Your Side of the Mountain: Describe your childhood dream of surviving in isolation

My Side of the Mountain. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Julie of the Wolves. Brian’s Saga. Farther back, The Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe. And so on.

Young readers in particular have always been captivated by stories of a runaway or castaway surviving on their own far from civilization. Part of the fun of such stories is the imaginings they inspire about one’s own hypothetical hermit life. What was your childhood vision of getting by on your own (or nearly so) out in the wilderness?

I vaguely remember rather elaborate plans for a cabin in the woods with a root cellar. I know there were also a horse and a dog. How about you?

There is always snow. And a dog. Plenty of fire wood. But, I’m utterly alone. No one is looking for me. I obviously want to be in this place.
OTOH, I am in a situation at this moment where I am nearly alone almost all the time. I live very rurally with no neighbors. I find it pleasant to not have to deal with people and be out in the big bad world. Alas, there is no snow. I can get out if I have to. I do not live alone, he just stays gone alot. I have access to cell phone and Wi-Fi service. So not the same really, I choose to be this way.

I was going to build a cabin near a creek.

Well, “near” in that the creek was going to run through it. You know, like the inside of an old-timey watermill? So figure it’s whatever makeshift walls and roof I could readily slap together in the woods, only there’s a river in the middle of the floor.

I was a kid with goals.

It’s always been a voyage home. A space voyage to a nearby star system which has a alien research (unmanned) station, but with FTL communications which I would call for rescue and refueling to get me home. It typically goes that my close friends tearfully understand that I need to make this journey, and it has a chance that due to the isolation that I may die or go insane, but I need to take that chance. My spaceship only has enough fuel to travel at a relatively slow speed (but FTL), I am in a fairly confined space with nothing to do for months, if I can hang on I can get to the space station orbiting the nearby star (later known as Alpha Century) and call for help and refuel and head home in a week, across the galaxy. However there is no guarantee that station is still there and operational and it may be a one way trip to a dead end as there would be no fuel to leave that system and nothing there.

I had a hard time waiting until my nephew was old enough for My Side of the Mountain, so, yeah.

In second grade, my regular teacher was out almost the whole year on maternity/complications. Sweet dotty Miss Harrell was our substitute, and she didn’t believe in lesson plans, but she read to the class for hours and hours.

All of my survival plans are, perforce, based on the Boxcar Children series.

I had a great PE teacher in elementary school. She had a program that would be considered innovative even now (albeit requiring more safety precautions), and I loved it. My favorite was the cargo net which we could climb all the way to the ceiling, and she would even swing it around while we were climbing.

So my fantasy was to live in the gym all by myself and play with all of the equipment. I later became a PE teacher myself.

That’s the first book I thought of when I read the thread title!. Our teacher read it to us too.

As kids, we were always making forts and using things we found in the woods for our basic necessities. We’d pretend certain plants were different foods, etc.

But my own dreams always included a horse, a dog and a cabin on a lake. I guess I didn’t put any thought into how I was going to eat. Maybe I’d go to town now and again.

As a country kid, I always thought “wow, that would suck.” I enjoyed " My Side of the Mountain" when our teacher read it to us and when I read it myself, but when I read it to my son I found the long descriptions excruciating. My explanation for that is that I could tune out the boring parts when the teacher was reading and skim when I read, but there was no skimming when reading aloud. It was cool that I got to host a screening of the MSOTM movie with a Q&A by Jean Craighead George before I had the negative experience reading the book aloud.

A cabin in the woods with a horse and dogs. Hell, I’d still enjoy that.

I find it interesting that so many people’s scenarios included a horse and a dog! I thought it was just me. :slight_smile:

I grew up in suburbia and never liked it. Most of my aunts and uncles lived in the country, some were farmers. I always loved it when we went to visit them. One uncle lived on a dirt road and I always swore I was going to do that too.

My dream was finally fulfilled in 1981 – just before my 31st birthday – when I bought a one-room unfinished cabin about 20’ from a trout stream, on a dirt road with about 8 acres, buried in heavily-forested hills in the Finger Lakes area of NYS. It is about 40 miles from where I grew up.

All it had was electricity, a toilet, and a kitchen sink – neither of which had water piped to them. There was an old dug well on the property which I hooked into, and after adding plumbing for a bathroom sink and shower, I had something livable – except for heat. So before fall came I installed a wood heater, feeding it with my own wood supply which was also a dream from childhood.

The cabin was 20 x 24 and was really not even big enough for one person, and as time went on I considered adding on to it. Then in 1988 I got involved with a woman with two kids, and you can guess the rest – I had a large living room and two bedrooms added.

I am still here (woman is long gone) and will likely stay until I’m physically unable to live alone. I started burning coal in 1990 and still am, although I do use some wood in the spring and fall. In 2010 I had central heat installed for emergencies, like if I was unable to tend a fire. In 2005 I had a well drilled and abandoned the rather unsanitary dug well.

The nearest town is 5 miles away and has one traffic light. I have wonderful neighbors and many local friends. But being a hermit is not something I was cut out for. I need human interaction on most days, although I rarely go anywhere on Sundays in the winter.

No regrets!

The view from my front porch in the summertime, stream is to the left:

The morning sunrise over the creek on a subzero day last January:

I liked Mountain, but it didn’t inspire a fantasy more elaborate than the novel.On the other hand, me and my bf got fired up enough about the Girl Who Owned a City, about a world where all post puberty are killed by a virus, to create our own role playing game based on it. I procured a map of the local mall to use as our imaginary base of operations.

I wanted to live on an uninhabited island in the Pacific. I think I was inspired by Call it Courage, possibly with a heavy dose of Pippi Longstocking mixed in.

I thought it would be easy, all those coconuts and fish, and nothing to do but swim all day! (I don’t think I really thought through how I was going to get the coconuts open, much less catch the fish.)

Mine’s straight-up Robinson Crusoe,but without Friday and with more coconuts.

Mine’s also Robinson Crusoe. But with Scotch* and cats.
*not as a child, but now

Well, I ended up living alone in a farm with (you guessed it) horses and dogs.


My fantasy was living in an isolated lighthouse. I’m still kind of fascinated by the idea, though of course there are very few manned lighthouses left today.

Oh, man, another "My Side … " fan here. Musta re-read it a hundred times. Even in my fantasies I wasn’t ballsy enough for a falcon, though - my personal version involved a blue jay.

OP list left off “Hatchet,” another in the youngster-survives-alone doesnt-need-no-stinkin-adults genre. I realize now that was a favorite for me when I was growing up … gee, I wonder why.

In the early 70’s my dream was to become a hermit in the mountains. Nothing detailed other than I wanted to get away from people and I would have a ton of books to read. The dream stopped when weed and drugs went from being shared to becoming a business. Accidentally stumbling into someone’s weed patch in the mountains could get you shot.

Ironically, I’ve achieved my dream in large part. Live alone, work as an accountant (95% of the day everyone is staring at their computer screen), go out only for work and food. Blackout curtains (for movie watching), internet instead of books and my place is so quiet I don’t even hear the rain over the air-con. Sounds depressing to most, but works for me.

BTW, I’ve suffered from depression almost all my life. Had therapy and medication (Dr. said I didn’t need to stay on Prozac). And having been on the rollercoaster of life, don’t feel I’m on the top or the bottom, just suspended somewhere in the middle which works for me.