Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas 2006

Sunset on the Kettle River is quite spectacular! I think most wild places share that same allure. Here at the close of 2006, one day after Christmas, our Minnesota branch of the family enjoys the gift of a visit by our youngest brother/son. John came out to spend some time with us this year and what a wonderful time it was! For the first few days, he spent some time with Mom and with Dad and Ma while I was away in San Francisco for a brief business trip.

When I got back, he, Dan and I spent a day at the Mall of America shopping for Christmas gifts and dining at the Rain Forest Cafe (Thanks John!). It was a blast! Christmas Day came and there was much ballyhoo and opening of gifts, food, fun and laughter. It was a great day. The next day, John Dad and I went up to camp and we happily showed him all around the area. He and Dad did some pistol shooting with Dad's Western style .45 and we hiked to the prairie meadow and took a tractor ride all the way back to Eagle Bluff where John became the first one of our family to walk out on the island. We took loads of pictures (too many to be added here) before going back to camp to settle in for some foil fried Hamburgers over the open pit fire.

In the insert at left are just some of the activities described above. First there is me wading through the meadow like a prairie prowler. Then Dad and I take turns at chopping up some logs for the fire. Next we see the little wooden bridge Dad and I made a couple of years back covered in snow. And then John, holding up the wall like a young Atlas! There is Dad and John checking out their bullet clusters, and Dad pulling another Paul Bunyan with the logs.

But the picture at the right is the money shot. While focally it isn't a terribly good picture, it does highlight one of the main reasons why we have this place and why we love to come up here. We watched two eagles hunting and fishing for food along the Kettle just upriver from the Sandstone Quarry Park area. And here through the trees you can see one of them, roosting for a moment in a tree across the river.

Man! What a day!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Autumn in the Hollow

October is almost here and there is a definite chill in the air. The leaves have begun to turn in the southern part of the state, while they have nearly all fallen away up north. Dad and Ma had gone up to camp last week and he took the opportunity to pack away the Gazebo and to get some of the other tools put away for winter, while I picked up a 26x40 tarpaulin for use as a cover for the cabin. Then, just this past week, Dad was able to pick up a really nice door that was being replaced and was going to be thrown away! I mean, sure it's a little old, but it still has plenty of life in it yet!

So, this weekend we hung a door -- a green door on our cabin. Also, we pulled an enormous tarp over the top of the building and tack-nailed and stapled it down as a protection measure against the coming winter. Then we cleaned up the camp even more, moving all of the remaining heavy tools to the shed and all of the camping supplies into the cabin. We spent a very cozy night in the Cabin by the heat of our KeroSun heater, even though a slight draft still managed to squeeze beneath the window sills. And, even though it rained for much of the night, we remained worm and dry and comfortable. What a fabulous thing it is to have a cabin!

While we were up here, we took some time for a long walk down to the River and along its banks. I hope you enjoy the collage of images we made of our beautiful northland hideaway.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

Well, it's Labor Day weekend and here is what we have accomplished thus far. On the weekend of August 26th, Dad and I went back up and put on 1 half of the roof. It was extremely slow and labor-intensive work as about 70% of it is wrapped up in building scaffoldings and moving ladders. As Dad is the lighter of the two of us, he ended up doing nearly all of the sheeting while I did the ground work which involved moving equipment, cutting wood, stopping and restarting the generator (to conserve fuel) running ladders around and handing up material. At the end of our weekend, we were both too exhausted to do the second half, however we did manage to retain enough energy to put in the two windows we have.

This weekend, we finished off the other half of the roof and laid the felt over it in as much as we had enough to cover all but the last 3 feet or so on either side of the cabin. We also cleared the campsite a bit to make it more presentable. We used an old 4x8 sheet of plywood to cover the door opening and just tacked it into place. Boy, I can't wait to get a door on the cabin and start using it for real!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Coming Together

On the weekend of the 11th a bunch of us came together to spend the first night(s) in the cabin. Even though there was no real roof, we threw a couple of tarps over the open spaces and slept in the cabin for the first time. This was the weekend of the Sandstone Quarry Days so we went into town and watched the parade and shopped the booths at the street bazaar. Mom and I went back home on Saturday while Dad and Ma (Mary) stayed up for another night.

This past weekend, brother Dan joined Dad and I up at camp and together we put up the rafters. Since we only have two 6-foot ladders and no real scaffolding, we were forced to get creative. On a previous weekend, Dad and I had taken some of the rafter materials and used them to make a rudimentary scaffolding ramp to span the space from the loft edge to the back gable. We threw about 4 sheets of OSB upon this ramp to give us something to walk on. You can see it in the composite picture on the left. Then we made the decision to build the roof in 4 sections. We figured (and as it turns out correctly so) that that was about as big as we could handle by ourselves.

Dad notched the rafter bottoms to which we nailed 1x4 base plates so they would rest upon the wall top plate and then cut 45 degree angles in the rafter tops to receive a 1x6 crown plate. These we built up on the loft. Then while Dan manned the ladder below and Dad walked out across the scaffolding and I worked from the loft main, we walked the first of the back roof sections into place on top of the southwest-facing side wall and the back gable. Once we had it flushed down, we nailed it into place. Then we turned around and repeated the process for the northeast roof section. After that we had to make some adjustments to get things to fit properly and then we nailed the two 1x6 crown plates together. We did make sure to make 1 of the crown plates 2-feet longer than the other so we could create an overlap for the front roof sections. Finally, we dismantled our rudimentary scaffolding and created the 2 sections for the front repeating the process we had used for the rear roof sections. At last our rafters are up and ready to be sheeted.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Lofty Days

As part of installing the roof, we first needed to lay on the loft. This was no easy task for just two guys. We put together 9 2x6x10' joists plust 2 2x4x10' stabilizer beams and 2 16 foot 2x6's as front and back plates. This was the loft, weighing in at around 300-400 lbs. It took quite a bit of effort just to get it stood up against the front of the cabin. Then after a couple of aborted attempts at using a come-along to lift it up, we settled upon the fact that if it was going to get up there, we were jut going to have to lift it. And so we did. It took just about all we had to lift it up over our heads to where part of it was on the edge and part was still in our hands. Then Dad ran into the cabin and began cranking like mad to get it pulled up. Just when it left my hands, I reached down and grabbed a short 2x4 and used it to shove the platform up level so the come-along could more easily pull it along. Finally, after some body-wrenching jerks of movement, we were able to wrestle the loft frame into place so it could be nailed down.

As we were getting ready to put the sheet down, just overhead two eagles winged into view doing what I suppose was a sort of mating dance in the sky. The larger one would appear to stall out and fall tumbling and then catch hisself to ride the thermals back up to where the smaller one was soaring aloft. It was quite a site.

The next day we got the two gable ends framed and the rear one sheeted. Then we lifted them onto the loft where we then built a rudimentary scaffolding. After that we slid the rear gable end out to its position, lifted it up and nailed it down. Finally, we added some supports to hold it into place until the next build day, cleaned up and headed home for the weekend.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ready To Roof

This makes the second or third construction weekend in a row with temperatures in the 90's. We even weathered a 4-5 hour thunderstorm overnight.

The first night (Thursday) we managed to get the 2 front wall sections built and ready to install. Then we made camp and turned in.

The next morning we installed the front wall and proceeded to lay on the sheet. We sheeted all the way around the cabin leaving only a very small section under the front wall window which will come from a piece also cut for the roof.

Finally, We capped off the day with the final top plate and porch posts. At last, we are ready to put the roof on!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Three Walls And A Floor

This week we managed to get the floor down. It was great to sit on the new porch for the first time. We also got three of the four wall frames up. Short text this time. More later.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Platform Base Is Complete

This weekend was a big one! We came up on Sunday afternoon after dealing with some minor car trouble that Dad had right after church. We had to stop at 2 different Menards stores to get the stuff we needed and settled mostly on getting the remaining cement we needed to finish off the pilings (Dad decided that we should cement them in even though the ground seems plenty rocky enough) and a picnic table with 4 chairs and an umbrella that I gave him for Father's day. On Sunday afternoon we fished, put up the table, mixed and poured all of the cement and hung the solid panels for the gazebo that Debbie gave us so we wouldn't get too wet when it rains (which, of course, it did!).

On Monday we began with the platform and by Noon had the sections directly under the cabin completed. After lunch we got right back on it and built the remaining porch sections completing the platform all in one day by 4:30pm! I personnaly think that for 2 guys, who normally do not do this kind of work, using 2x8 green-treated wood and doubling up on the cross-sections, that's a pretty decent feat. We did a little more dirt scratching and weed cutting this weekend. We also went for a short swim in the lake that the dam at Willow River forms, and caught some baby fish there (again, nothing big enough to eat). That night, I heard a bear in the distance. Dad suggested that it might have been a moose, but as it happens, I caught a wildlife show on Tuesday which featured bears and it was clearly those noises that I heard.

Next week, we intend to purchase all of our remaining framing supplies and bring them up. Also, it is our plan to lay the base floor and erect the walls then, as well.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Putting in the Pilings

We put in the Pilings this weekend. It was a goodly bit of work, but it went well and there were little or no interruptions. We saw some herons mixing with some cows in a local farmer's field. We also caught a couple of fish, but not sizable enough to keep. We decided to use the Gazebo as our impromptu tent until the cabin is built. We weathered a late-Spring thunderstorm overnight by moving our cots into the center and keeping an eye on the grommet holes in the nylon top. By morning, the storm had passed and we were ready for breakfast at our favorite restaurant in Sandstone.
This week, it's mostly about the pictures. The first one shows the pilings in various stages of development while the second one shows the completed work (at least for this week). Take note that we also managed to get all 10 trees that were directly surrounding the cabin site cut down, so we are currently looking for volunteers who like to use chansaws to help cut them up into stacked logs for firewood.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Dad and Ma bought a gazebo for up at camp so we could both have a nice place to relax from the mosquitos and have a comfortable sleeping area other than a low-to-the-ground, leaky, dome tent. Deb says she has solid panels for 3 sides of the gazebo which we will get from her and put on later. I want to also mention that Katherine's Husband Scott and son Bryan wanted to take a look at the campsite so Dad took them up to have a look.
This would be about a week or so ago. Not only did they get a look, but they got a huge surprise in that they found that bigger equipment had been brought in and the road had been worked on so much that it was drivable all the way back to the far back properties. They also decided to help us out with the cabin and so they dug all of the holes for the foundation pillars that we will use for our cabin! And believe me, that is no mean feat! This ground is as hard and rocky as you might expect from land used to quarry sandstone blocks.

Thank you so very much boys!

So, since we had a nice gazebo to put up, we decided to get some nice floor stone patio tiles to put it up on. There were 64 of them each weighing in at around 42 pounds each. We also picked up 27 cement blocks for the cabin foundation piers and a few bags of quick-crete to solidify them into the ground. Once we had all of this stuff sitting on our trailer, we realized there would be no way we would be able to take all of this stuff up to camp at once. There were over 3600 lbs of material on the trailer! We managed to get across the parking lot and into the next one and made the decision to go and get the pickup to carry half of the load. So, Dad and Ma went for the pickup and I stayed behind to watch the load until they returned. Then we transferred half the load to the truck and the next day took both vehicles up north.

We had Mom, Janelle and myself in the wagon pulling the trailer and Dad and Ma following in the pickup. After a nice breakfast at Pam's Place in Sandstone, we went back to camp and found that the road had been worked on even more since the last time. We had no trouble just driving right on into camp with our loads and taking them all the way back to the campsite (Yeah! No more parking at the top of the road and hiking back).

Dad and I attached the plow to the tractor and he proceeded to scrape a nice area in front of our growing cabin materials pile. Then we raked and laid out the square tiles for the patio. Finally, we unloaded the remaining materials from the trailer and pickup and began putting up the gazebo. Voila! In just 3 hours we had scraped and leveled the area to build on, unloaded all of our material, laid out our patio and erected our gazebo!

Later on, Mom and I went further north to Virginia, MN to the Craft Festival they had there and Dad, Ma and Janelle went back home. We decided to leave the trailer up north and retrieve it on our next trip.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Day of Surprises

Oftentimes when coming up north, as we are driving down Ed's road and approaching the lane that will take us back to camp, we find ourselves thinking wistfully, "wouldn't it be nice if, by some amazing miracle--or shoe-maker elves, we should find the driveway magically repaired". Well I'm here to tell you folks that dreams and wishes can come true! For on this day, as we arrived we found that a bulldozer had been used to plow the road, two cars wide, all the way back to the very end of the lane.
It looks as though either a developer has been brought in to build some cabins in the back, or the folks who have property back there have decided to expand or maybe even build a resort. There is much dozer work completed back there in patterns that suggest multiple cabin placements are imminent. If that is, in fact the case, they will require a decent road for access which means that the ruts will likely be filled in this Spring or early Summer by professionals (or at least those with the equipment and know-how to do so) and we won't have to do it ourselves.

This was, as you might imagine a very exciting find for us, since up to now, we were in the belief that we were alone in the desire to fix the lane and make it passable for normal cars so we wouldn't have to keep parking half a mile away and hiking back into our campsite.

We put in about 4-5 miles of hiking today, going all the way back to the Eagle Bluff area and snapping some photos and then coming back and hiking down to the meadow to do some scouting around there. An eagle flew directly overhead the campsite again, so I am convinced that its eyrie is very close by. No campfire today as it was in the mid fifties but we did get some target practice in. We put the new adjuster bar on the tractor and ran the tractor up and down the lane a bit.

After a day of hiking, shooting and filming we decided to see if the Munger Bicycle Trail is paved all the way out to Duluth. And wouldn't you know it, I made a wrong turn and we lost the trail. But it was such a nice day we just kept on driving and eventually ended up on highway 23 heading north. There, we found ourselves again surprised as we came across the old Lake Duluth Reservoir region which is now known as the St. Louis River Valley. There was an overlook there that offered an amazing view over the valley (see collage). After taking some photos there we continued north along 23. At the point where the road crosses over the river and just after entering the outskirts of Duluth, we turned left and followed the river road up, down and back up the mountains of Jay Cooke State Park and shot photos of the St Louis River rapids and falls. We saw much deer in this area (and nearly hit a couple) and the views were spectacular!

Eventually, we did come back across the (yes!) paved Munger Trail running along highway 210 out of Carlton. We followed it back, for the most part into Moose Lake and found where I'd made my initial error in direction. Then it was, fill up the coffee mugs, and head back home. All-in-all a long, yet surprisingly satisfying day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Winter in the Hollow

There's nothing like the peace of a bright winter morning in the woods. Making the first human tracks in the snow, listening to the stillness in the air disturbed only by the few snow-birds that hang around all winter long. If a deer moves in the woods, you can hear it. If a rabbit squeaks, you know. The air is so still and the countryside so quiet you can hear the dogs barking a mile away.

Nothing special to report today. Dad and I just got out for a little quiet time and to make sure that the campsite remains undisturbed by other humans. We also got a little shooting practice in--which really sounds deafening on such a quiet day. We basically just hung around, drove the tractor up and down the lane and simply relaxed. It was good to get away.