Gary Colbert

Gary A. Colbert | Cressman Road


In the 1980s my parents bought an empty plot of land near Shaver Lake. With their own hands, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears and with some help from a community, they built something really magical. It became our family compound. A place for all of us to relax, to celebrate and, especially for the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many dogs, a place to play and roam free. For my parents it was their home. Overnight on Monday the Creek Fire took their home but not the product of their labor. 

That labor started with the construction of the little building, a combination utility closet and bathroom, and our tent trailer from earlier camping days. If memory serves me, next came septic, power and the well. The well did not go well. But with the help of a water witch, two sticks, and a LOT of drilling they eventually struck liquid gold.

The foundation and frame were largely done by a contractor, a nice old guy and his sons. My parents participated in all of it and we, mostly my brothers and sister, helped on weekends. My most vivid memories of the construction phase:

• I was up there when the a-frames were lifted for the roof but I honestly don’t remember how I contributed 
• Climbing scaffolding.
• Tacking Tyvek everywhere
• Using the nail gun to put up the siding
• More climbing scaffolding
• Trying to get the pinewood ceiling planks just right
• My brothers and I spending a very hungover Sunday trying to fix a leak in a water pipe 

But what I remember most about those years is that we didn’t wait until it was done to start using it. Once there were three plywood walls, a roof and a piece of plastic, we started to consider it a cabin. Although “rustic” (plywood floors, not entirely closed space) we still used it. It was wonderful and exciting to see it grow.

When my parents retired they expanded the cabin into a house and moved there permanently. Over the years more infrastructure developed. The ill-fated carport became a full-on garage with doors on each side, one out onto Trudy Way and the other onto Warren Boulevard. My mom built a rock garden and deer feedery(?). They added a cable car. Earlier this Summer my dad and nephew, Noah, built a water fountain. It was all organic and constantly improving.

My parents didn’t just build their own physical structure, they built a community. They built a volunteer fire department. They built a network of friends that was always looking out for each other. Jerry and I joke that my parents have a larger social network than we do. It’s not actually a joke. They have a whole other family in the people of Pine Ridge and Upper Cressman Road. I don’t know most of them personally but I know the love, comfort and security they brought my parents over the last few years.

Whatever happens to Pinewood Lane the memories and experiences there will last for a long time. Mom cooking sausage bread and everything else on Easter brunch. Their ridiculously packed refrigerator and freezers. My nephews, nieces, grand nephews and nieces, and our cousins’ kids will remember their time there, long after we’re gone. Climbing the rocks, riding in the quad, “bear hunting“ in the back of Old Ugly, my dad’s Chevrolet pickup, and mountain popcorn will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It didn’t just touch our family. It also touched our friends and friends of our friends that got to experience it. I’ll remember both the quiet times and the celebrations. And I can’t begin to fathom all the wonderful memories my parents have of their time there just alone drinking out of their tin cups.

What I want them to know more than anything is how much their labors added to all our lives more than any structure ever could. They poured their hearts into Avalon and it was all worth it. And I love them for it.