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Dancing to the Secret Cabin

Just Beyond That Far Ring of Trees

USA | Sunday, 11 May 2014 | Views [105] | Scholarship Entry

The air was frozen and still in the cabin. The morning sun crept onto my sleeping bag in shades of blue and green, fractured by the stained glass window facing east. The only sounds were halfhearted smacks from the fireplace.
When Felix had described this as a “secret cabin,” located on old mining land just outside of Frisco, Colorado, my sea-level imagination pictured a dignified hike into the woods on snowshoes. Instead, the reality of the day before had been a furious, five-hour climb up the face of Copper Mountain. Felix would dart ahead of me to clear a path, a mountain goat in mirrored shades fueled by raspberry moonshine. I followed his lead and dug the teeth of my shoes into the snow, yanking myself up five feet with every step.
By late afternoon we reached a clearing of flat powder ringed with pine trees and animal tracks. As I dropped to my knees and unsnapped my pack I could see Felix dance ahead, mingling his deep yeti-stomps with small patterns of fox and rabbit. The cabin was just beyond the far ring of trees, nestled in snow so deep that it appeared only as a strip of brown log and tinted glass between piles of white.
The cabin was stocked with a practical assortment of items left by three generations of travelers: oil lamps were lit with Bic lighters and wireless speakers lived in a Chesterfield’s tobacco can. Over the dinner I’d chosen back in town of hot dogs and beans—which was cheerfully appraised by Felix as “proper hobo food”—he filled in details about his rough upbringing in Florida, which had evolved into a tough adulthood of freight hopping, laboring on Alaskan fishing boats, and freestyle rap competitions in the Midwest.
I first met Felix ten years ago; we were partnered on the early shift at a photography lab in Chicago. Every morning we would greet the sunrise mixing chemicals into plastic trays with his hip-hop tapes echoing through the darkrooms. I hadn’t seen him since he’d begun his new life here in the mountains devoted to skiing and painting. Since we began our trek he never once gave a look of dissatisfaction or detachment, and his aura of contentment in these pines gave my city legs confidence as we danced around dangerous patches of snow softened by the sun.
I curled the sleeping bag higher around my shoulders and smelled the smoke in my hair. Felix was still asleep on the wooden floor, but I took pains not to wake him. There was no need to flood this stillness with activity—we had plenty of time to head home.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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