Our Alaska Wilderness Property and Coming-Soon Cabin

We did it! We purchased 11 acres just outside of McCarthy, Alaska and have begun construction on our new cabin. We've enjoyed our four-month summers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for the past three years. We've rented three different cabins--never having seen each prior to the start of the summer. With a kiddo on the way, we figured it'd be nice to have a place we could call our own, set up especially for us, and to be able to leave some things there and not be so transient. Wrangell-St. Elias Ntl Park is unique in that it did not become federally preserved land until 1980, allowing for many private individuals to claim and purchase property within the Park's current boundaries. It is estimated that there are one million acres of privately owned land within the Park's 13.2 million acres. Needless to say, private land here has the added benefit of being forever closer to "wilderness" because of the Park's presence. We purchased the land at the end of the summer (September) and had to move quickly if we wanted to live on the property by end of May, 2016. The ground freezes in late fall and is too hard for prep-work digging in the spring. Fortunately, there is a family in McCarthy who specializes in construction and each family member enjoys his own niche in the business. One of the sons in this family had been taking flight lessons from Austin and, when he'd heard we'd bought land, offered to sell us logs. This young man had planned on building himself a 24'x26' shop a couple years ago and had his brother mill the logs for him. His interests had shifted (having just turned 16, he had his eye on a truck for his construction business) and now he had no use for the logs and was willing to sell them to us for less (and more quickly) than if we were to have logs milled today. Meanwhile, this young man's eldest brother stated that he had time this fall to begin construction and his father was willing to get the driveway and pad cleared. Before we knew it, everything was in place!

Our plans for the cabin: Logs are 3-sided in a "D" shape so that they lay flush atop each other, the inner wall is flat, and the exterior portion is the classic curved log look. The structure will be winter-able though we have no plans to live there year-round. We'll use a wood burning stove for heat. The home will be wired for electricity which we'll generate via a combination of solar, deep-cycle batteries, and a small back-up generator. No inside bathroom as we did not want to set up a septic system, so we'll utilize an outhouse (we are in the back woods, after all--and if you've read my previous posts, you know how I love a good outhouse) and an enclosed, outside shower. We will either get water from a well we'll have drilled in the spring or haul water from a creek into a large tank that will gravity-feed the kitchen and outdoor shower. We'll have a half-loft in which the walls will extend another two feet vertically before the slope of the roof begins; this is called a "stem wall" and allows for a bit more standing room (the roof is, essentially, elevated two extra feet at the loft base). There will also be a good-sized dormer that will further give more room in the loft. When at the edge of the loft, you'd be able to look down into the living room and dining room. Inner walls will be the smooth side of the D-logs, ceiling of tongue-and-groove, and floor will be floating laminate wood. The floor plan is a slight modification of the cabin my granddaddy had in Florida when I was a little girl; he loves Alaska and we love him and the memories we made in that place. However, we've decided to live in the cabin as a one-room home for the first summer to decide the size we'll want for each room. The cabin itself will be 24'x26', plus the loft footage, and a six-foot-deep covered front porch with a bit of a view.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: We are also in the process of renovating our 1924 home in Greeley, CO (more about that later) and successfully removed the kitchen cabinets from this old house and will take them up to McCarthy in the spring for reuse in the cabin. We'll also haul other furniture that will not fit in the 1924 house (it's smaller than our last one) to furnish our Alaska living (futon, bed, table, old farmhouse sink with metal cabinets).

Construction to-date: The driveway has been cleared, pad-site leveled, outhouse hole dug, concrete pillars poured (many houses in our area construct this way so there is a crawl space below for plumbing, etc. and the home is slightly elevated--ours will be about 3 feet above ground), ground filled back in, cardboard Sonotubes removed from the dried concrete, and subfloor is finished. At this point, we planned to cover the floor for the winter and resume construction of the walls and roof in the spring. However, our builder friend just informed us that they are having an "Indian summer" (which he described as "highs in the 40s and lows just below freezing"--not what I'd consider mild--especially as they had a couple snows in September) and he may be able to get the walls up and topped with the roof before winter hits. We are not counting our chickens before they hatch but are thrilled that this is even a remote possibility. Below, I'm placing a video of the footage we've captured so far, documenting the changes from the time of purchase (early September) to the time that Austin left Alaska to return home (end of September). Enjoy! [youtube=http://youtu.be/zfSKksdDYuI]