Memories of family cabin

The cabin near the top of Laurel Ridge in western Pennsylvania was a real find for us, a treasure enjoyed by many of our friends and family over a number of years.

In the compound called the Cabin Farm, there were four cabins, each different but of similar rustic construction. They were named Laurel, Dogwood, Honeysuckle and Rhododendron, for the woodland shrubs that they were nestled among.

Our favorite was Laurel, a rustic, board-and-batten cabin near a roaring brook. The original structure had been one big room containing the kitchen, dining, sleeping and sitting areas with a wood-burning stove. A later addition had added two bedrooms and a bathroom to make a T-shaped footprint.

It was the oldest of the four and had been built for a summer getaway by two professional women who had met in New York City many years before. They literally built it with their own hands. Many years later, my son Richard and I put a new roof on it.

Over the years, the ladies had added the other cabins to rent. A few hundred yards away from the four was their stone year-round retirement home.

Miss Colburn was originally from this mountain area and Miss Moller had come to love it too. Miss Moller knew all the woodland plants and flowers and did the scheduling of the rentals. Miss Colburn knew the history of the area and could handle all the maintenance.

Some of our overnight visitors to Laurel Cabin were from Ohio, and some from as far away as Ontario and Oregon. This site was different from anything any of them had ever seen.

A special feature of the house was its chimney. The L-shaped stovepipe from the wood burner inside came out through the wall about 5 feet above the ground. It was worked into a stone chimney that was supported by a former tree trunk – surely a unique arrangement!

Our children delighted in showing visitors how the water from the kitchen sink drained right out through the wall to the ground outside. They could make a little stream just by turning on the faucet. Of course, we had a separate sanitary septic tank for other waste.

There was a stone fireplace outside where we were having lunch one day when we heard a loud chattering noise echoing from all sides through the underbrush and trees around the cabin. Searching for the source of the cacophony, we saw dozens and dozens of chipmunks barking at each other in all the trees around.

The reason for their barking is still unknown to us, but we felt privileged to be observers of that chipmunk convention.

Among other wildlife we saw there were deer and large land turtles, and though we never saw bear, we did see their spoor. There were also fossils in the slate and sandstone in the creeks nearby.

And then there was the giant tree not too far through the woods from the cabin. Richard had discovered it first, and he encouraged the rest of us to go and see it. Two of his boys, Alex and Keith, took us to it when they spent a weekend with us at the cabin.

We made great conjectures as to how old it was, what variety of tree it was and what its girth was. The four of us hugged it holding hands and were just barely able to encircle it. It was probably part of the virgin timber of that forest, and it was amazing to find it still standing.

A few miles farther away was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house Falling Water. It was a dramatic contrast to our little cabin. We enjoyed taking visitors to see that beautiful structure. One summer, we were thrilled to be part of the volunteer staff there, doing weeding and planting around the place.

Nearby there was a second house designed by Wright, Kentuck Knob, which we also visited.

There was much to enjoy at the cabin and in the mountains around it. I grew up in New England mountains and Sally grew up in southern mountains, now as 36-year Ohioans, we have come to appreciate the Pennsylvania part of the Appalachians.