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Tag: cabin in the woods

cabin dreams underway

So the day has come! We’ve been planning for our log cabin project for a while now—well for about 20 years actually; however, we’ve been making the dream a reality now since June 2011 when we purchased 40 acres of northern woods just outside of Marquette, Michigan. We had taken a road trip the summer before through the UP and fell in love with the place. After a year of searching, we found our land and have been trying to move a building project forward ever since. There have been a number of challenges and delays. We had to work with our neighbors (whose private property we cross to get to our land) for deeded easement rights over their property. It took a while to build some trust there, but in the end they were very gracious and granted us these rights in perpetuity.

Camp McGuire Print of the back of the cabin facing the creek.Print of Camp McGuire

We then had to figure out where we might build on this chunk of wilderness. While it’s a nice 40 acre piece, there are really just 3 and a half acres that are “buildable” in any sense of the word, as the rest is cut off by creek and granite ridge. We decided that if we moved the existing road back away from the creek, we could open up a nice building site for our cabin so that it would overlook the creek nicely and give us a little privacy from the road (a private dirt road that sees maybe 3 cars a year). We spent about a year trying to get permission to cross about 30 feet of land owned by a timber company in order to avoid unnecessary hairpin turns in our rerouted road, but they were not very reasonable, so we thought hairpins are fun.

There was some significant delay in getting the required permits from the DEQ to lay a temporary bridge to cross the creek on the way in. (The existing bridge wouldn’t take the weight of the construction vehicles.) Dan from Oberstar was really helpful in this matter. He contacted a logger he knew who had a bridge we could use, worked with an outside consultant to write the permit application (apparently it’s got to be just right for the DEQ, and it isn’t cheap), and consulted us on how to make it all work within our budget.

The fun part has been working with Hiawatha Log Homes out of Munising. We’ve been designing the cabin with them all the while we were working out the many other details. Garrett from Hiawatha has been great. He helped us take our vision and adjust in such a way that it made good building sense and became financially feasible for us. On July 23rd, they delivered the logs to our property.

Finally, this July, everything was in place and we broke ground. First the road—a bit of a challenge given the rocky terrain—and then clearing and excavation for the cabin foundation. Days later, Scott, our builder from Northland Builders had the foundation and subfloor in place with his crew stacking the walls the next day. How exciting! It’s underway. We hope for the exterior cabin to complete by November.

a footbridge and a red picnic table

Went north again this week. I feel myself drawn there more than ever lately. There is something about being just out of reach. Life moves more slowly. Cell phones seldom work. There’s nothing to plug in and nowhere to plug it. A Red Picnic Table So much depends upon a red picnic table... So much depends upon a red picnic table… Staying connected means parking pickups side by side in the middle of the road for a spell to shoot the breeze with a passing neighbor. I like it this way–in the woods.

This week our plans included building a footbridge across our creek, clearing some dead wood, and finishing our picnic table. You’ve got to start with the basics after all. So this is what we did. First, I had to fall a dead leaning tree that was hung up in the trees across the creek and right in the way of our proposed bridge crossing. I was a bit nervous about this, having heard and read plenty about how folks have gotten killed messing with trees in this situation–not to the mention the fact that I don’t exactly know my way around a chainsaw. I didn’t let this discourage me. You’ve got to start somewhere after all. So, I purchased my Husqvarna 455 Rancher (along with all requisite safety clothing–including the Kevlar saw-resistant chaps, and forester’s helmet and face screen); I read the safety manual, watched countless instructional videos online, observed a couple experienced chainsaw users, and then pulled the starter cord. With a healthy bit of fear, caution, and respect for the destructive machine I was wielding, I successfully downed the troublesome tree and cleared away a lot of deadwood laying about our site. I survived the first wave of this week’s work.

As for the bridge building, the hardest part was by far getting the 250 pound stringers across the creek. We managed inch-by-inch with a little creative physics and a whole lot of sweat and patience. Our good neighbor George showed up just in time to lend a hand–just after we had gotten them across ;-) Seriously, we’re lucky to have such a good neighbor. He’s always willing to lend a hand it seems–to anyone along the three-mile stretch of forest road whom he calls neighbor. I suspect he considers most people in his life to be his neighbor.

Once we got the behemoth stringers across, the ordeal was far from over. Leveling, shifting, balancing–were all far more difficult tasks than I would have imagined. Eventually we got them close enough to where they needed to be and nailed them up. Add a bunch of blocking, cross braces, and decking and there you go–a genuine rickety footbridge in the woods. As long as no one decides the bounce in the middle makes for a nice trampoline, I think it will serve its purpose for a few years anyway. Time will tell, but that’s okay with me.

While I plunked away at the details of the footbridge, Chris and Aidan got to painting our new picnic table–classic red. It took a couple of days to prime and get three or four coats of paint on it, but it looks great now, and offers us the comfort of a home–a place to break bread together by the camp fire, to talk about our adventures, and to listen to the serenade of the ever-present creek.

We worked hard this week, but accomplished a lot and had the joy of working hard with our bodies outside in nature to meet some fundamental needs. When one strips away the complexities of life that we seem so eager at times to layer on, when we have to deal with attending to fundamental needs, using our hands and simple tools, things seem to make much more sense. There’s more work to do on our little spot in the woods. We’ll return soon to stoke another campfire and get back to the elemental aspects of our lives.

where the creek runs deep

We just got back from a four-day trip to the north country–Michigan’s UP–where we spent some time on our little piece of heaven. We closed on this 40-acre parcel north of Marquette last fall, and hope to begin making progress towards building some sort of shelter this summer. We’ve got plans for the “big” cabin, but that might take a while (more than a season). In the meantime, we’re thinking we might build something along the lines of Thoreau’s cabin by Walden pond–something very small–about 200 square feet (maybe with a sleeping loft)–that we can use as our base camp during the construction of the main cabin. So, this last trip, we spent a bit of time scouting out a possible location for our little cabin in the woods. It was wonderful to be back on the land. I’d missed it so much since our last visit.

Here are a few pictures we snapped. I hope they are enough to sustain me until we return again in a couple weeks.

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