Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cabin part 1: The beginning

We've been working much of the summer to move a cabin from Isabella, Minnesota to our lot on Birch Lake, midway up the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota. We bought the 16x20 handmade log cabin in June from the Great Lakes School of Log Building. It was built by students in 2012, from red pine logs that were harvested in the winter of 2011/12 near Effie, Minnesota. The photo at left shows the cabin at the Great Lakes School.

I also thought it might be interesting to show a map of our location. Here's a shot from Mapquest, showing the route from Duluth, Minnesota (A) to our cabin (C). As you can see, we are right on the Canadian border; in fact, our lot is 2 miles south of Canada and connected via National Forest land, abutting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (Click on this image, or any of the others here, to see a larger version.)

Our biggest hurdle was getting a building permit, without which we could not officially start the clearing. In addition, we had a very difficult time lining up contractors to do the various jobs associated with the building; in particular, we struggled with masons for the foundation, and with carpenters for the completion of the lower level.

We finally got verbal approval from the land use supervisor on August 30. We started clearing brush that day, and worked through Labor Day weekend. At right is a photo looking towards the building site, which is alongside our upper parking area/driveway, before any clearing had started. You can barely see glimpses of Birch Lake between the trees.

The parking area is built out of fill because our lot is very steep; the edge of it drops off to the left (in the photo) about 8 or 9 feet. Our plan was to build the cabin so that the side wall of the foundation acted as a retaining wall for the fill. We spent two days cutting and clearing trees and brush from the building site. I hauled 15 very full trailer loads of slash to the local brush disposal site. In the photo below right, all of the green stuff on the slash pile is from our site (plus more that doesn't show).

The orange lines on the ground mark the area we'll be excavating, to make room for the foundation. From here on out, it gets hectic. Excavation took two days. We had it dug out right down to the bedrock, which is the best way to build a foundation in the North country.

The next blog post will be more exciting; it will show the cement foundation and ICF walls.

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