I Went to the Woods: The cabin life

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

Over my first year of marriage, I’ve learned that gestures between spouses should be loving, thoughtful and, most importantly, fitting for the couple.

I had previously seen, heard or watched married friends buy flowers or clothing, book expensive trips, all types of things for their husband or wife on all sorts of occasions. When it came time for me to figure out the grand expression of happiness and to celebrate our first year of marriage, I said, “how about a Forest Service cabin?”

At this point in our relationship, it wasn’t a risky proposal. Our first date was a backpacking trip in Colorado. I proposed after we had a boned-out deer secured to our packs for the hike back to camp.

So I contracted a buddy to take us trolling then drop us off at a cabin a few islands away from town on his way back home.

It worked out perfectly. My buddy Abe, who has been my summer fishing buddy for the past decade, and who, along with his wife, bought my wife and I a box full of king salmon flies for our honeymoon on the Kenai Peninsula, said no problem.

The charm of the cabins is the simplicity. Pace settles and it really doesn’t matter what time it is. We hiked around the point and gathered a few bits of washed-up debris to decorate the yard of our home once it’s complete. We followed game trails and found two skeletons of deer who had dropped their antlers then died over the winter. One was at the base of a cliff, which gets you wondering.

In the lazy afternoon hours back in front of the cabin, we’d watch whales cruise by on the outer edge of the kelp, gulping bait fish and occasionally sharing some of their more interesting tactics for corralling food before consuming it.

It all allowed me to get a little nostalgic about Forest Service cabins in general.

Some of the earliest memories of my childhood are set at Forest Service cabins on Prince of Wales Island.

My parents loaded up the Griswold-ian Caprice Classic (complete with wood paneling) and drove north from Colorado to a life teaching kids in rural Alaska. I don’t remember any of that or of Mom checking on the dishes in the back every few miles as we drove along the unpaved path from Hollis to Klawock. But I do remember balls of tinfoil and stick bats at Staney Creek cabin. Maybe it was a homerun derby or some form of 2 on 2, but Dad would inevitably smack the foil to pieces and I’d marvel at his power.

I also remember rowing across Sweetwater Lake to get to that cabin. That’s where I had my first encounter with Devil’s club and Dad digging into my finger with tweezers to get the little spines out.

My class was pretty outdoorsy yet also apathetic when it came to fundraising, so we rented the Control Lake cabin for our Senior Trip.

A few years into college, a buddy of mine visited when the spring semester was over and some local friends, and I introduced him to what cabin on a lake means in Alaska. Being from New York, cabins on lakes have beds and running water, not to mention electricity.

Matt didn’t sleep much that night knowing that while we had successfully trapped one mouse under a fish box, there were likely more.

There didn’t appear to be much rodent activity at our anniversary cabin, though people had lazily left plenty to tempt them, so we hung our food anyway.

Renting a forest service cabin might not be the most Southeast Alaska thing to do for a random weekend or a noteworthy celebration but sometimes it’s just about perfect.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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