10 May 2015

So long, Lonesome Pine

The pine oversees all

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It’s difficult to describe the heavy heart I have at the news that my parents sold our family cabin this week. While reflecting on my memories of the “Lonesome Pine” I recognized that I really need to write these things down while the emotions are fresh.

It probably goes without saying that my sadness is not due to the fact that we won’t ever go to the cabin again, a place I’ve adored from my earliest memories. No, the sadness is rooted squarely in the happiness of the memories, knowing that we won’t be back to produce more of it. Of course our family will continue to forge new memories in different places and having different experiences, and all of those things will be awesome. But it won’t be at the cabin.

I recognize how silly that sounds, but it’s how I feel.

Grandpa Brown's Baby

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There was the time that Jamie and I launched off the road on our blue four-wheeler into a tree. I was probably 6 or so, Jamie 12 or 13. We were on a ride by ourselves several miles from the cabin and she lost control. We both walked away, and someone (Dad?) found us sometime later as we were walking back.

The abandoned ski-lift was always so mysterious. To this day I don’t understand how anyone thought it’d be a good idea. The hill (and there is only one) is insanely steep and insanely short. The best part about that lift was the view in all directions. The shell of the ski lodge walls nearby with the empty pool.

Fall is amazing #nofilter

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Leaving watermelon in the creek near the water tap to get them nice and cool for lunch the next day.

White bread sandwiches for lunch, and pluck’n’bread for dinner. Every. Day. Heaven.

Driving the water barrel’s down to the tap to get water every few days, and having to spend what felt like years waiting for the tap to fill the giant barrels. I still remember the feeling when my dad taught me how to siphon the water out of the barrels and into our tank up at the cabin. It was absolutely magic. You just suck as hard as you can from this empty hose and water comes out?! Crazy talk.

The slick red 1980s futons that could be a chair or a bed to sleep on. Every time we’d go to the cabin it was a race to see who would claim the futons first. We’d use the futons to slide down the steep stairs. I’m not sure when but at some point we got these green military surplus cots and that was like the upgrade of the century. Except they were impossible for my 12 year-old feeble arms to setup or take down.

Morning ride

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Sleeping out on the deck under the stars on the cots or futons with Matt and Jason and Mitch telling jokes into the night.

The old narrow deck on the back of the cabin with the green painted door made for midgets. The balusters of the deck were kind of fancy carved, everything painted brown. The deck had a brown all-weather Astroturf carpet on it.

Sometime around 10 or 12 years ago we tore the old deck off and built a new one, with a concrete block “garage” below as the support structure. The garage became the new dumping ground of random junk we didn’t have the room to haul away: mattresses, boards, etc. The new deck didn’t have a railing for several years which I’m sure gave my mother about 50 heart attacks with all the grandkids running around. We laid a hard rubber floor on the deck and glued it down. I remember getting that glue on my brand new Dickie’s pants. I think we added the staircase that same year and the railing a few years later.

We always used to go to the cabin over the weekend and usually tried to make it to church in Mount Pleasant. I remember one time we were late for church (weren’t we always late?) and were driving down the Lodge road getting near a semi-blind four-way intersection. Right as we came upon the intersection, Grandpa Brown comes FLYING across going right to left in his old brown pickup. Maybe it wasn’t as close as I remember, but I honestly thought we were about to die.

We arrived at the mountain late one evening in the middle of a giant down pour. Our blue Ford Bronco, usually trusty, made it most of the way but eventually we were stuck in the mud. We had to unload the four-wheeler and drive everyone up on that in the rain.

One of my favorite places on earth

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The Meadow. Back before the sheep road was blocked off at the end of our road, it was a little quicker ride to get there. Even still, I always made it a point to go to the Meadow on every trip to the cabin. We used to setup targets in the meadow and shoot at them, or at the pot-guts if we could find any.

Ahhhh, the “Hour Ride”. The ride of legends. Dad found a new trail one year and took us. We had a red Honda Trail 110 motorcycle with a square back seat perilously close to the exhaust pipe. I swear I burned my leg on that stupid exhaust 20 times. The ride took you up past the meadow along a road through the beautiful aspen trees. The road wound its way higher for a few miles, then rounded a ridge and descended back down into a narrow valley. I remember how scared I was of that section of the road as the mountain fell away steeply from the road. I know now how “in control” my Dad was on that red Honda, but sitting on the back clutching to his shirt and trying not to burn my leg… it often felt like we were a single rock-to-tire away from plunging over that “cliff”. After descending into the valley you turn left into the trees down a steep and very rocky trail. This trail was simultaneously the dread and the excitement of the ride. Even after I learned to ride the four-wheeler and then two-wheeler bikes, I never really got super comfortable on that section. Short but sketchy. Once at the bottom it rejoined a (flat) dirt road the led you out of the mountains and to the outskirts of Mount Pleasant. We would always ride into town and grab a candy bar or drink from the gas station, then drive the few miles up the highway to the main entrance to Aspen Hills, and all the way back up the main mountain road to the cabin. I think the “hour ride” actually takes about 30 or 40 minutes.

My little ninja

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True to form, Dad found another steep and rocky road that headed up towards Skyline drive. As legend has it, on my first trip up that trail, at some treacherous spot I got off the bike and wouldn’t go any further. We lovingly call that road “The No-Way BJ Trail”. I will miss it desperately.

The road to skyline is indeed a hard road, and if the weather’s bad you can forget about it. I can only ever remember successfully riding it myself once. Once on top of Skyline we rode a few miles down the highway and visited Matt’s memorial at the site of the avalanche. We found a road that went over “the other side” down into this incredible meadow that had the most amazing purple flowers and little streams.

The cabin and motorcycles are like Bonnie and Clyde, inseparably connected. You can’t know one without knowing the other. Our first motorcycle was the blue Yamaha four-wheeler, the first machine I ever learned to drive on my own. I now know it’s actually a pretty weak little thing, but man was it fun to ride. If you weren’t driving or lucky enough to be behind the driver, the other options were in front of the driver on the gas cap (OUCH), or on the front or back racks. I probably still have butt bruises after all these years from those dang racks. I don’t ever want those bruises to fade.

Motorcycle Chick

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At some point dad bought that red Honda Trail 110. That was the first two-wheeled motorcycle I learned to ride. Then Deskin came into the family and somehow commandeered a Suzuki 250 two stroke. That thing was crazy loud and I never got the hang of riding it, was too hard to keep the engine on, especially on steep hills. Deskin, Scott, and Tim would ride the motorcycle up the super steep hill under the lonesome pine and jump the road above. I never had the guts to try it.

While I was on my mission I got a letter from Mom saying that they were at the cabin over conference weekend (October 2002). All the boys rode the bikes down to Fairview and came back with a brand new yellow four-wheeler. Dad also went and snatched up three more four-stroke Yamaha’s: a YZ 400F, YZ 420F, and YZ 250F. The 250 has always had issues with it but was more my size and I always loved ripping around the mountain on that thing. Dad also bought a few smaller bikes for the younger kids to learn on, a Yamaha 50 and 125.

India's first four wheeler ride

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When I was younger, I would dig for Indian Clay in the hill next to the driveway. It brought me such happiness to realize that my kids did the same exact thing as me.

It was inconceivable to be at the cabin with Grandpa Brown and not see him working on something. My most vivid memory of this was when he was nearing ninety years-old and to see him out on the gravel driveway with a shovel clumsily trying to dig up the tough weeds. He meticulously cared for the cabin and it clearly left an impression on me.

Every so often I was able to bring a friend or two. One year I brought Tyler, and it was a disaster. He got food poisoning the first day and was puking his guts out the entire trip. He also claims he pooped his pants and had to leave his soiled undies in the bushes. To his dying day, he will never refute his position that the hot dogs had worms in them. (Everyone else on the trip was completely fine). :)

A few years ago Deskin rented a little Skid-steer and took it up to the cabin. We used it to widen the driveway, parking area, and to flatten and extend the picnic area. I cut down a bunch of dead trees on the lot to create a series of posts we buried in the ground to hold back the hill’s erosion into the picnic area. The area today is so much more functional and enjoyable.

Erosion control

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The Sheep Road was a little road that joined the lower main road below our property with the road our cabin is on. Sheep herders would use the road to move their sheep up to the meadow. For many years we would use the sheep road to get to the cabin faster, and you’d have to drive up and around these aspens that would almost take the paint of your car if you weren’t careful. In recent years someone bought the lower lot and blocked the road, and another family bought the lot at the top of the sheep road and cut it off there, preventing you from getting to the meadow easier.

A few years ago Dakota and Scott made a little circuit you could ride the motorcycles down the steep hill below the cabin to the sheep road, then back up and through the trees of our empty lot, all the way onto the main road, then back down the driveway. Was a fun little track to ride, if not really sketchy through the trees.

There’s the motorcycle track halfway down the mountain (just past the intersection where Grandpa Brown almost creamed us in his truck). No trip to the cabin was complete without a trip to “the track”. The grandkids especially love the track because you can just go around and around and around and… you get the idea. There’s a big hump in the middle that you can get a little air on, if you like landing flat. The banked turns were always fun to zip around. My friend Cody flipped our yellow four-wheeler on its side trying to do donuts down at the track. He cracked some of the plastics. I (and my Father) were not happy about this.

Mom taught me my first chords 15 years ago. Always love hearing her play #500miles

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The loft at the top of the cabin. Man. If there were ever a place made for kids to go and play. The little ladder hammered together by Grandpa Brown to get up there. The railing to stop us from plummeting to our deaths. I’m sure our mothers thought it was the grossest place you could ever send your kids, with spiderwebs, mouse poop, and just general dust and grime. We didn’t care man, that place was the best place for sleepovers at the cabin with cousins. Well, until we got comfortable sleeping out on the deck. But if the weather was bad, definitely the loft was the place to be.

One year we showed up after the winter and there was this giant dead bird on the carpet floor of the main room, with a dark blood stain on the old orange BYU surplus carpet, a hole in the window, shards of glass everywhere. We often found dead mice or spiders on the furniture covers, but this was a new high (low?).

Cousins at the Cabin

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One time Scott and I were on the road out of the narrow valley on the hour ride, he was a ways ahead of me, both us flying in 5th gear down this pristine gravel road. A rock flew into my shirt and I just ignored it. Suddenly the rock was moving around and I realized it was a Bee. When I was younger I had a bad allergic reaction to a bee sting, so this sent me into a crazy panic. Pelting down the road at 60 mph and I’m smacking at my chest to kill this bee. A sharp sting and I know I’m a dead man, so I slam on the breaks so that I don’t die in a fiery crash, and wait for my heart to stop beating due to the allergic reaction. Of course it doesn’t, and after several minutes Scott rides back to see what is going on. I sheepishly describe my moments of terror and we ride on home back to the cabin.

Riding motorcycles with my wife and kids. It’s brings unspeakable happiness to share this place I love, the roads and trails, the mountain air, the aspens and pines, the views.

Year after year after year of early April and October trips to the cabin to listen to conference on Grandpa’s old radio. The color of the aspens in the fall.

Silly Morning Selfie #coldmountainair

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The never-ending toilet saga was… never-ending. You had to get a bucket of water to flush your business down, and sometimes it just didn’t work at all. If there was ever a reason not to like the cabin, it was the awkward plumbing situation. Which is why I chose to pee off the end of deck in the black of night.

We did take the liberty of installing a new water heater and plumbing for hot showers, which was better than the icy showers you could take with the portable shower bag. Despite this upgrade I don’t think I ever took a hot shower.

Most of these memories are at least partially true. Goodbye Lonesome Pine cabin. What a place to build a lifetime of memories.

Lonesome Pine in the moonlight

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