Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cabin Thoughts

Cabin Thoughts, Part 3
by Jana Botkin (

Mineral King cabin folks come from cities, suburbs, small towns and out in the country; we live in mansions, estates, apartments, and even a few normal houses. We are artists, bankers, equipment operators, janitors, teachers, farmers, administrative assistants, engineers, retirees, dental hygienists, sheriffs, lawyers, doctors, day care workers, musicians, optometrists, veterinary assistants, physical therapists, moms, Park employees, physician's assistants, and those are just the first ones that come to mind. We come from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, New York, Hawaii, Florida, South Dakota, and Egypt. (Probably more places that I can't remember. . .)

Our Mineral King cabins, AKA "small, poorly constructed huts in the woods," are great equalizers.  Every one of us, regardless of our backgrounds, livelihoods, economic, educational or political status, is thrilled to have a small, poorly constructed hut in the woods. Every cabin has a barely adequate kitchen, a laughably tiny (or no) bathroom, maybe one or two or even no bedrooms. Every single cabin user must figure out how to deal with unreliable water, peculiar propane appliances, old stuff that may or may not work, and the definite lack of a maintenance department, hardware or grocery store. There is a terrible road to get there, rodents, spiders and other wildlife that may or may not be appreciated, and all sorts of unexpected situations. (Who left this chair and what happened to my flashlight?? Who forgot the tonic water? Does anyone have any birthday candles? What do you mean Skin-So-Soft isn't mosquito repellent? Are you kidding that I can't blow-dry my hair?)

Every single cabin that is owned by multiple families has its conflicts, whether decorating, cleaning, maintaining, or scheduling. The cabins without partnerships must bear the expenses, decisions, maintenance and cleaning without benefit of sharing the load.  Those who have complicated lives in fancy places might view a cabin as a mixed blessing: a family tradition, a repository of memories, and a bit of an inconvenience, but a treasured shabby shack in the mountains.  Those who have simpler lives in simpler places might also view a cabin as a mixed blessing: a family tradition, a repository of memories, and a huge treat, a treasured place of one's own in the mountains.

In my 32 years of cabin ownership, I've observed cabin folks' conversation topics go from "How can we save these cabins?" to "How have you been?" We have fought together, helped one another, hiked together, learned one another's family trees, and through it all we have built friendships weekend upon weekend, year after year after decade after decade. And I am just a newcomer. . .

A small, poorly-constructed, primitive, one-story hut in the woods where everyday life is distant and we gather to laugh with family and play board games while a fire keeps us warm. (If you have a giant log mansion on a lake somewhere, then you will have to edit this description to fit your idea of what constitutes "cabin.")

About the Author:
Jana Botkin is a full-time artist and resident of both Mineral King and Three Rivers.  She is currently working on a new book, “Mineral King Wildflowers: Common Names.” Subscribe to her blog and newsletter at for updates.

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