It has long been a fantasy of mine to own a weekend cabin somewhere in the middle of nowhere … and by “nowhere” I mean somewhere between 1.5 and 3 hours from Dallas. I chose that time span because 90 minutes is far enough away to where you won’t just pop back into town if you forgot something; and 3 hours because I don’t want it to be a major ordeal to go to my weekend retreat.
While it still remains a fantasy, at least I get to work on other people’s cabin projects. The most recent one is taking place in Vilas County, Wisconsin – a small community about 4 hours North from Madison, Wisconsin. For the record, this is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and as a result, it has maintained all the scenic beauty you would expect from a place so far removed from the hectic pace of a metropolitan center.
I recently took a trip to the job site to spend some time with my feet on the ground and get a chance to talk with the folks I am working with – who spend their summers up here. The temperature I left behind in Dallas was a sweltering 102° and the high temperature upon my arrival in the woods was a refreshing 58° … even if I spent the entire time working, the weather alone made this feel like a mini-vacation.
It rained in the early morning, but it was a soft, peaceful rain and it just seemed to still everything. There wasn’t much sound out in the wilderness other than the soft patter of small rain drops landing in the lake. Before long, the rain moved on and there was magnificent weather during the remainder of my trip.
In all, I spent around 2.5 days on site with my clients and other than some marathon work sessions, they kept to their summer schedule. We had several 3-4 hours work bursts, and then I would retreat off to myself to consolidate my notes and sketches, formulate the questions, and prepare a more specific agenda for what we should discuss next. This was the end of the programming phase and we spent most of our time talking specifics so that when I returned to Dallas the next task I would take on would be schematic design phases – which means floor plans.
Everybody loves this phase.
When I came back to rejoin the group a few hours later, I found most everyone out on the dock. A little fishing, checking some crawfish traps, visitors chatting each other up. I was one of those visitors but for one evening, there was an overlap of three separate groups of people staying in the cabin.
I should clarify that there are two properties – and they are next to one another. There is the cabin that the clients have owned for decades, and then there is the cabin that they just bought on the neighboring lot (which is where I was staying by myself). It is so pretty up in this area of the country, that the clients host a revolving door of visitors all summer long – which is what prompted them to start this cabin project in the first place. They need additional room for their guests so the plan is to remove the neighboring cabin and build a new cabin. Once that’s done, they will move into it while we tackle the next phase of the project which is to build a new cabin on their original property.
Pretty sunset on the lake … but this is your cue that the mosquitoes (otherwise known as the Wisconsin state bird) are about to come out. Believe me, you do not want to be out at dusk when the mosquitoes arrive – all that might be left of you is a desiccated skin bag.
So despite the fact that I was staying on the property just next door, I had to go through some serious woods to get between the two cabins. I did walk down the driveway to the main road – over to the adjacent driveway – and then down the driveway to get to my cabin, but only once.
Bob: This isn’t too far of a walk … it’s so pretty here and I like looking into the woods from the road.
Client: We will want to maintain that feel but this “road” will need to be regraded before the snow starts to fall so
Bob: [stop walking, tilting head to one side] What is that sound? That droning sound? Is there some sort of manufacturing around here?
Client: That would be the mosquitoes … we really shouldn’t stop walking
Yikes! That would be the last time I walked the much longer road route to get to my cabin. From now on, I would take the much more difficult – but far shorter – route through the woods.
The picture above is “the woods” and the only problem with taking the woods is that they are a little creepy.
Especially at night.
When there is no light and zero visibility.
No big deal right? WRONG! This is how every horror movie starts … a good-looking dude walking through the woods at night BY MYSELF, oblivious to the fact that there are crazies currently drawing straws to see who gets to wear my face as a pretty, pretty mask.
I made it through the woods pretty fast.
It’s probably around 11:30pm and I’m trying to organize my notes and thoughts for the next day so I’m sitting at the Dining room table, in a cabin that – for all intents and purposes is out in the middle of nowhere – and has been left open and unlocked
Did I mention that this cabin has a basement? For the record, the basement is the creepiest of all the rooms and I’m pretty sure that 94% of all the terrible things that can happen to you in a cabin in the middle of the woods, will happen to you in the basement. I made that fact up but I’m feeling very confident about it.
So I was feeling a little creeped out sitting in this cabin (in the middle of the woods) and I did what most anybody would do (and what all “victims” in a horror movie would do) and I went down into the basement to make sure it was empty. I brought my camera with me because it seemed to make sense at the time … and I needed to take pictures of the basement for record keeping purposes.
After I made one complete visual lap of the basement, there was one area around the perimeter that didn’t seem quite right … maybe there was some moisture coming through the block wall -OR- it was the ghost I spotted in the corner (good thing I had my camera, huh?)
Did you find it? Here … I’ll help you out
Now do you see it? But that’s no big deal, it’s just a ghost. It certainly looked like a ghost and that area of the room was about 10° cooler than the rest of the basement. At any rate, I wasn’t to worried about it because I am part American Indian and things like “spirits” are fairly common in our culture.
No, it wasn’t the ghost that freaked me out and gave me nightmares for the remainder of my trip. It was what I found next that set my teeth on edge. I was heading out of the basement and there was a space that I needed to check out. There was a single enclosed room, roughly centered in the middle of the basement. It was approximately 10 feet long and 8 feet wide and covered in unfinished gypsum board.
Three of the four walls that enclosed this room were bare, but there was a single door on one side and my rational mind was telling me “do NOT open that door; you will regret it” … but my architectural training told me that I needed to open that door … so I did.
I slowly opened the door and (DO NOT continue scrolling if you have a weak heart or you are a designer … you have been warned)
There I was, frightened for my life, and as I was backing slowly out of the basement bathroom – never breaking eye contact with the green toilet mat sitting atop the green carpet – what kept running through my mind was:
“This is where they are going to find my body … IF they find my body … assuming that the horrific germs surely living and thriving in the green carpet don’t rise up, entomb and dissolve me first.”
Where do I start? Green carpeting? Green toilet mat on top of the green carpeting? Cultured marble counter? Maybe the brass door knob sharing space with the chrome toilet paper roller? Flower wallpaper on the walls? Flower wallpaper on the ceiling? Heat lamps in the ceiling …..
My eyeballs are stinging, my head is reeling … and somewhere there is ghost hanging about. Maybe the ghost is there to tell me something …..
“Destroy this basement bathroom and release me from this mortal plane”
Yep. That sounds about right.