Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cabin Life: Horseshoes and History

I found an old set of horseshoes in the lower field the other day. It has been a nice addition to recreational life out here at the cabin. I had some friends over to play, and according to Adirondack rules, each participant had a beer in one hand. No setting it down to throw, no cheating with non-alcoholic “beer.” And of course, upgrading to whiskey or tequila gets a nod of approval from the fellow participants.

Even though I am very secluded out here, I’ve found so many pieces of evidence of the continued presence of humans that it’s hard not to think about how others have lived on this particular piece of land. I only found the horseshoes because one of the stakes had a faded orange flag on it. When I went to investigate, I found the shoes, and it took a little while to find the other stake because the field is overgrown.

On the way up the driveway on the left, in the woods, there is an old bus and some other assorted rusty pieces of metal, no doubt left over from an old camp. It reminds me of my childhood. Relatives of mine had a hunting camp in Wells, and there was an old school bus out there. When I was young, I convinced myself that there must be a ghost in that old bus. That was enough to make me stay away, which is good, mainly because I’m sure that there were skunks or porcupines living in there.

I don’t think there are ghosts out here, even though my radio does occasionally turn on by itself. There is what appears to be an actual hitching post right outside my door. No doubt prior owners had horses. Based on the condition of the crumbling old stable near upper camp, it seems likely that the horses were used for work, and not for transportation.

The rock walls that crisscross the property are huge, often thousands of feet long and several feet high. It speaks to the amount of time that people were out here trying to work this land. These walls were not done in just a season or two, but were labored over what had to be generations. The rock walls are a great navigation tool, since if I get lost, I can just follow a wall back towards the cabin and I will eventually hit either the driveway or the big field. There are piles of rusty metal randomly scattered about. I’ve found two old hand-dug, rock-lined wells, along with the old plow out front and some farming implements out back.

Nothing about this place leads me to believe that I am the first one to live out here “off the grid.” But back when the others were doing it, that was just the way life was. No other options, no going to a friend’s house for a hot shower or TV. And as far as I know, no writing about this life either. There is a part of me that really likes history and research, and I’d love to dig into the past of this property. But I don’t think I will. Something about the mystery of forgotten lives and being able to imagine how hard those people had to work makes me think that I’ll leave the story unknown.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

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