ditched the Mustang,” I said as we hit another divot.
“No kidding. I’d be in tears by now,” he replied. “The cottage is the only house on this road. The directions say it’s half a mile in.”
“Great.” I knew my tone lacked enthusiasm. Driving fifty feet on this road was wretched. I wasn’t looking forward to a full half-mile.
Not soon enough a building came into view. It was small, and looked to have been built by hand out of trees cut from the surrounding forest. It had a porch reaching the entire front width of the cabin. A fieldstone chimney climbed one side.
We climbed out of the car, and Allison and I gathered groceries and luggage from the trunk while Dominic went to unlock the door. We met on the porch.
“I need to go fire up the generator and turn the power on,” Dominic told me.
I was confused. “Generator?” I looked to the roof of the cabin. No power lines. I looked to Dominic. “But we didn’t get any gas for a generator.”
He started walking around to the back. “I was told this one runs on diesel, and that there’s a large tank that should have fuel in it. The agent I work with said he would make sure we had fuel.” He disappeared around the corner of the cabin.
A minute later, the sounds of a motor trying to start polluted the quiet of the woods. After four tries, the generator’s motor roared to life, decimating the tranquility completely. So much for a quiet getaway. Surely that thing was loud enough to be heard from the road.
We walked into a large common room of sorts. Just left of the door was a beat up oak dining table and chairs. Dated, yellow metal cabinets and appliances lined the left wall to form a galley kitchen. To the right, two sofas formed an L shape with a coffee table in front. The horrid olive green color was checked with a dirty white, giving the fabric the look and feel of a colorful burlap sack. An ancient console television graced the right wall, and lurking in the far corner was the black iron hulk of a wood stove.
It was freezing inside, and I assumed it wouldn’t get any warmer. The trees overhead blocked all but trickles of sunlight, and we were at a high elevation. This place would probably feel air conditioned in the sweltering heat of summer.
I nodded in the direction of the stove. “Is that our heat?”
“Apparently,” Dominic answered. “I didn’t see a furnace in the cellar.”
“Great,” I said with a roll of my eyes. “Well, why don’t you go find the wood pile and start a fire. Allison and I will put the groceries away and check out the sleeping area.”
“Sounds good,” he said, and walked outside.
Allison and I got to work hauling the groceries inside and finding a place for everything. The fridge wasn’t cold, yet, but we had bought two bags of ice to help chill it faster. Allison found the flatware in a drawer and pots and pans in the cabinet below. I found dishes in the cabinet just above her discovery.
Groceries stored and essentials found, we took our duffel bags and headed through the small opening at the back that lead into what I assumed was sleeping quarters. A small landing revealed stairs leading down to the cellar and three steps up to a raised bedroom of sorts. There was a queen bed on each side of the short stairway, both stripped bare.
“I hope there are sheets and blankets,” I said more to myself.
Allison answered. “What about that chest?” She pointed to a worn cedar chest tucked into the corner of the room.
I smiled at her. “Good eye, sweetie.”
Opening the chest immersed us in the musty cedar odor of bed linens and pillows that had been stored for a long time. We began pulling out sheets and blankets, searching for something that didn’t smell quite so bad and felt soft enough to sleep on. After about ten minutes we had picked what we thought were the best options and made the beds.
By then, Dominic had trundled a small stack of wood to the stove a was attempting to start a fire. He looked up at us as we came back into the room. “I’ve got a bunch stacked out on the porch so I won’t have to go so far next time. There’s a huge pile out behind the cabin.” He turned back to the open stove. “Now, if only I could get a fire started.”
“Have you tried paper?” I asked.
“I couldn’t find any,” he confessed.
Glancing around the room, I didn’t see any either. “I’ll go get some kindling. We’ll start one the old-fashioned way.” And I headed out to the woods to gather small sticks.