October 16, 2011

Closing Up The Cabin For The Season

It’s something I most definitely do not look forward to. It’s something I have to do every year in Desolation Sound before the mercury dips below freezing: close the old place up for the winter. I dread doing it, because it means I won’t return again until the spring… March if I’m lucky, April more likely.

Our cabin isn’t insulated for the cold like others in the Sound, and we’re fairly exposed to the wild winter weather on the coast, so we really need to batten down the hatches and get the hell out of there. Every year it’s the same nostalgic, weary process… I haul up the kayaks and the canoe and tie them down undercover, stack all the paddles away, drag the deck furniture inside, put the picnic table up against the wall, disconnect the propane on the BBQ, clean off the grill and roll it to the back of the cabin out of the elements. I then take a long walk through the woods with my machete, up to our water tank and turn the tap to the right for the first time since last April (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey), shutting off the fresh water supply to the cabin. That really makes it final.

Then, to make sure we don’t return to burst pipes in the spring, I hike back down the trail and open up all the taps at the cabin… the bathroom and kitchen sink, shower, hose, and hot water heater, draining every drop. I’ll flush the toilet a couple of times, then bail the remaining water in the toilet bowl and the tank into a bucket, heaving the excess water over the side of the deck. That part is kind of gross.

I take down the just slightly fraying Canadian flag from the flag pole, fold it carefully and put it inside. I turn off the fridge and empty it of all contents,  some headed for the compost, others into the cooler to take back to the city. I turn off the strains of the Vinyl Cafe or Cross Country Checkup on our little transistor radio and tuck that away too (I always seem to close up for the season on a Sunday). I hang up the life jackets and put away the chainsaw. I get out my garden clippers and cut back all the flowers so their bulbs will hopefully hibernate over the winter and bloom again in the spring.

All the while, a giant bald eagle sits on a craggy branch at the top of the fir tree overlooking Russell Cove, watching me. Or at least I think he is watching me. When I step back into the cabin I see him swoop down onto the beach, startling a few big, black ravens who noisily make room. I hadn’t noticed, but it seems the ravens had been feasting on dead Chum salmon that have washed ashore, and the eagle wants his share. The inlet is scattered with dead salmon at this time of year, washed into the inlet from their fall spawning death ritual up the nearby Theodosia River.

Almost done, I put the thick tarps up over the windows to protect them from the horizontal rains and lashing gales of winter, securing them with ropes and cords, lashing them into place. The happy cabin that is usually filled with so much sunlight is now darkened, all the dishes put away and food removed.

I carry my bags and cooler down to Big Buck$ and load her up quickly, hop on and fire up her gutteral outboard motor. As I start slowly puttering away on a glassy sea in the gorgeous low sunshine of fall, I reach into the cooler and pull out a final can of lukewarm beer. As I crack it open I turn to face the shuttered cabin, raise the can to its cedar shake roof framed with blue sky and shout “thanks!”

Then I gun it back for the government wharf.

(7) Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    K, so this just made me tear up. This plus the picture.

    I am emotional to begin with at the moment..

    I hope the winter goes fast and the day you can open ‘er back up again comes quickly. <3

  2. Grant Lawrence says:

    Thanks Kathy, me too!

  3. pat mcphillips says:

    Closing is melancholy.

    Washing all the sheets and towels, emptying the fridge and the toilet (less of a yucky job if you clean it while the water is still on ;-)) We also have to add 4-6 liters of toilet antifreeze, and be sure it is plunged through. It’s nasty.

    But the whole underneath of the cottage is stacked with firewood so once there is snow on the ground to melt, we can have some good winter weekends out there. But you gotta be OK with freezing your butt (literally) in the outhouse. We keep the toilet seat behind the wood stove.

    So it’s not quite as final for us. I think you would like it in the winter, the silence is stunning. You know the invite always stands.

  4. Graham Watson says:

    Do you have mouse shit throughout the counter tops and cupboards to clean up every spring when you go back…that’s the deal at our cabin….

  5. John Teeter says:

    Judging by all the emotion you’ve poured into this post, I’d wager that beer you were drinking was Bud Lite Lime…

    Seriously though, pretty fantastic homage to a pretty amazing place I’ve fallen in love with vicariously, through your sharing it with us all.

  6. jim says:


    I just did the same thing to our camp in the Adirondacks of NY. We’re on an island so same story, not insulated, have to “winterize” everything…toilets, sinks, boats, etc. heart-wrenching every year…even though i snowshoe out to our place once the ice freezes thick enough, it only makes me dream of summer. Here’s to OPENING WEEKEND 2012!

  7. Grant Lawrence says:

    Here’s to it, thanks Jim!! Happy oncoming winter…

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