I found a fire tower! Just when I was about to give up on ever finding any kind of shelter, I found an honest to goodness, intact, fire tower with a toasty-warm cabin that must be 50 feet off the ground. If such a thing is possible, considering what and where I am, I actually may be slightly happy at this very moment.
The crazy thing is I almost walked right by it. The snow was heavy, and the tiny icy flakes shot down out of the clouds like darts. I kept my head down because my face was sore from the arctic beating it was taking. At some point, I realized the trail I had been following was completely gone. I lost it in the blinding snowdrifts. When I made myself look up and try to get my bearings, that’s when I saw it: that big, beautiful fire tower. It was about ten yards to my left up a little embankment. I didn’t believe my eyes. I put my head down again and kept walking because I thought I was losing my mind. I couldn’t be that lucky.
I took a few steps and stopped. Only an idiot would not at least check it out. I backtracked and scrambled up the embankment with a lot of difficulty. If the tower was just an illusion, it never vanished. Standing on firm ground just a few feet away, I arched my back, pointed my chin skyward, and soaked in every inch of the large wooden structure. It was real.
And before I could convince myself otherwise, I frantically climbed the winding staircase to the top. The door to the cabin was locked, but when you’re cold and hungry and eager to never feel snow on your exposed skin again, a locked door is a minor hurdle. I kicked it open and practically dove inside to escape the frozen world that had tortured me for so long.
I scrambled to the center of the cozy square room and collapsed, falling asleep almost as soon as my head hit the floor. When I woke up sometime later, I found a bank of three metal lockers filled with olive green packets of food: meals ready to eat. I ripped open one labeled “Beef Stew,” and shoveled the contents into my mouth with my hands.
When I was chewing my second handful of stew, I saw the one major drawback to my little heaven on Earth. There was a stack of body parts in the corner nearest the door.