Jo Ann Jaacks: A not so peaceful little cabin in the woods

A deer head and a stone fireplace make for a rustic retreat.

I am so grateful that 50-odd years ago, my father was the second person to purchase a plot of land on Lake Ashuelot in Washington, New Hampshire. For years, he joined his buddies on hunting trips to the area, staying at a tiny cabin on another nearby lake. His friend who owned the tiny cabin alerted him to the new lakeside development, and for a couple thousand dollars, my father owned his own building site, just one tier away from the gorgeous lake.

For a year, the family visited the site, complete with a large apple tree that had been part of the original farmland. They camped out, swam and boated in the lake, and saved money to erect a dwelling. Eventually, with the help of local carpenters to “raise the roof,” my father built a spacious A-frame cabin with an efficient galley kitchen, great room, river-stone fireplace and upstairs loft. There was also a bearskin hanging over the railing of the loft, and two taxidermied deer heads peering down, accentuating the hunting lodge ambiance.

I felt the need for a getaway, and made arrangements to meet my sister, now the cabin caretaker after my father died. She regaled me with tales of the wildlife that regularly appears on the property. She said there had been a fox with kits seeking shelter beneath the cabin stairs, and many deer that appeared in the front yard, evidently not intimidated by the heads-on-the-wall clearly visible through the floor to roof window.

During a weekend visit, her son had come eye-to-eye with a wolf watching him in the dark, curious and unafraid. The wolf, that is, my nephew hightailed it back inside. There are no street lights, and very few people living there in the Fall. It is very isolated. My sister said there was a black bear that regularly comes by, eating the fallen apples and pooping in the back yard. And one Saturday morning, awakened by loud noises in the abutting forest that surrounds the cabin, she peered out the great room window, and beheld a large moose staring back.

With all that in mind, I still decided to take my usual before-dawn walk. The dirt roads are surprisingly smooth, so well packed down that it seems there must be a clay mix, like in the south. Stumbling while walking didn’t present a hazard, and there was sufficient moonlight and just enough barely arriving sunrise to make out the path. I did keep a slightly slower pace than my usual fast-walking stride, though. After navigating several twists and turns, I began to feel comfortable with my surroundings.

And then I heard the howling.

It was close by, and at first I told myself it was two dogs either arguing or alerting the people inside the house there was an approaching intruder. That would be me.

The sound became more accelerato as though more voices had joined in and it was becoming a frenzy of howling. I tripped and nearly fell, then realized I was on someone’s property and there were decorative rocks at the lawn’s edge. I picked one up and ran all the way back to the cabin.

I’d like to think my father would be proud that I had the presence of mind to arm myself.

Next time I’m bringing my shillelagh.

Connecticut Media Group