Friday, February 16, 2018

The Long Hard Journey to Building a Cabin, Part I

Being a child of all things earthly, I spent hours in the parks exploring sally bugs, crawfish, frogs, watching beavers in the rivers, studying birds, and identifying other delightful creatures. I always said I could hear the trees communicating. I still embrace my inner child when hiking in some of our greatest national parks, and I’m glad I did for getting older has a way of slowing us down. Now, the forests call me back, and in particular it’s the forests of the Smoky Mountains. There, one can just breath in the tranquility that abounds in those earthly smells and sounds in a stillness that one can only experience deep within Mother Nature’s theater.

My husband and I have worked hard to begin a new journey as we near retirement. We wanted to build a cabin in a mountain forest, and just finding the right parcel of land has taken years of looking. There are so many things to consider, and seeing a number of properties entails time and travel, but it pays off in the end. Mountain roads, steep climbs, gated or non-gated communities, finding sites with water, how far from hospitals and a city, wind mitigation of higher elevations, are just some of the key considerations when looking to build in the mountains. We endured and found our own private piece of heaven in Franklin, NC.

Google Earth allowed us a super visual of just where our property was and what was around us. We bought near the Appalachian Trail and about 20 minutes from town. We chose a gated community where it felt welcoming and safe. Each property there must be three acres or more and cabins must be 1200 square feet or larger built with natural looking exteriors. An annual fee is collected for road maintenance and community upkeep like a walking path to the falls. Keeping the roads accessible together as a community is a savings. Here we feel both isolated in nature and connected to amenities not so far away like a Lowe’s, a breakfast spot, shopping, and people in general.

During the third year we continued the learning process that goes along with owning land. Trial and tribulations in finding a builder who is willing to work with you as absentee owners can be daunting maybe because it takes time to email, chat, and visit with them. Due diligence on your part like working with your realtor, banker, surveyor, architect, and lawyer helps that process along. Asking lots of questions and listening can go a long way. Talking with community members give yet another perspective as they’ve been there and suggest building with a smaller footprint and incorporating designs to be well insulated, fire safe features, and the conveniences of a larger fuel tank and generator. We wanted to be good stewards of our forest land, so we read up on any articles we could get our hands on. All the suggestions helped with planning a place that will be comfortable, estheticaly pleasing, and weather tight.

With the help of our local realtor, we contracted for the initial cuts into our acreage. Ed, my husband, and his brother, had explored the property more than once and through seasonal changes, so they were comfortable with the general outlay. We are building together, but on a divided parcel of several acres. An site map with contours provided the best direction to lay the road. We hired an professional water dowser with a divining rod to work his magic and give a general area to a water source; this was backed up by an electronic dowser: both put a well site within five feet of each other’s spot. Keeping as many trees as possible, the contractors cut trees and dozed through making a winding park like path to the chosen building site. Then trenching for utilities, electricity and water, to the site was finally completed.  I apologized to my tree friends for disturbing their peace, but I felt they’d understand. Driving up the newly graveled road for the first time was such a joy! It was as I’d hoped, a park like feel to our readied property.

Mountain life is definitely a slower pace and well suited to our goals of being sunbirds...leaving the beaches in Florida for the cooler summers in the hills. It’s the journey that counts, so they say, but I am so ready to have a destination built and ready for arrival.

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