Marty’s photo of the day #4781: The short story of Deb and me moving to Montana is that we had rented a cabin from a friend-of-a-friend on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River at the far southern end of the Bitterroot Valley. It was 1992, and we were driving home to Minneapolis after renting that cabin for a second time. Deb had mentioned something about how much she enjoyed the area, and I followed up with a not-so-serious suggestion: “We should move there.”

As things turned out, that suggestion was more serious than I intended it to be. We bought 25 acres five miles from Victor (closer to the middle of the 100-mile-long valley) in 1993, built our house on what we now call “The Essen Wildlife Refuge,” and moved there in 1996.

What does that have to do with this photo? Deb and I rented the East Fork Guard Station, a U.S. Forest Service cabin, located only a few miles away from that private cabin we had rented back in the early 1990s. We stayed there this past Monday and Tuesday nights and returned home yesterday afternoon.

We hit cold and rainy weather, but that was okay. It was wonderful to get away from phones and the internet (no service there!) for a few days. Deb and I had both been working hard on writing our most recent books, and when you are self-employed, there is always something work-related to do at home. At the cabin, we didn’t have that guilt that comes with just hanging out and doing next to nothing.

Well, we did do some work on Deb’s third weaving book. As we had done for her first weaving book (out on Schiffer Publishing), I am photographing all of Deb’s completed weaving projects “in the wild.” So on the first rainy day, we drove old logging roads looking for shoot locations, and when the rain let up on the next day, we went back to the best of them to shoot the photos.

As for our dog, Nellie, she had a blast. There is quite a bit of open space around the East Fork Guard Station (which in the early 1900s was used by fire crews), and Nellie ran back and forth doing 250-yard-long wind sprints to check out whatever noise or movement demanded her investigation. It reminded me of watching a Minnesota Timberwolves playoff basketball game a few weeks ago, when the announcer commented about how tired the players were—after a few minutes of running up and down the court, interrupted by commercials and timeouts. Professional basketball players are woefully out of shape when compared to Nellie, who was doing much longer, much faster, wind sprints on a rear leg that had been surgically repaired (with a metal plate and six screws) just six months ago!

The most difficult thing Deb, Nellie, and I did during our visit was pose for a selfie with the cabin in the background. Deb always looked fine, but I would either close my eyes at the wrong time or have some weird expression on my face. And nearly every time I got my shit together, Nellie would declare “Ground squirrel!” and look away from the camera. So this is pretty much as good as it gets with the three of us together.

In all, it was fun to go back to where it all began, and it also reinforced our decision to build our house only an hour away from Missoula, instead of two hours away, which would have been the case if we had built near the cabin.