Monday, November 7, 2011

“Chippewa Valley”

They arrive at a gate where the winding gravel of the county road ends and the seldom maintained, branch covered two track begins atop the ridge. Joe gets out of the truck to open the gate and stops for a minute to look up the bright blue sky peeking through the canopy above him. It’s certainly a beautiful day. His mind is wandering through a flood of memories as he returns to the Chevy and Dale puts it in gear. Nick sits quietly between them, smoking a cigarette, scanning the road ahead. The maple and oak branches above the road arch, forming a cathedral ceiling corridor above the road. The road weaves between wide pillars of hardwood tree trunks and the noise of the tires crunching the gravel flushes the occasional grouse.

            The two track diverges with one path continuing along the ridge and the other going down the side toward the swamp. Joe directs Dale to follow the path to the swamp. The road winds back on the steep grade but soon levels out where birch and cherry saplings grow over what was once an open field. The road then turns sharply to the right around a large beech tree toward a clearing. Joe’s face beams with joy. They have arrived at the cabin.        

            Built of mortar blocks and a tin roof back in the fifties, the cabin still looks to be in good shape. It was Joe’s grandfather’s until he died and had since been bequeathed to him. He spent his summers and autumn weekends here as a child and even much of his early adulthood, but he hadn’t seen this cabin in nearly twenty years. There’s much work to be done, he knew that, but he was elated to finally return to a place that was so important to him as a young man and to have two of his best friends along for the trip.

            They got out of the truck and walked through the waist high grass to the front door. As was usually the custom of his grandfather, the door was unlocked and opened as if he had just oiled the hinges a few days ago. Five bunks were still neatly lined against the wall opposite of the iron wood stove. The table and the kitchen counter had a layer of dust on them, but were still organized and kept. The rifle rack by the back door had a twelve gauge sawed off that his grandpa frequently used on raccoons and porcupines that meddled with trash and other things around the yard. Other than that it was empty. Two trash cans sat beside it. One was empty. The other had an extensive collection of beer cans. “Think we can still get the deposit on those?” Dale asked.

            There was not much work that needed to be done to the cabin itself. Near the large picture window there appeared to be some kind of a roof leak, but it could be easily fixed with a little bit of tar. Most of the work needed to be done outside. The lawn had to be cut down. Trees and bushes needed to be cleared away. Once that was done, they would have to check the condition of the hunting blinds. Those no doubt needed some upkeep if not replaced entirely.

            Joe walked out of the back door. The tool shed and the smoke house all appeared to be well intact. He looked forward to using the smoker in the fall for his homemade sausages and jerkies. Then he looked to the woods beyond. They appeared so inviting. The maples stood prominently along the side of the ridge until coming to almost a dead stop where the poplars mixed with fir and black spruce took over at the edge of the swamp. Straight ahead of him was the trail he used to follow all the time down into Bear Hollow. It wasn’t much of a hollow, but a cove where tamaracks and spruce grew amongst cattails and was one of the closest approaches to the cedars of the deep swamp. The trail passes through the hollow and back up the ridge to the south end of the property where his grandfather built a pole barn several decades ago.

            Nick walked out of the cabin and handed Joe a beer. “This is going to be fun.” Joe smiled agreeing. He was anxious to hunt the land in the fall.

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