Sunday, August 12, 2012

(3) Simple Goals

The family schedules only allowed for one trip this year.  With only Bronte and I making the trip we had (3) simple goals; finish the exterior trim and siding, cut the dead trees around the cabin and fly fish the Missouri with Bronte.

The weather for our trip this year was HOT.  The daily temperatures reached the mid 90's making planning your work schedule important.  It has been a dry year there also with only 7 inches of precipitation (snow or rain) for the year.

Saw horses in use again. The perfect work site.

A large dead Douglas Fir on our walk down to the stream.

The road to the cabin was in great shape (minus the new speed bumps). 

Jeep commercial - elevation 6,500 feet. 

A hazy view continental divide given the smoke from the fires to the SE.

A Montana light show.

Goal #1: Finish the Exterior.

Goal #2: Cut Down the Dead Trees.

Goal #3: Fly Fishing with Bronte.

It was a true joy to spend some quality time with my daughter Bronte in our little slice of heaven. 

With the cabin all buttoned up it was good bye until next year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Solo Tour

I was able to return to the cabin by myself for a second trip in 2011. The plan was to get the hardwood floors down, help Dan on his project and hopefully find time to fly fish.  Since I only had a week and it was only myself I flew into Helena this trip.  Dan was kind enough to pick me up at the airport so after a quick supply / food run, North we headed.  I was quickly reminded how much I miss the view as you transition from the valley surrounding Helena towards the mountains to the north. 

Light rain and cloudy conditions welcomed me back to the cabin.  With the shakes wet they looked stained and the whole cabin had a finished appeal to it.  A few dead trees had fallen close to the cabin but to my surprise everything was just as we had left it.  The first order of business was to inspect the cabin for visitors. I immediately noticed droppings, likely those of a pack rat, at the front door sill so I expected the worst as I open the door. To my amazement, I did not find a single indication that anything had been inside the cabin. Actually, I only found one spider, no flies or stink bugs and most important no bears were seeking refuge in our little shack.

I started by pulling out all of the T&G redwood board from the salvaged silo in Northern Wisconsin from underneath the cabin.  I had decided earlier that planed boards removed too much of the patina from the boards so the plan was to sand the boards leaving a small amount of the grey hues.  The problem I found was that the Honda generator I was borrowing from John was very quiet but unfortunately under powered for my commercial belt sander.  The result was two and half days of sanding, sore arms and ultimately not a happy camper.  I was not able to take off as much of the weathered top surface as I had hoped.  Not wanting to run all the boards down the hill and plane them at Dan's I proceeded not knowing how dark the boards would ultimately be after sealing. 

I was able to walk the property that first day I arrived.  I decided to walk down towards the stream and found some nice game trails and remnants of a recent Mule deer kill.


I did learn from John, the neighbor from Alaska, that a cougar had been seen the week before crossing the road and then heading up towards the cabin.  The thought of our roaming kitty was on my mind a few mornings as I had stayed stayed down with Dan and Dawn and then walked up to the cabin in the dark.  With the elevated portion of the hill well above my head the whole way up which made for a perfect launching point.

With all of the boards sanded I started to frame out the walls where the bathroom, half wall and benches would be that define the sitting area below the loft area. The plan is to have benches on three walls under the loft and on the adjoining wall to the bathroom a murphy bed will fold down and rest on the benches when in use.

With the walls framed I started to lay the redwood boards.  Sherry and I had been in a store in Madison that had similar T&G boards and they did not try to butt the boards tightly but instead exposed the space (created by the tongue) in varied gaps.  I was glad this was the look we were looking for because 150 year old boards do not fit perfectly together after that many years of weathering. The work went fairly fast other than when I had to cut boards to go around beams and braces.  Overall I was only marginally happy with the look of the floor as it was definitely darker than I had hoped for but was still optimistic that when sealed the grain would be much more pronounced.  

Next I assembled the stairs that went up to the loft.  I had created some simple threads that were pegged into place.  Working with dimensional lumber versus green timbers was challenging and I was definitely not as pleased with my joinery.  Once completed I then assembled and raised the loft railings that were fabricated from 4x6 timbers and boards from a barn I had disassembled some years ago in Wisconsin.  This was one time I could really have used one more set of hands, but with some creative rigging I was able to get both the rails and stairs attached without too much swearing.

With the stairs up the final step was three coats of ploy sealant.  The wood was extremely porous and the first coat was absorbed almost on contact. Again the finished product was not as I had envisioned but I think over time it will have a nice rustic feel to it.  The following are a few pictures of the end result.

The part that did not work as planned was the amount of time I had left to help Dan.  The sanding and sealing took much longer than I had anticipated.

Dan's "cabin" is truly a sight to behold.  Coupled with the fact that he is largely doing it all by himself, it is CRAZY.  I was able to help him with laying some "blue" pine that he had harvested and cut with his Woodmizer.  The following are a few pictures of the stealth cabin.

From an animal standpoint the mountain was fairly quiet during my visit.  It wasn't until the last couple of days that I started to see the Mule deer again.  I had to pause for the following group as I was leaving the mountain for the last time for 2011.

Oh yeah, my fly fishing.  Forty degree temps, high winds and limited spare time did not allow for me to hit the river on this trip. 


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another Sucessful Year

This year's trip started with a 3 hour packing effort that rivaled the toughest levels of Tetris. The load on the Jeep, knowing the U-Haul was likely over the allowed weight limit, was a concern not lost as we headed out that Friday morning.

As posted earlier, I was pleased to have my Dad and brother-in-law joining me on the drive out this year. It didn't take long for us to see the wide spread flooding as we moved West. Rivers were so far from their normal levels it was difficult to determine their normal paths. Little did we know as we passed the exit for Minot ND that the town was being evacuated that very day.

We logged a rather long day of driving the first day and then stayed just East of the Montana border making day two a much shorter drive. The next morning we crossed the state on Hwy 200 the longest state highway in the country. We stopped in Great Falls for some quick supplies and then headed down Interstate 15 towards Wolf Creek. Stopping about a mile from the Wolf Creek exit, Dad enjoys the rocky cliffs that define the area.

Luckily for us the water had receded enough to allow passage as we turned off the recreation road leading to the cabin . The Prickly Pear still looked more like a raging river compared to its normal passive self.

With all of the rain the meadow was again very green this year. Lupine were in full bloom with other flowers coming later in the visit as the temperatures rose and the weather dried. Bitterroots were not as numerous this year, but did come out in greater numbers by the second week.

We made quick work of unloading the trailer and set up camp the first night. The next day we made a supply run into Helena garnering the additional building materials and supplies for this year's task list. The lumber order was delivered later in the afternoon completing the getting everything there, unpacked and all of the supplies in one place phase.

Having Rick there was a big help. One task he worked on was to frame the door openings for my less than perfect doors. The dutch door was made from full 1" oak from the wood I had cut from our home in Wisconsin and the more rustic front door was made using old barn rafters from a barn I had disassembled some years back.

I think the amount of time my Dad was able to spend was perfect. We had time to dine with Dan and Dawn one evening, do the Ox Bow loop and still hit the Frenchman for a good greasy burger.

Dad/Rick - Thanks again for making the trip.

We then drove down to Bozeman to take them to the airport and then I dropped off the U-Haul. During the day, I ran errands to pick up odds and ends that were still outstanding. Although frustrating to spend that much time shopping in such a beautiful area, it did allow me an opportunity to see more of Bozeman than I might have otherwise. I liked Bozeman and can honestly say I could see us living there someday. Sherry and the kids weren't coming in until later that evening so I checked into the hotel early, took a long hot shower and a needed nap.

In the morning, with the original crew reassembled, we headed back to the mountain. Dan not only helped by allowing me to use some of his power tools (yes enough of the hand tool only mantra) but as always provided much appreciated help and support when needed. Admittedly, getting the doors and windows framed took MUCH longer than I expected. As Dan worked on framing the front door, I started cutting the openings for the windows. Small suggestion - move equipment away from outside walls when using a sawzsall. I cut straight through the leg of the fiberglass Werner ladder I had rented.

Opening up the cabin, even in the rough state, made a big difference in the feel of the cabin.

The hand forged hinges and pintles looked nice on the doors. I tried my hand at smithing over several weekends but in the end I bought the hinges from Kelly Wetzel of Blackhand Forge. He offers classes from his shop in Union Groove. Smithing is much harder than it looks. I did make some latches and miscellaneous pieces that I will need to attach on the next trip.

With the timber frame structure, framing the windows was little more than wrapping just enough to screw them to the existing timbers and wall girts. Dan and I continued to make window frames while the rest of the crew helped place the windows, tape the windows, cut the trim boards and frame them with the treated 1x8 Douglas fir trim boards.

The crew needed a day off so we spent the morning in Helena going to the farmer's market with Dan/Dawn and Jazz. On the way out of town we bought fishing licenses and some brighter flies to try our luck flyfishing. We then returned to the meadow for some impromptu casting lessons for the kids. Lucky for us, at the base of our road there is a fishing access point to the Prickly Pear.

Even on the normally small and placid stream, wading was not an options. Casting from shore with the speed of the water was less than ideal conditions. Although I did not catch anything, this half hour was personally the most enjoyable part of the trip. I look forward to my second trip out this year so I can strap on some waders and work a stream.

We decided to take the short drive up to Holter Lake and catch some private fireworks for the fourth of July. The show was small but the area is so beautiful and the drive always produces plenty of wildlife. This year we saw a cow elk, the normally numerous ospry, muley and whitetail sightings. The sunset over Holter Lake was the best show of the evening.

It was back to the salt mine. With only two days left, we needed to finish triming windows, corners and the roof peaks so we could start applying the cedar shakes. Unfortunetly, the staple gun I rented could not be used since neither the generator we borrowed from Walt and Delores nor the Honda generator we tried from Paul would run Dan's compressor. So we were back to the hand tool mode for nailing the trim, vertical siding and cedar shakes. After our normal camp side breakfast, Sherry and the kids worked fairly independantly cutting and nailing boards while I started nailing the cedar shakes. Dan stopped up in the morning and helped with the tall end of the cabin and the trim boards.

Initially Bronte/I and Sherry/Clayton teamed up to do the shakes, but apparently the shakes weren't as much "fun" as I had been building them up to be so I became the shake-man. We went with a random/staggered look that helped in shake selection, but with all of the trim and the 12/12 peak it went slower than I had wanted.

Sherry and the kids took a load of construction garbage and all of the rental material back to Helena (we didn't end up paying anything for the ladder mishap). I stayed back and finished the shakes on the front of the cabin. This went much faster than working on the scaffolding and cutting every other shake for the peak.

The last day we cut the ends and restacked the redwood boards under the cabin. In addition, we organized the inside of the cabin, returned all of the borrowed tools and got everything packed for our drive back. That afternoon Bronte got a mountain beauty salon treatment and we all showered and cleaned up for the transition back to normality. Sherry was quite proud as she did not shower at Dan/Dawn's the whole trip and actually began to enjoy her black bag mountain shower routine. That evening, we went to the Frenchman for a good greasy burger. Unfortunetly, they were sold out of t-shirts for Bronte stating they had a real run on them over the fourth.

All in all the trip was a success. Not all of the exterior was complete, but two of the sides were 100% complete while the others were trimmed with varied levels of vertical siding completed. We were going home a day early so we could attend Jake and Dipti's wedding in Chicago. Loading up some last minute packs was the only thing left on the agenda. So after some morning pictures of the cabin and family, we locked up and left Wolf Creek with mixed emotions.

Until my trip out this Fall ...