We have been to Window Rock Cabin twice now. The first time was last year when we biked up with our mountain bikes. And the second with my friend Paul. This time we left a month early and took our fat bikes. And it was a good thing because we encountered what we had hoped for … snow.
After a fabulous ride to the familiar cabin I leaned my bike against the porch rail and went inside. I immediately smelled smoke and thought, “good, someone was just here and there are coals in the stove.” I couldn’t of been more wrong. And later I would realize that the previous “evacuation” was the reason for the strong smoke smell. But that never dawned on my right away and I started a fire.
Smoke billowed out of the wood door and I closed it and opened the ash tray. Usually this works with the signature sound of a blow torch as the oxygen fuels the fire above. No sounds and the smoke continued to billow out of the door around the seems. I held the door in to no avail. Finally we bailed and took the burning wood outside then went back in to access the problem.
My partner discovered that the horizontal portion of the stove pipe was full of ash so we dis-assembled it and emptied it outside into a pail. Excited that we solved the problem I started a new “test” fire. Still the stove smoked and it seemed as though there was no air flow to the outside. Investigating why I discovered that someone had broken the flu in the stove top. I quickly repaired it and tried again. Nothing, the stove smoked excessively. So then we figured there was a air leak and discovered that the fiberglass rope that is usually cemented into place on the door was gone.
After re-using a piece from the oven door we were able to seal the door and the fire started again and that seemed to help. But after returning to the cabin from chopping wood my partner was inside busily trying to put out the fire. Smoke billowed out of the cabin. I went in and opened the windows and almost succumb to smoke inhalation.
It seemed like a good time to just give up and do what the previous cabin renters have done and bolted for home. But I wanted to see one last time what could be wrong. I used my hand and ran it up near where the smoke was supposed to go and felt no draft. Then I went and did the same thing above where the pipe exited the stove and felt a significant breeze. That is when I noticed a second flu that controlled the amount of air flow between the stove and the main wood compartment. Someone, when discovering the main flu being broke, tried to burn a fire in the stove and had switched it over to that side. I switched it to the main log compartment and the breeze returned. We started a new fire and wholla … it worked.
Later while we were doing crosswords reaping the benefits of our new heat source I felt very good that we stuck it out and figured a way to make the stove work. Sure, it was broken due to neglect and the Forest Service needs to go up there and fix it. But we stuck it out and devised a fix. My partner with the resourcefulness to go out and harvest tree sap and stick in the make shift seals and my curiosity to find all the tiny things that in the end added up to a very smoky situation. It is going to be a good weekend.