Buyer Beware

Think owning a cabin near the Olympic Peninsula sounds great? Wait till you meet the neighbors.


Cabin     Photo: Jeramey Jannene/Flickr

When my friends visit my family’s cabin near* the Olympic Peninsula, a one-story house on 20 forested acres at the end of a tidal bay, they generally say something to the effect of “Damn, you’re lucky.” And they’re right, for the most part. Cedarcrest, which my great-grandfather built in 1941, after my great-grandmother bought the lot for five grand off a paper mill, functions as a base camp for hiking, sea kayaking, and skiing around nearby Olympic National Park. It’s awesome. But it’s also worth noting that caring for a cabin in the Pacific Northwest involves unique challenges. Take landscaping. Around here it’s done on a Jurassic scale: we use chainsaws, not hedge trimmers. We often face the delicate choice of whether to selectively log the rare old-growth or let those towering firs and cedars grow. One November, after we chose the latter option, a hemlock tree sliced the cabin in half, roof to floor. Maintaining good relations in the community can also be tricky, thanks to the woolly frontier spirit that still pervades. Our most persnickety neighbor is an American Indian tribe* that poaches the oysters my great-grandmother planted. One night, our longtime renter, a telephone-pole repairman, decided to take matters into his own hands, trading pistol fire with them on the mudflats. Still, I’m not complaining. I happily scrub the cabin walls with bleach each spring to kill the winter mold, machete back the encroaching prickers, and fish out the moles that fall into the water well. So come on over. But don’t just visit. Bring some bar oil for the chainsaw and make it yours, too.

*The original version of this story was changed after publication.

From Outside Magazine, Aug 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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