I am sitting in our shack in the woods listening to a really persistent cricket.
We came up here to stay a few nights because we found it is just above the smoke. The valley is socked in with fires burning in every direction.
The challenge to staying up here is, no air conditioning. We have electricity but not enough wiring to install any big appliances. Of course, that has not been much of a concern until this summer, the temperatures have been unusually high all over California – 100 in Hayfork? That’s friggin’ hot people.
Here, just 15 or 20 minutes above town, it’s oftentimes 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the valley, making an awesome getaway.
Not this summer – Monday it was 100 degrees up here. There’s a good swimming hole nearby – packed to the rafters for Labor Day. We have a plastic horse trough that we fill with water to use for a dip, but the inside of the shack was almost 90. We had to cool it off, and opening the windows wasn’t an option.
We pondered – better to sweat it out here, or go home and sit in the house all day?
Luckily our late friend Mark left us the most wonderful gift – his almost new portable air conditioner. Actually, he had told his son, if he died, to give us the contents of his shed. He was a smart man – he knew that shed was full of junk, it would have been overwhelming for his son to clean it all out. But, Mark knew that shed was also full of stuff my husband would use – like the roof shingles we used to patch the roof at the house we just sold. Mark had those left over from his own roof repair, and they were just enough to do our job. See how your friends watch out for you?
What a miracle this little a/c unit is – it has a collapsible vent that will pull out to almost six feet, you the open end in a partially open window to let out the hot air. You don’t have to add water or anything, just turn it on, and within minutes the air is degrees cooler.
We were afraid it would blow out a fuse at the old shack. Last winter we had a small heater in the outhouse, on a timer so it would warm the room up in the morning, and when I got up and turned on the coffee maker, the fuse blew out. My husband reminded me, as he put on his boots to hike out in the snow and flip the switch, I have to go to the outhouse and turn off the heater before I make a cup of coffee, simple enough. And boy it’s nice to have that heater in the outhouse when it’s 35 outside.
So we ran the little ac all by itself for about 45 minutes, and what do you know – we got the inside of the shack down to about 80, which is cooler than we usually keep our apartment at home.
By bedtime, the Delta Breeze was hooting her way up the canyon, and we slept with the windows open.
Here’s the funny thing – we were ready for another hot day, but it didn’t come. The sky clouded over about mid-day, and the temperatures stalled in the 80’s. We drove back to Chico to run some errands – the smoke was still thick around town, and the air was hot too. So we picked up some ice and a few odds and ends and headed back to the shack.
At about 4 pm, the sky got really dark and the breeze turned into a wind. Thunder rolled in the distance.
We keep our cooking stuff on the deck outside – one of those wheeled racks is great for holding the camp stove and the electric skillet, and an old metal filing cabinet on wheels holds the toaster oven. We dragged those into the shack, along with the dog beds and the patio chairs, and sat cozy watching the storm come in.
It was short but sweet – a nice gentle shower, only lasted about 10 minutes. But the air was remarkably different.
Now I can see out across the canyon below – smoke blots out the valley beyond the next ridge, where I can usually see the highway interchange and Table Mountain far away in the background. But up here the air is clear, it smells good.
I always thought the biggest challenge to living up here would be the occasional week of snow. Now I realize how spoiled I’ve become with modern convenience. Electric coffee maker, toaster oven, computer, tv! Air conditioning!?
Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town.