Chillin’ out in the backwoods

The fine print describing the rental I secured for a leaf peeping jaunt to Maine said the cabin had everything we could possibly need. All the reviews said that, too.

The pictures showed a charming old house with original wood paneling, wood floors and exposed beams. It could have been next door to the place that Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn stayed in “On Golden Pond.”

Pictures showed a small kitchen with a small stove and small fridge, and an adjoining sitting area with a sofa, a chair and a wood stove. What a clever idea to add a charming piece of décor like a wood stove, I thought to myself.

One of the reviews praised the place for maintaining its “vintage” character. Vintage is often code for no updates. We haven’t been updated in years either—we’re vintage, too. It would be a perfect match.

“Great choice!” the husband said when we pulled up.

“I can smell the wood paneling!” he said as we lugged in our things.

“Where’s the heat?” the husband asked when the sun set and the temperature plunged.

“I think you’re looking at it,” I said, nodding to the wood stove.

I’d already looked around and realized the wood stove was not for décor or ambiance, it was for heat. Who would have thought a vintage cabin would come with a vintage heat source?

We enjoyed the fire until the hour grew late, hesitating to go to the bedroom upstairs since the heat was downstairs.

“I’m sure it’s toasty up there,” I said, lying through my teeth.

“Heat rises,” the husband said.

“Yep, heat rises,” I echoed.

Except when you count on it rising. Then heat doesn’t rise; it hovers around a wood stove. And then it dies out—at approximately 2:30 a.m. by our calculations.

The bigger problem was that I am the early riser and it is an unwritten rule that the early riser stokes the fire. And, if all the kindling and wood was burned the night before, then the early riser must venture out in the pitch black for more wood where hungry bears, territorial moose, aggressive deer and killer squirrels lurk in wait of easy prey.

I am torn between a desire for heat and a desire not to be maimed in the dark. A faint outline of the woodpile at the edge of the woods appears by the light of the moon. I calculate the distance between the woodpile and the cabin, multiplied by the odds of me falling in a divot on uneven ground running at breakneck speed with arms full of wood fleeing my four-legged attackers.

It is simple math. I put my big puffer coat on over my thick terry cloth robe, long pjs and wool socks—and wait until the woodcutter awakes.

I make coffee but am unable to hold the cup as my hands refuse to leave my coat pockets.

The woodcutter finally awakes, gathers wood and restarts the fire. What’s more, he traipsed downstairs in the middle of the night for the next two nights to keep the fire going.

The colors were so gorgeous that I returned home with 100 pictures of red, orange and yellow foliage on gorgeous hillsides and 500 pictures of red, orange and yellow flames flickering in a wood stove.


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