Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Man's Wilderness

This is usually the time of the year when i'm chasing the last patch of snow before it melts, and when all of that melt water flows down the creeks and rivers of Southcentral Alaska.

This year, it's a bit different.  Meg and I have transitioned to cabin building.  After purchasing a nice plot of land last year near Talkeetna, I got a driveway in and cleared it prior to the snow flakes of early fall.

After 8 months of planning, estimating and designing we are finally at the construction phase.  I used two well known contractors for the "dirt work" and well installation - Roland Borge (a local from Talkeetna) and Penn Jersey Drilling (a family owned business from Wasilla).

Drill here, drill often...
 Excavation for the building pad and water line.
I'm glad I decided to subcontract out the site civil work, as R&J Enterprises made quick work finishing the install of the septic tank and the foundation excavation.

Uniquely Alaskan, we hired a local log home builder - Lee Snowberger, from North Ridge Rustics.  Building the log shell only, Lee began work on our logs just before Memorial Day.  The style of log home is called a "fully chinked" log home.  The gap in the logs are called chinks, which is an Old English word (having a "chink in your armor" was not a good thing for a medieval knight).  The material used to fill the gaps is called chinking - which is a synthetic caulk mixed with sand.

As a woodworker myself, I can truly appreciate the handcraft workmanship of Lee and the hard work he's put into our log home.  Below are a series of pictures that take you through the stages of log construction.

Laying out the plate logs.  Our cabin is 24'x24', with a 10' prow.

This bearing log supports the half loft.  Notice the "cat's face"; which is a deformity that is sought after for log and furniture building.
 Cabin at loft height.
The prow front will have storefront glass from floor to ceiling, maximizing our view of the Alaska Range.

 Starting the log trusses and structure above the loft.

In nearly five weeks, Lee will have completed the log shell package.  What's next?  After drilling all of the electrical chases, he will unstack the logs in reverse order, put them on a flatbed trailer, and prepare for stacking back on my foundation in the second week of July.

Speaking of the foundation.  I used a system called Quadlock, which is an Insulated Concrete Foundation.  The styrofoam "lego's" are assembled with plastic ties and the concrete is placed inside the forms - with no need for interior or exterior insulation.

LB decides to help out with the formwork.
All the men doing man's work.  Me, Mark, Olan, Seff, Scott (L to R).
Even the Shrink helps with tying rebar.
The finished product.  Nearly 30 hours of labor and we're ready for concrete.
The following weekend proved beautiful for a concrete placement.  I worked solo until about midnight getting the final details squared away.  The sun sets behind Foraker, Hunter and Denali.
Jim from McKinley Concrete Pumping helped me out with getting the concrete from the truck and into the forms.  Too bad that concrete was an hour late.  A pump truck is pretty expensive when it sits in your driveway at $175 per hour.
 A hot days work is always better with a jump in the lake.
Our reward was a burger called "Sewards Folly" at the West Rib Cafe, which was featured on Man vs. Food.  Three of us didn't even put a dent in it. But we did crush two orders of parmesan cheese fries.  A couple pints of the "Ice Axe Ale" and we were ready for bed.
So that pretty much brings us up to speed.  The highlight of cabin construction will begin on Wednesday, July 4th when the real craftsmen arrive - Pat, Aimee and Lucas.  Best friend Pat and family will be here for a month to help out.  I expect we'll go like gangbusters and I hope to get the cabin weathered in!

One Man's Wilderness is a story about Richard Proenneke who moved to Alaska to "do a thing to completion".  He moved to Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park and built a cabin by hand and to live alone in the wilderness.

As much fun and hard work as building a cabin is, I can't do it alone.  Many thanks to the following crew: Meg (AKA. "The Shrink"), Mark, Marc, B-real, Mitch, Scott, Seff, Olan, Aaroncito, Rodney, Bill, Aaron, LB and Lee.

My next update will be in late July/early August.  I am also taking time lapse photos of the entire construction of the cabin.  It'll make a pretty sweet seggie when its all said and done.

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