The fine print on the rental I took for the Maine road trip said the cabin had everything we could possibly need. All the reviews have said this too.

The photos showed a charming old house with original wood paneling, wooden floors and exposed beams. It may have been near where Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn stayed in On Golden Pond.

The photos showed a small kitchen with a small stove and a small refrigerator, as well as an adjacent sitting area with a sofa, chair and wood stove. What a smart idea to add such a charming piece of decor like a wood stove, I thought to myself.

In one of the reviews, this place was praised for preserving its ancient character. Vintage is often code without updates. We also haven’t updated in years — we’re vintage, too. That would be perfect.

“Great choice!” said my husband when we pulled up.

“I can smell wood paneling!” he said as we hauled our things.

“Where’s the heat?” asked her husband as the sun went down and the temperature dropped.

“You seem to be looking at it,” I said, nodding at the wood stove.

I had already looked around and realized that the wood stove was not for decor or atmosphere; it was for warmth. Who would have thought that a vintage cabin would come with a vintage heat source?

We enjoyed the fire until a late hour, hesitant to go to the upstairs bedroom as it was warm downstairs.

“I’m sure there’s a roast up there,” I said, lying through my teeth.

“The heat is rising,” said the husband.

“Yes, the heat is rising,” I repeated.

Unless you expect it to grow. Then the heat does not rise; he hovers around the wood stove. And then it goes out – at about 2.30, according to our calculations.

The bigger problem was that I’m an early riser, and it’s an unwritten rule that early risers start fires. And if all the kindling and wood have been burned the night before, then the early riser must venture out into pitch darkness for wood, where hungry bears, territorial moose, aggressive deer, and killer squirrels lie in wait for easy prey.

I’m torn between wanting warmth and not wanting to cripple myself in the dark. In the light of the moon, a faint outline of a wood stand at the edge of the forest appears. I calculate the distance between the woodshed and the cabin, multiply by the probability that I will fall flat on uneven ground, run at breakneck speed with my arms full of wood, escaping my four-legged attackers.

It’s simple math. I put on my big down jacket over a thick terry dressing gown, long pajamas and woolen socks and wait for the woodcutter to wake up.

I make coffee, but I can’t hold the cup because my hands won’t come out of my coat pockets.

The woodcutter finally wakes up, collects wood and starts the fire again. Moreover, for the next two nights he went downstairs in the middle of the night to keep the fire going.

The colors were so gorgeous that I came home with 100 photos of red, orange and yellow foliage on the gorgeous hillsides and 500 images of the red, orange and yellow flames flickering in the wood stove.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Her new book “What Happens to Grandma, Stays in Grandma” is out. Email her at