If a Tree Falls in the Forest……

….and no one is around to hear Desperate Hubby scream as he sprints out of its path, can you still get an upgraded cabin from the rental agency?

The answer, my friends, is happily yes.

A Bucolic Beginning

Our short “Last Days of Summer” vacation started out benignly enough.  We loaded up the truck with fishing poles, swim suits, food provisions and band gear and made the hour-long drive to the nearby mountain hamlet of Crouch on a Thursday afternoon.  DH had been invited by a Boise band to fill-in for their guitar player during a Saturday afternoon gig, and we decided to take the opportunity for a family getaway before school started the following Monday.

In anticipation of days spent fishing for his beloved rainbow trout, Batman had spent hours with DH learning to tie fishing flies, a task he had taken to with aplomb.  The products of his labor were carefully packed into their own tackle box, and Batman checked and double-checked that they were loaded before our mid-afternoon departure.

Batman Ties

Pretty impressive for a five-year old, no?

Batman's Flies

A Storm Brews…..

We arrived at the little cabin we had rented around 5 p.m.  There was a mountain thunderstorm beginning, and Annabelle grew anxious and jumpy as she sat with her dad and brother on the back deck watching the tall lodge pole pines sway in the wind.  She came running in the house where I was unpacking our food in the tiny kitchen area after the first few raindrops fell.  She wailed that she was afraid there would be lightning, and WHAT IF ONE OF THOSE BIG TREES FELL OVER?!

I assured her that those trees had been there forever, and they were not going to fall during a storm as mild as the one starting outside.  At that precise moment the power went out.  And stayed out.  I wandered out back to see what DH thought.  I knew the kids were getting hungry, and we had planned to grill burgers on the little barbecue on the front deck that evening.  With no electricity and no lights, maybe it would be better to head into town to try to find a restaurant with a generator.

DH agreed, but just as we walked down the steps to get in the truck, he stopped and said “I’d better move this band gear back away from the porch in case it starts to rain harder.”  I shrugged and went ahead to the pickup with the kids.  We got in and buckled up.  I picked up my phone to see if we had cell service, and as I looked down I caught a blur out of the corner of my eye.  It as DH, and he was bolting across the front deck of the house, moving with a speed unprecedented since I had known him.

I was puzzled for a second or two, as I saw my husband of thirteen years fly off the end of the deck and stand next to a small shed on the far edge of the property.  My puzzlement didn’t last long though.  I heard a huge pop that sounded very similar to gunfire, then a cracking noise and a crash, all in very short sequence.  The kids screamed, and I turned my head to see one of the huge trees from the front yard laying directly behind the pickup truck where we sat strapped in for safety.  The tree had exploded into many smaller pieces, and the green branches quivered from the wind and their impact with the hard ground.

I jumped from the truck to find my beloved husband practically shaking with adrenaline and shock.  He kept saying “I was just standing there…….”

“How did you know to move?” I asked him.  He looked ashen.  “I don’t know….I just looked at the tree and thought if that thing fell right now I would be so dead.  Then I ran.”


I grabbed my camera and started to record the damage.


It was impressive from any angle.

He Was Right There!

Batman got out of the truck and carefully surveyed the area.  Annabelle, on the other hand, was completely hysterical, screaming and carrying on, refusing to leave the relative safety of the cab.

Pieces of Cabin

The inside of the little cabin showed the extent of the structural damage.  Though the porch beams mostly supported the tree, which had broken into thirds in the fall, the weight of the branches had punctured the roofline and gone through the ceiling in the front corner.  There was shattered glass everywhere from light fixtures that had fallen from the impact.

We knew we couldn’t stay at the cabin, so we raced around quickly trying to get everything reloaded before it got dark, or (our bigger fear) the front of the cabin collapsed under the weight of the tree.

Besides getting all of our gear rounded up, we had a maneuvering challenge.  The tree had narrowly missed our truck, and the huge broken trunk now lay behind us, blocking the driveway and our way back to the road.

How we gonna get out

We also had to avoid the electrical line that the tree had brought almost to the ground, but which still remained attached to the power pole and stretched to its limit.  Luckily the power was still out or we could have had an even bigger problem on our hands.

Power Line

Now Where?

We eventually got everything re-loaded to go.  DH drove forward and back, turning in a tight little radius that finally took us out through a narrow gap in the trees to the road, and headed into town.  As we wound our way through the drizzle toward the bottom of the hill we were completely astounded to come around a corner and find a young bull elk standing right in the middle of the road, his velvety horns shaking from side to side as he contemplated something unseen in the bushes.  He stood there for several seconds, then slowly walked away.  We were awed.

With no cell phone service available to contact the cabin management, we stopped at the clubhouse of the little golf course at the bottom of the hill.  DH tried to call the rental agents to no avail, so we wearily continued on to the town to try to find accommodations for our family.  Annabelle had calmed somewhat, but she still sobbed intermittently, and kept saying “We need to find a place that has NO TREES AROUND IT!”  That was a tall order in this mountainous little town.

We drove to the management company (closed); to the tiny Crouch hotel (sold out) and by the other cabin rental agency we knew in town.  All were deserted and dark.  The power was still out.

Annabelle lobbied hard to just go home.  She was strongly opposed by Batman, who was intent on fishing with the flies he had tied for just this occasion, and by DH, who was going to have to be in the little mountain town two days later for his gig anyway.   We finally drove to the nearby town of Garden Valley, and approached the one little hotel it had.

Found a Place

My overwrought daughter was thrilled by the notable absence of trees around the building.  Batman was hungry and really wanted to get out of the truck.  I went into the office and was greeted by the clerk/cleaning person who told me they had one room left.  It was a their “suite,” offering two bedrooms and an in-room kitchenette (perfect!) but with one caveat:  they too had no power.

I said no problem.  Because of the power outage, the hotel office had no ability to run credit cards.  Hmmm.  Lucky for me, I had enough cash in my wallet to cover the cost of one night. We were in!

By this point the power had been out for well over an hour.  We were all past our dinnertime and ready for eat.  We unloaded our gear and hauled it upstairs to our new accommodations, where to my surprise (I don’t know why I was surprised, exactly) and delight, I discovered the room was spacious and clean, with a well-equipped little kitchen area that would have served us well had there been electricity to run any of the appliances.

As we walked down to get the last of our bags from the car, we passed a couple of young construction-workerish men carrying plates of food toward a large barbecue grill on the spacious wrap-around porch.  The men were friendly and offered to share the grill with our hungry group. I brought up our burgers from the cooler (beef for three of us; “pig meat” for picky Batman) and DH cooked us dinner.

Cooking Some Dinner

We ate sitting on the porch, overlooking the scenic valley.  DH was still shaken by his close call, but he recovered enough to enjoy the evening.  The power never did come back on before bedtime, and we heard later that a tree had fallen (!!) across a power line way down along the highway we had driven in on, taking out power for a fifty-mile or so range for over four hours.  Batman and I went to bed early, snuggled in the double-bed in the extra room reading by the soft glow of our flashlight.

Paradise Awaits

The next morning we awoke to find the power back on.  A call from the cabin management agency sent us on our way to a replacement cabin.  We stopped for breakfast at the same clubhouse we had visited the previous evening and then headed back up the mountainside to our new accommodations.

It was nirvana.

Our replacement cabin was at least triple the size of the original.  It had beautifully furnished double decks completely surrounding the glassed front of the home, which looked out over the second hole of the golf course.  There were lounge chairs for reading and laying about, as well as multiple outdoor dining sets to choose from. Around the corner there was a covered porch with yet another dining area and a barbecue grill.

Our New View

Inside, there was a full basement complete with bar, large TV, bed and bath, fireplace and well-equipped game table.  The main floor was equally well-appointed, with another bed and bath, beautifully designed and fully equipped kitchen, boasting enough room, cooking appurtenances and dishes for a small army, completed by a lovely sitting area and another fireplace.  Upstairs there was a loft area with a bed and a fold-out futon along with another full bath.  We had hit the jackpot.

Batman and Annabelle were beside themselves.  Batman’s idea of true luxury is stairs, and to have a whole three days with double sets of stairs to climb set him into a frenzy of delight.  Annabelle immediately chose the futon-bed as her own, and dived into the accompanying armoire to outfit her choice with sheets, pillows and blankets.  She was so happy that she only asked a couple of questions about the tall trees surrounding the cabin, then apparently decided to leave well-enough alone and didn’t mention it again.

Once we were settled and unpacked, DH loaded the kids up for their long-awaited fishing trip and I settled myself into a lounge chair on the deck with a book. After a few minutes of reading I realized that I was really, really tired, so I headed inside, chose the main floor bedroom and crawled under the covers for a two-hour nap.  It was heavenly.

Batman’s Mussels

Not long after I woke up, the crew returned home from their fishing trip.  There were no fish, Batman explained sadly, not even a bite.  BUT, they did manage to catch a whole bunch of clams.  Clams?  From the river?  Interesting.

The said clams were happily delivered to the kitchen, with Batman demanding they be immediately prepared for his snack.  Desperate Hubby rinsed the (as it turned out) mussels in the sink and set them up to steam in a double-broiler.  Each mussel opened beautifully, and they looked just like the ones I can remember oft ordering in San Francisco’s famous North Beach area.

They Look Normal

Batman was so excited about his catch that he declined to even discuss sharing any of the delicacy.  He sat at the table in anticipation, took a mussel out of the shell and popped it into his mouth.

He's Not Scared

He started chewing.  And chewing.  “These are really good!”  he proffered.  And he kept chewing.  I asked Desperate Hubby if he had tasted the mussels himself before serving his five-year old son.  DH looked sort of offended.  “No, I don’t know what they are supposed to taste like anyway.”

Well, this just didn’t seem right.  Batman still chewed, but with considerably less enthusiasm than he had previously exhibited.  I took the fork from his un-protesting hand and grabbed one of the rubbery little mollusks from the bowl, popping it right into my mouth.

Then I gagged.

It was horrible.  I mean really, really, really, horrible.  I ran to the garbage can and spit the offending gristle out, grabbing a bottle of water as I did to rinse the taste of river water and what tasted like old socks out of my mouth.

Batman watched me carefully.  I knew that he could not be enjoying the piece of mussel he was still chewing any more than I had.  Annabelle sat with her fork poised, hoping for a taste of what surely must be a delicious snack, watching my reaction and then her brother’s.

Fresh Water Mussels

With obvious difficulty, Batman swallowed his bite.  He sat his fork down carefully.  Being the resolute boy he is, he was not willing to admit that his prized shellfish was not edible.

Instead he just said “I guess I’m not that hungry after all.  You can have the rest if you want them, mom.”

I removed the meat from the shells, and the kids threw it over the edge of the deck, hoping to attract a bear (their plan, not mine).  Batman carefully packed the empty shells in a Ziploc bag to bring home.  I wouldn’t let him leave them in the house, so he put them outside the back door on the stairs that led to the garage.  Thank god he forgot them when we left.

The rest of the day was spent swimming in the club pool.  I had forgotten to bring my swimsuit, so I was planning on sitting out the event from the comfort of a lounge chair with my book.  DH had planned to swim, but was almost immediately called away for  work conference call that forced him to drive up the mountainside in order to have reliable cell service.

The children were so disappointed that they had to swim alone I finally gave in and “rented” (for $1) a swimsuit from the pool attendant.  The rental suits were all jumbled in a big plastic tote (where they no doubt had been placed after being abandoned by their former owners in the locker room), and Annabelle carefully considered each one before settling on a matronly blue and white one-piece for me.

I will say this for the suit – it definitely offered full coverage.  I tugged it on, leaving my clothes folded on the bench in the empty locker area.  When I walked out to the pool Annabelle appraised me carefully, then said “MOM!  That suit looks really, really pretty on you!”  Gotta love kids.

Band, Bees and a New Batman Cape

Saturday’s activities centered around the band gig.  We got up and had breakfast and the kids and I drove Desperate Hubby to the event location; a large campground just outside the little town of Crouch.  DH had been asked to fill in for the guitar player of a band that played a very similar genre of music as his long-time group, but he had had to learn a daunting amount of new music in the preceding three weeks to prepare for the gig.  Though he has played music in a band for over twenty years and is an excellent musician, he had never played with a band outside of his original core group of buddies.

DH had approached preparation for the event with the dedication that he devotes to anything he is interested in.  I had seen the same level of commitment from him while studying for his private pilot’s license or watching golf training videos.  He was proud that he had learned almost forty new songs in the past weeks, but I could tell he was nervous about playing with new people.  The event turned out to be a motorcycle rally called the Mountain Rendezvous.  The participants were just starting to either arrive or emerge from their tents while the band set up at 11 a.m..  The kids thought the set-up was pretty boring, so we headed downtown to find some lunch.

After lunch we wandered to a little store across the street to try to find an ATM.  The store, called The Crouch Mercantile, had formerly been the town’s main grocery outlet.  When it relocated to a new building a block or so up the street the building had been converted to a venue for locals to sell their goods, and a few dozen stalls had been set up selling a wide variety of handmade or unique items.

By the time we left the store we had supported the local economy in a generous fashion.  I had found a (correctly sized, fairly stylish) swimsuit on sale for half-price, Annabelle had chosen for herself a couple of strings of beaded bells that were made to be woven into a horse’s mane, as well as a small jar of local huckleberry jam.

As for Batman……well, just look below.

Batman Martial Arts

Zach had gravitated to a small booth in the corner that sold handmade cape sets.  They had a variety available, including Superman, Wonder Woman (too small for me, sadly) and Disney Princess models, to name a few.  And of course, Batman.

Our shopping completed, we returned to the musical venue and got out of the truck, carrying our camp chairs along with us.  We sat the chairs up right in front of the band.  The small crowd that was there was congregated in front of the portable bar which was set up a dozen yards away or lingered in their own chairs in front of a wide variety of tents.  No sooner than we had unfolded our chairs and gotten comfortable than we were approached by the band’s roadie (?).  Actually I’m not sure who she was, but she wore a t-shirt with STAFF emblazoned across the back in large yellow letters.  She apologetically informed us that children were not supposed to be at the rally at all, but they would make a brief exception for the band members’ kids.  Could we, however, move over under the trees to a less visible position?

The kids and I picked up our chairs and obliged, moving to an area near a picnic table and some large bushy tree things.  No sooner had we re-opened our chairs and settled in than Batman started screaming bloody murder.  He had been stung by a bee.  Poor Batman is one of those kids who seems targeted by bees and wasps.  Fortunately, though he seems to be a victim on a regular basis, he suffers no ill-effects from the poison other than an occasional brief period of laryngitis from all the screaming.  Nonetheless, his loud inconsolable shrieks brought quite a bit of attention to our small entourage, as well as considerably dampening the enthusiasm of our little team.

We managed to stay and watched a set of music, noting proudly that DH was doing a remarkable job on his guitar leads as well as vocals.  He really did sound good.

And looked good.

DH Sings

It was hot though, the kids were getting tired, and I was getting weary of wielding the can of Deep Woods Off that Annabelle insisted I spray on her legs every thirty seconds or so as an imagined protection from the bees, so I loaded the kids up and we headed back to the cabin for a while.

When we picked Desperate Hubby up after his three-hour gig was over, he was more than ready to be done.  We drove back to the cabin and changed into our swim attire.  I put on my new suit though I really didn’t plan to get in the water, and down the hill to the pool we went.

It was a nice way to end the day.

Jumping in Pool

When the kids had jumped off the side of the pool approximately seventy-three times and retrieved a set of colored plastic rings from the bottom an equal number, we headed back to the cabin for a low-key dinner, cooking the last of our beef and pig burgers along with the corn on the cob and baked beans we had left in the pantry.  The next morning we got up and headed back down the hill toward home.

Despite its dramatic beginning our short trip had been perfect; restful and relaxing and providing true family quality time before we all embarked on a new school year.

I’ve decided that this trip is to be a family tradition that will stick around for years to come.

Maybe without the falling timber next time.

Categories: Life in the Country, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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