The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

A Home In The Mountains

Posted · 8 Comments

Grandpas Resting place


We came to this land in June of this year, in the midst of a heatwave. We thought we could make a home from the dust but we left after less than two weeks, frustrated. Our plans foiled.  Maybe it wasn’t time yet. Maybe we wimped out.

And so we left. For two months we traveled between Oregon and Redding, hopping between generous friends and family, trying not to burden, yet knowing five teenagers, three dogs and four cats is bound be be a burden regardless of our efforts at invisibility.

Our oldest daughter, Heather, was married on July 25, 2015, to Andrew, our favorite son-in-law so far, in a flawless ceremony deep in the Tillamook Forest.  It was a proud day. I can barely associate the baby I carried with the bride before me and I wonder when such time past.


Heather and Andrew


heather and me

We may be related…


me and heather infant

Nearly 27 years ago



In the week before the wedding our son Billy, nearly 21 now, joined us in our ventures. He’d sought out his birth father, as many foster/adoptees do at some point. I think they go into it hoping all the reasons they’d been lost to the foster system in the first place had somehow washed away, and a worthy parent would stand where disappointment once had. Alas, Billy lasted six weeks and came away with, I think, a sense of closure.

Upon his return, he announced he was ready to attend the college program I’d been trying to push him into for years. A one year certification in heavy equipment operations at the community college in Redding, CA.  And so before he could even finish stating his wishes, we’d dragged him back down to California and enrolled him full time.

So much for adventure and travel this winter, said the parents in us.  Redding, it is!

The rest of the kids rebelled against stability for a while, set on the idea of ending up on the Gulf of Mexico again. But Billy was set on school, and who wants to wake from that dream?


Our Little Homesite


I don’t know what I thought I would find when I came back here.  That the trees which stood hundreds of years before would have regrown their roots?  That fallen needles would have replaced the soot and ash left behind by the forest fire that ripped through here just a few years ago? Few trees of decent size remain where giants once stood.  A little bunch hovers over my father-in-laws grave, loyal and protective of the one who’d nurtured their roots in life, as well as in death.

I don’t know if I thought it would all be easy, starting over with nothing but soil and a shovel.  I mean, we had just gotten our Alaska homestead halfway livable when we fled south in pursuit of another project. Maybe I’ve gone soft. Maybe I’m tired.  Either way, the first few days here I wallowed in depression and angst over all that lay before us. I cried in the small space of the motorhome while my teens stared and wondered what to do. The thick red dust, ashes, burned remnants of a quality of life that once thrived here, but now seemed impossible to regain. And the heat, the excruciatingly thick, hard-to-breathe heat that lay over the place. It was too much for our skin. Our eyelids sweated. Our shoulders burned. We didn’t want to do it.  Again.

And so we began to search for a rental house.  It took very few inquiries to discover what we’d suspected all along. Nobody wants to rent to a family with six teenagers, four dogs, three cats and zero rental history.  Oddly, if you own your home and don’t own credit cards, it’s somehow viewed as a bad thing. There’s something backwards in that.

And so we dug our fingers into the land once again. Some things are meant to be. I’m apparently meant to have an outhouse.

Six quarters, for three minutes  of public shower is pretty steep when there are eight of us, so we put together an old canvas shower stall we brought with us from Alaska, bought a cheap solar shower bag and strung it up with a piece of  yellow nylon rope, tied off to a branch. We have found nearby resources for hauling water in five gallon jugs. (read as: we fill our jugs at the local campgrounds when the host is away)  We leveled a spot for the motorhome where the old cabin used to be.  We set up a camp complete with barbecue and a tree stump table.  And Billy hung the door on the outhouse we built when we were here in June.  Camp setup: complete.

We take walks. Luke whips the other boys at poker while Anthony asks me again if I’m certain it’s illegal to gamble professionally at fourteen.  We metal detect old fallen down cabins so deep in the woods we wonder if anyone else knows they exist.  We read…a lot.  We search for arrowheads in the dried creek bed where water once flowed high on the banks. We ride bikes down steep hills (I see an ER visit in my future). Billy proved that the bigger the boy, the bigger the fort.  And on days when the heat overtakes us, we hit the water park in Redding,  we drive up to Lassen National Park and dip our bodies into the cool lake or we throw a line in the water at Hat Creek campground up Hwy 44 where Anthony caught his first trout.

Tonight as the sun set I watched my boys, all four of them, wrestling and chasing each other between the trees where my husband played as a boy.  “Get off grandpa’s grave,” I yelled as Billy and Anthony rolled around near the gravesite, coating themselves in thick dust and memories.

And then I remembered…that’s exactly what we came here to do. We just wandered a bit before we found the right path.



Anthony making it to the top…



Mya IN Lake



Luke At Lake



Robin Enjoying The Lake



Reading As Always



The Original Campfire ring



Billy’s Big Boy Fort






The Shower



Home On Wheels



Comfy Cat



Yatzee Tournament



Getting mighty snug in here…







8 Responses to "A Home In The Mountains"
  1. Gm says:

    I miss your blogging. Sending your children good thoughts from California.

  2. Angela Plante LaRoche says:

    We’ve got 10 – 9 living at home. I have such envy over your lifestyle and adventures. Thank you for sharing them – and being able to do it so eloquently !

  3. ruth williamson says:

    Holy shite, it’s been a year or more since I’ve read your blog, and I’m so happy to catch up with you a little bit. I’m still a single Mom of 4 kids: 2 adopted, and 2 bio. the last year or so have been high highs and low lows. you know how it all goes. i’ve been too busy to read blogs, and so yours is perfect. just a little bit about your life and your chaos remind me that my life and chaos aren’t JUST chaos, but life also. we’re all treading water, and occasionally, it’s so nice to look over a few waves and see another head bobbing to the surface–still above water at times–and still surviving. thanks for staying in the sharing game. you make me feel like i’m part of something.

  4. jilly-bear says:

    I was wondering where your adventures had taken you. So do you still have the land in Alaska? You seem to be spending a lot of time down in the lower 48. I love to camp and we are just a little past the camping stage on our property. Last year we spent summer and winter in the camper (a 16 Ft Coachman Clipper) but we’ve moved into the big house with no inside walls and no heat or AC yet. Hopefully before winter we will have the rest of the insulation up and the heat on (it’s hooked up just not turned on yet because of the lack of insulation in the ceilings.

  5. GDR says:

    I love the story up until you were metal detecting at old cabins and arrowhead hunting. I hope you’re staying on private lands with those activities because it can land you in trouble with the law on public land. Yes, people know those cabins are there and there might even be a camera watching you.

  6. Friday Lowrey says:

    Funny how what we thought we were going to do and what we actually do are so completely different. Enjoy your amazing life..the shoes you will have for grandchildren will keep them spell bound

  7. Jenny Mclean Ballard says:

    The heat can be debilitating, but once the worst of it is over, you guys should have a great time. Look forward to reading about your adventures, or just about daily life, if you get the urge to write.

  8. Nancy says:

    That, my friend, is a little piece of heaven.. Loved the story…

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