31-March-15 through 01-April-15
The Loj was my home.
I’ve lived in many places over my life… My childhood home is important to me, but a lot of the others begin to blend together. My first apartment, my first dorm, this city of that town… they were places to live.
My home was the Loj.
Why was it a home, when the others weren’t? I’d put time and love into that building. I’d spent five years earning the right to the set of keys that I carry on my keychain. I always have them, right by my car fob and my apartment keys. They remind me that no matter what happens, I have a place that I can escape to; a place that I can run away and hide. A place where I’ve spent countless weekends, limitless adventures, and created more memories than I could ever remember. I felt safe in the Loj; warm and welcome, no matter where life took me.
And then, it was gone.
On January 15th I got an email saying that, the night before, there had been a fire. The entire building was lost, though thankfully none of the people staying there had been majorly injured. The general thought was that the propane refrigerator had sparked and caught the main structure ablaze. By the time the two guys staying there were awakened by the choking smoke and shattering glass, no amount of fire extinguishers could have helped. The building was lost, razed to the ground.
I was useless for the entire rest of that day.
I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.
My home, my refuge… was gone? Just like that, without any fight or battle? There hadn’t been a drawn out “how can we save it? What can we do?”
This wasn’t a damaged roof, or a cracked wall; The email I got told a story of complete destruction, with fires still smoldering days after the fact.
I wanted to go up immediately. I made plans, and then plans fell through. Then I was laid off from Artisan, and my life was thrown into turmoil. I had nowhere to run away to, so I buried myself in work – applying to jobs, revising resumes, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the climbing gym.
But finally I’d had enough – I would not put it off any longer. I cleared a few days. I ignored the recruiters who called me incessantly.
“Ben, you have no time to go camping when looking for work” they said.
“Thank you for the advice… but actually, I do. I’m already doing it.” I replied.
The visit itself was… anti-climactic. I expected it to be… more? Just more, somehow. I wanted a sense of closure, of emotion and epic crashing waves. I wanted to hear thunder and lightening.
But instead, it just… was.
There was a skyline, where there should have been a roof. There was a view of the mountains where I should have seen a wall, and a pile of burnt-out tin roof tiles where there was a strawberry patch. In place of the tool shed, with its chaotic piles of rope and tool and gizmos, there was a pit with blackened metal; the remnants of axes and paint cans.
But over it all, there was quiet.
It was honestly a beautiful day – warm for this time of year, and almost cloudless. The sun was bright and the wind wasn’t too loud.
I poked around for hours – taking pictures, looking for trinkets that I remembered, and hoped against hope had somehow survived. None of them had.
As night fell, I finished setting up my camp down by the river. I couldn’t stand the thought of camping in the rubble – it was too high and exposed to the wind, for one… and it just didn’t seem right, somehow. It was a gravesite, and staking out a tent there wasn’t an option.
So I ate, slept, and the temperatures dropped.
They had dropped a lot, by the time I woke up. When I checked the temperature a few hours after getting moving, it was still only 12 Deg.F… but I still dutifully woke up, ate a nice oatmeal breakfast, and got myself moving to take some more pictures and do some more poking. I took a hike up the Ledges, trying to warm up my muscles, but they were having none of that.
I called it a little bit after noon, when the day was finally at its warmest. I couldn’t stay over night again – it wasn’t getting warmer, and if I stayed I’d probably have to leave a few toes behind. So I packed up my tent, stuffed the sleeping bag into its compression sack, walked back down to the car, and pulled onto the highway.
I didn’t go straight home, of course… but I left the lodge grounds. There still wasn’t the crashing sense of closure that I had been looking for… but packing the car and pulling back onto Route 2 seemed almost normal.
I could tell, somehow, that I’d be coming back soon enough. This trip was special, but it wasn’t anything too far out of the ordinary.
This wasn’t an ending. It just was.
Pictures of the Loj itself
Pictures of the surroundings