They're way north of here, volcano country, up past Chico and into the high hills where places have names like Brokeoff Mountain and Bumpass Hell. You follow the Feather River north out of Chester, up into the National Forest there, until you find them. A series of small, rustic cabins, tucked right up against the river, among the trees.
This one was built, I'm told, in the 1930s, a long time before my aunt decided to buy and gently make it livable. There was a national program that ran largely out west, then, intended to give regular, normal people, a chance to spend some time up in the woods, getting in touch with nature. The program is still running, though it was the first I'd heard of it. You rent the land with a long term lease from the Forest Service, and you build on it--and many people did. Now, if you're lucky, you can buy one of these places inexpensively, fix it up if it needs it, and settle down for the summer. My aunt goes up every year now.
Most of us don't settle down for the summer much anymore. Most of us, particularly in and around Silicon Valley, are as busy in the summer as we are the rest of the year, if not moreso since we need to navigate the chaos of the kids' non-school schedules. But sometimes you get to take a break, like we did a few weekends ago, to go up and visit her. No power, just propane lighting and a few solar panels for LEDs. Water pumped up from the stream for washing, and gathered in plastic jugs from a spring nearby to drink. No phones. No cell service. No internet. No way, really, to be found.
Like most things today, these cabins aren't without controversy: the Forest Service is raising the rent, sometimes dramatically, and people who have had these cabins in the family for generations may not be able to keep up. (See this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.)
But if you're lucky, at least for now, you can wake up to the sound of a stream, walk down to the swimming hole with a cup of coffee, dive down into the ice-cold clarity and surface with a new perspective on life, and carry it through the rest of your day listening to the sounds of the trees, building up towers of rocks for the squirrels to knock down.
If only for a little while. Tell my aunt I sent you.
(Note: this is my 1000th post on this blog. Holy crap! Thanks for reading!)