A Shower at -20 Below Zero

When I was building my home on a mountaintop overlooking Breckenridge, I took a shower before the house was closed in. The adjacent audio to the right tells about the lessons of that shower while my video and b&w images are overlaid to show the beauty of the region. The story is also told with the text below.

I was half finished building my home on top of the mountain that winter. There were no windows, doors or drywall, but the rough plumbing and electrical had been finished. I slept in a small basement room with bare studded walls covered with a thin plastic barrier and heated by a small portable electric heater. The temperature was 20 below zero where a car engine’s fluent could crack its cast iron block from insufficient antifreeze, but I decided to take my first shower anyway. I opened the main gate valve and released water into the system. the water heater was back-fed from a temporary electrical line. After a long wait, the shower was finally ready.

I loosened my laces and slipped off my warn out boots. My brown stained socks hadn’t been off for some time. My dirty torn Levis settled to the floor with a puff of dust. Next went a soiled pair of long underwear. And then I put back on my jacket for the cold journey to the bath.

I left my plastic room like a horse out of the starting gate, running down the short hall and into the bath. My jacket came off as I stepped into the steaming stall. Ah the bliss of feeling my creations warmth.

As I rotated between the cold air and warm water. My consciousness traced the miracle of my bath. I’d dug each trench, soldered every pipe, installed the septic and well systems, and then wired it all to make it work. Yet, there was more than merely understanding the mechanics of a house. I was elated over fulfilling my dream.


As the hot water waned, I desperately clung onto what fleeting warmth that remained. When it turned lukewarm, reality could no longer be ignored. I stopped turning and dried half of my body, while the water kept the other half from freezing. Then I turned the water off, hastily dried my back side and ran for my plastic room and sleeping bag. Soon after slipping my freshly clensed body into a down sleeping bag, I stopped shivering and fell into a deep sleep.

At 6 a.m., I awoke with the fear of a costly error. The immediacy of the moment left me with little time or desire to search for clean clothes. In front of my bed lay my old filthy rags. The damp long johns and the stiff brown socks went back over warm clean skin, and my shirts stinky armpits areas found their old position. Dust flew as I put on my old tattered blue jeans and worn duck taped ski parka. I jammed my feet back in their worn gritty boots without bothering to tie the laces.

I stomped out the door. The whole damn system could be frozen. I had forgotten to drain the lines. This has to be some kind of bad dream. Fixing them won’t take long, but they have to be thawed and dried out before starting. Hell, that could be awhile. That bath sure cost a hell of a lot!”

I sat down on my cot and poured a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I thought through what needed to be done. First, the house had to be closed in. I would start with the downstairs windows.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top