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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.

[singlepic=1225,300,center]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.

autumn camping in wisconsin

Last week, we took Aidan on his first camping trip. Chris wanted to go someplace closer to home, but I was bent on going to one of my favorite camping destinations–Governor Dodge State Park in western Wisconsin. The park is in Dodgeville, WI about 40 minutes west of Madison. I’ve been camping there since I was a teenager, and Chris and I have been there several times (the last time was probably a decade ago, but who’s counting). I really wanted to return there, because the place is kind of special to me, so I thought it would be really cool to share that with Aidan.

And it was. We set out on a Friday morning, meandering our way across state and county roads, stair-stepping our way north and west across Illinois and into Wisconsin. In the late afternoon, we arrived at the park office, checked in, and found our campsite. Even though we made reservations, we weren’t able to get our first choice site, as it was a pretty busy weekend. The site was a little too close to the campsite entry road and shower house for my taste, but this proved useful for us as Aidan isn’t quite the fan of peeing behind a tree. The short walk to the flush toilets, to the guy selling firewood, and to the playground proved convenient. Still, the site was nestled in the trees and honestly, there isn’t truly a “bad” site in the place.

So, we made our camp–complete with 8-man tent (giving us lots of room), canopy over the picnic table, and campfire. It was really nice. That first night we cooked soy dogs over the open fire, which was yummy. The food got better after that. We ate pancakes, tofu scramblers, minestrone soup, and drank campfire coffee (well, Chris and I did anyway).

During the day we hiked about–discovered some waterfalls, walked through the tall grasses abutting an empty beach, played at the campsite playground, and just explored. In the evening, we sat by the fire and told stories over Jiffy Pop Popcorn. (Aidan got a kick out of that.) The days were chilly, but the nights were downright cold–low 40s one night. It was a bit colder that we thought it would be, but we managed to stay warm beneath a pile of sleeping bags and fleece blankets. Aidan tends to be pretty stubborn when it comes to dressing appropriately for the weather, so he got a bit cranky as the temperature dropped, but he recovered quickly.

All in all, it was a good weekend. We walked the campgrounds and Aidan has already picked out which site he wants to camp on during our next visit. It’s a beautiful one overlooking a deep valley of trees. (Chris and I camped at this site years ago, and it truly is beautiful. You can hike for hours right off the back of your campsite deep into the valley.) I love camping, and I’m hoping that Aidan will come to love it too. He seems to so far. We’ll see.

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