*Scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the corresponding vlog.
(v.) The act of secluding oneself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, going to a cabin in the woods, and writing. -Urban Dictionary
A couple years ago I derided Thoreau for extolling the virtues of living in an isolated cabin, while actually living close enough to town that he could be home for dinner if he wanted, or walk home so his mom could do his laundry. Well, I take it all back. He had the right idea.
Although for the last year and a half my partner, puppy, and I have stayed relatively isolated at home, when the chance came up for our first overnight away from home in what feels like forever, we took it- even if it was an overnight at an even more isolated cabin in the woods. And by isolated I mean a half hour drive and a 45 minute hike through the forest to an Alaska State Parks cabin. Just far enough away from everything to feel isolated, but still close enough to civilization that we could return home in short order if we wanted to. Like Thoreau.
The Cowee Meadow Cabin is situated in an area with no wifi or cell service, and the cabin contains no amenities besides a kerosene heater, a table, a couple wooden sleeping platforms, and a countertop. It’s BYO everything including water, kerosene, camping stove, sleeping bags, and whatever you’re going to bring to amuse yourself for the evening. Pretty bare bones, just like Thoreau’s cabin. So I packed the necessities- a sleeping bag, water, food, forgot a pillow, and shoved a book, journal, and pen in at the top.
Packing only what we could reasonably carry on our backs, we left the car and hit the trail. We hiked through marshland, forest, a field of wildflowers, and then through forest again before breaking into a clearing where the little cabin sits just on the other side of a gently flowing creek with a little bridge. We found signs of bears along the trail, but no bears had shown themselves during our hike. Although only 2.5 miles from the car, and another quarter mile to the seashore, there in the clearing, in the middle of bear country, with no access to the internet, we felt much farther away.
While the field of wild irises and other foliage in the clearing was beautiful and begging to be enjoyed, it also meant biting bugs were out in force, bug dope be damned, and we were soon chased inside the cabin. I stared out the grubby cabin windows at the flowers wishing I had Windex as well as my collection of bug-fighting accoutrements I had at home for the backyard- tiki torches, a Thermocell, bug netting, citronella candles… Nobody was going to hike out for a night or two with these things, but it got me thinking- If I were Thoreau and living in this cabin and close enough to town to bring these items back from a trip home, I totally would.
Resigned to spending the evening inside sans internet and screens, we lightened our packs by way of wolfing down dinner, then pulled out cards, books, and journals. Mr. Puppy promptly curled up on our sleeping bags and fell asleep.
Meanwhile I opened a new Moleskine journal to the first blank page. I’d been meaning to start a new habit of daily journaling January 1st but just hadn’t felt like writing for the past year. Now, without the usual distractions of social media, and tv shows to catch up on, words began to flow as the pen touched the paper. Perhaps that’s all Thoreau needed too, a quiet space away from the usual distractions. Though he wouldn’t exactly have been fighting off an addiction to screens and social media.
At this time in the Alaskan summer the daylight dims only late at night, so it wasn’t until the cabin darkened enough to need our headlamps that we put down our hobbies. As we tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible on the wooden bunk, without disturbing the puppy who had claimed the ends of our sleep sacks hours before, our thoughts turned to breakfast. The next day was a weekend, and although we’d brought a meager camping breakfast, there was actually no reason we couldn’t hike back to the car before breakfast and be home in time for an extravagant weekend brunch. Because we could. So we did. Probably much like Thoreau and his dinners at the Emersons’ house.
I get it now. All you really need is the “feel” of isolation and freedom from daily distractions to get the ink flowing, but in actuality, it’s really nice to be close enough to the comforts of home that they can be available.
Watch the vlog for a tour of the Cowee Meadow Cabin
Have you stayed at a remote cabin in the woods? Where do you go to get away from distractions to concentrate? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
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