A Cabin In The Woods
travel diary [sponsored]
My Escape With Getaway House
Back before my jaunt to Storm King with S, we talked of taking a mini trip/travel meditation, somewhere nearby-ish and remote. It was then that I came across Getaway House amidst the wilds of the internet. The New York outpost was fully booked on our intended dates, so our weekend trip became a day trip which became the subject of a different travel diary.
Getaway House cabins are simple and seemingly born for Instagram; I couldn't get the images from their site out of my mind. Sure enough, after stalking their website, their profile started appearing in my IG feed. I stalked and stalked until one night I happened upon a link to an "artist fellowship." Long story short, I applied, I was accepted, I “got away,” hence this new travel diary about my sponsored escape.
While the cabins are accessible from NYC without a car, I booked one anyway after crunching the numbers of taking a train or bus plus the cab ride to and from stations and cabin. The added convenience seemed more than worth the slight additional cost; if only Enterprise CarShare had sponsored me as well! But they didn’t, but also I didn’t ask… I’m making myself a note to look into that. Anyway! I requested a two-night stay for November 12–14th after determining those days to be the best combination of not-awful weather and calendar flexibility, as based on my time management software and the Farmer’s Almanac.
My trips always begin with anxious overplanning and isolation the night before and this was no different. I knew there would be no WiFi and was pretty sure I would have little to no cell reception, so before leaving, I notified all the folks I anticipated contacting me with crises, downloaded three movies on my laptop and packed a jump drive with every episode of The Wire. Yes yes, the idea of the Getaway House is to unplug completely, but I really need you to stop judging me right now. Also I forgot to mention that I was only bringing my laptop because after I made all the arrangements for this little escape, I got accepted into a five-week small business program which happened to start the second day of my trip; I figured it was better to be more prepared than not. In the end, I watched one movie a night and spent the rest of the time in silence or talking out loud to invisible conversation partners so there you go.
Now that the backstory is out of the way…
DAY 1: NYC TO CATSKILL, NY
I wake up at 7am because that’s what the cats want and I’m too paranoid to sleep any longer. It is a longstanding tradition of mine to pack the morning of my departure and so I do that. I focus most on packing food, triple-checking the website to confirm there is a mini fridge in the cabin since I’m bringing some frozen goods from Trader Joe’s. Actually, all the food items I’m bringing are from Trader Joe’s except for coffee: roasted garlic chicken sausages, cauliflower/broccoli pancakes, cauliflower rice stir-fry, baby zucchini, eggs, marinated herb olives, mixed roasted & salted nuts, a half package of pastrami. I pack a fancier pair of waterproof boots than the hikers I’ll be wearing in transit so I can look professional for my class the next day, two tank tops, a turtleneck, a sweater, a flannel, a short down jacket, a raincoat that fits over it, leggings, a thermal shirt, two pairs of socks, regular underwear, period underwear and an umbrella. Also two books, a Kindle, a stovetop espresso pot, sex toys, scant toiletries and chargers for my phone, watch and laptop. Also two notebooks and a handful of my favorite double-tipped Sharpies for class. I think that’s it. (**At the time it seemed like I was packing light but writing this, now I feel crazy. Also I never wore the second shoes or used the sex toys or Kindle. Also I brought way too much food.)
I’m leaving the cats to fend for themselves so I put out two bowls of dry food knowing full well it will most likely be gobbled up as soon as I walk out the door but that’s their problem. I suspect I’ll be stopping by tomorrow night on my way back to the cabin from class. My carshare reservation starts at 12:30pm and it’s a long walk from the train to the garage. I use an Uber to get there since I’m lugging a big bag of food, a backpack and a carry-on suitcase. The trip is eight minutes long and I think I made the right choice.
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I download an offline map of the area between NYC and Catskill NY because I have Sprint and the service is shit and I don’t want to be without the directions even for a second, especially for tomorrow’s episodic return. Once I’m on my way I get a text from someone on Craigslist about a vintage Steelcase chair I’m trying to acquire since my current desk chair is a hard T-back piece from West Elm that makes my ass fall asleep. Now I’m on my way to Williamsburg to do the pickup. I park and make the exchange which is quick and easy because, Venmo. I run to Starbucks because I have to pee and I’m about to be driving for three hours. On my way out of the coffee shop, an acquaintance stops me to say hello and chat briefly; we exchange all the pleasantries and then I head back to my vehicle which is being ticketed. The cop is very friendly but pulls that “but it’s already in the system and I can’t do anything now” shit and so I get into the driver’s seat with a new $60 charge. Apparently, Veteran’s Day does NOT count as a major legal holiday and so the sign laws are still in effect. Balls.
Getting from Brooklyn to the cabin takes FOUR HOURS because Google keeps going offline and rerouting me despite all my efforts with the downloaded map. Also I stopped briefly at Walmart to use the bathroom and pickup Q-Tips and Swisspers and acne cream because I need them for home. Also Newports which I am loath to admit but it’s the truth. While driving I had started fantasizing about smoking by the campfire and the notion was just too damn romantic to deny.
I spend the trip listening to a downloaded audiobook called “Outwitting The Devil” by Napoleon Hill; after I get back in the car post-Walmart, the devil character mentions how cigarettes are one of the ways he controls the weak. I wince and curse the audiobook for not getting to this part BEFORE I bought the fucking cigarettes.
At 5:44pm I pull up to the cabin; it is already completely dark. I was texted the cabin name and door code earlier today so I know I’m heading to “Hope” and enjoy the name very much. I unload my stuff and attempt to figure out the induction stovetop because mama needs some caffeine and I’ve got my little espresso thingy all loaded and ready to go. After texting back and forth with the Getaway people, I learn that I can only use the pots/pans provided because the stovetop only works when the surfaces are large enough to maintain a certain amount of burner contact. I become briefly frustrated and then place my espresso thingy inside a saucepan with water. It works pretty good but not great; I think the coffee needs more direct heat because it’s a little thick and the flavor is a bit off but still better than no coffee so of course I drink it. While the coffee is brewing, I eat the half package of pastrami because I’ve been fasting all day and have no patience.
I go outside to build a fire, expecting to use one of the for-purchase log bundles but see that some kind soul has piled unused logs against the woodbin. I thank the heavens and put them in the pit. I wander off to collect some tinder and small branches because I was a girl scout and this is what is needed to build a proper A-frame. Despite looking dry, the wood is in fact not dry, so after many attempts to get a burn going, I break down and use one of the available firestarter logs and feel deep shame for my fire-building failure. I am mildly soothed by the display of flames, but then the internally damp wood finally catches and smokes up the whole area. Sigh.
I sit in one of the Adirondack chairs, drink my coffee and light a devil cigarette. I put some sausages on the firepit grill and a bundle of foil-wrapped baby zucchini over the coals. Even with all the damp-wood smoke, it’s still pretty sweet to be sitting next to a fire in darkness and solitude. I can’t see it, but I hear the running water of a brook nearby. When my foodstuffs are cooked, I set them inside to cool and return to the fire to enjoy it before dousing it twice with water to extinguish all the flames. Once back inside, I munch the spoils of my efforts, put on some jammies and watch a horror movie before falling asleep just before 10pm. I am exhausted.
DAY 2: CATSKILL NY TO NYC TO CATSKILL NY
I wake up to the sound of rain pelting the roof above my head; I’ve slept for 10 solid hours. I forgot to mention the wonder of the toilet system! I marvel at it again today after getting out of bed. The cabin is basically a glass-ended wood rectangle on wheels and it is amazing to me that it has running water, a working stove and a pretty nice shower. More about the toilet — the badge on it says “dry flush” and it is lined with some space-age looking foil. There’s a button to flush which makes the whole liner thingy puff up around the waste, blow out the contents to some place unseen, and then sucks back against the walls of the interior. It is fun to watch and I take a video. And then a second video as a dry run because I forgot to hit the record button the first time. This is the kind of nonsense that appeals to me before I’ve had coffee.
Unwilling to deal with the espresso pot drama a second time, I decide to use one of the pour-over drip packets of coffee provided (for a separate charge). It’s cute and clever — a little filter with paper anchor arms to fit over your mug while you pour over hot water. The coffee is light roast though and a bit weak for my taste but again, I drink it anyway.
I wander around the cabin checking out all the stuffs, the details, the whatnots. There’s a selection of books including something called “Cabin Porn” which I pull down along with some others. I take my coffee and my books and I sit in the window ledge beside my bed. I spend most of my time staring out the huge window, watching the rain fall, the leaves fall, the brook run… Occasionally I carry on conversations with invisible partners about the things that come to mind while staring out into the wilderness, mostly memories of being a kid in upstate NY and the solo adventures I would take, wandering off into the woods for hours at a time. I take several 30-second videos of the trees; I am attempting to capture some of the leaves shaking free, the waves of the branches, the flow of the water, just a snippet of a moment to enjoy later. I move on to still photos and then put everything away and sit some more.
Eventually I have to get ready to head back to the city for my class which starts at 5 and runs till 9pm. It’s in downtown Manhattan and I know there will be no street parking so I pre-booked a spot with an app before I left my apartment. I used a coupon code and got a 7.5-hour spot for $2 which almost makes up for the stupid parking ticket. Ok not really. I leave myself five hours to get there given yesterday’s rerouting debacle and wind up getting in at 1:30; my parking reservation doesn’t start until 4:30. I park on the street in the West Village and wander into Soho to put on some makeup at Sephora and then grab some coffee and WiFi at Starbucks. After all that, I head to the garage and then make the short walk to class which is wonderful and I leave energized and tingling with ideas.
My apartment is on the way and I haven’t eaten yet today so I stop to feed myself and the cats who have in fact already eaten all of their food. I spend an hour with them before heading off into the night. I pass many many deer along the side of the road but thankfully arrive back at the cabin without incident. It is 1am and there is a sprinkling of snow on the steps to my door.
I watch my second movie, an unremarkable comedy, and turn it off with 18 minutes left to finish. It’s almost 3am and I know I’ll need to be up early to get the most out of my time left in the cabin and feel unrushed about packing. I fall asleep immediately.
DAY 3: CATSKILL NY TO NYC
My alarm goes off at 7am and I hit the snooze but not before realizing with blurry contact-less eyes that there is still snow outside. The branches of the trees have been dusted and there’s just enough on the ground to make my surroundings quiet and white. I make coffee and sit in the window ledge again. Much like yesterday, I daydream about being a kid and spending all my time in the wilderness. Looking through the glass, nestled warm inside this box, I’m able to enjoy the same wooded peace without the discomfort of being outside in 24-degree weather. It is lovely.
I have awoken early enough to laze around a bit. I consider putting on my jacket and walking around outside but after reading the little Getaway “now what” book provided, I decide against it. The literature reminds me the whole idea of being here is to get away from pressures and responsibilities and that I don’t need to feel like I have to do anything. I very much enjoy doing absolutely nothing, so I get back to more of that. I lay back in the bed, with its white linens and fluffy down pillows. I watch the sunlight shift, the dance of shadows on the ceiling. Occasionally I roll over and stare at the snow-dusted trees. I watch the water flow in the brook. I roll back again and watch the light change some more. I am grateful for the silence and trees and solitude.
After checking my watch I finally get going, repacking all of my things so I can arrive home in time to return my carshare by 12:30pm. I still have some time to spare so I pull out my laptop and watch the last 18 minutes of the unremarkable comedy. Meh. After that I get back into bed and stare out the window some more. I worry my level of relaxation will cause me to fall asleep and fuck up all of the day’s commitments so I move to the built-in table/bench and stare out the window from there.
It’s 9:30am and I need to leave. I reluctantly put my bags in the car, go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time and take more pictures. I wish I had more time, more days to spend here without interruption (or the obligation of a class).
I take one final picture of the cabin exterior, the plaque reading “Hope” and say thank you in my head. Peaceful and recharged, I brush the snow off the car windows and make my way home.
I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to unplug and get away from the whir of modern daily life. My cabin was humble and perfect; the simplicity of construction was efficient, beautiful and all that I needed. During my stay, I felt both at home and connected with my surroundings; I was expecting a “glamping” experience and instead felt modestly comfortable. There’s nothing over the top or extraneous about the dwellings, which is exactly as it ought to be. I could tell everything had been designed with the environment in mind — the small amounts of technology were low impact and energy efficient and didn’t feel at all out of place. The details of accommodations, the provisions provided, and the personal touches from the Getaway team were thoughtful and well received. I will happily return soon.