Nov 14-04

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2004: November: Nov 14-04
Cabin started in May    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Len McDougall
Progress in July    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Len McDougall
Ready by November    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Len McDougall

Charlie at Pasty Central on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:09 am:

Lots of guys (and gals) are headed to "deer camp" this weekend. Time to open up the old cabin.

In Paradise, Michigan, lives an internationally known outdoor writer, Len McDougall, who gives us a glimpse of what it's like to build your own log cabin using only hand tools. The work began in May, in spite of the blackflies, and progress was made throughout the summer. By late fall it was a cozy home in the woods. According to Len:

It's 144 sq. ft., and as you'll see, I used modern materials in a couple of applications. The steel door, for example: In the 1800s, a trapper would have had access to a sawmill; my supply runs were at Home Depot. A trapper would've had a mule to help hoist logs into position; I used a come-a-long hand winch. A trapper would have had an iron axe and a bucksaw; I had a hi- carbon steel axe with fiberglass handle and a modern "sharktooth" crosscut saw.

But then, a large part of my reason for tackling this project was to see if a 21st-century man, armed only with available hand tools, could still venture into a wilderness and create a home for himself. He can.
Good luck to everyone spending this week in the woods. Be careful out there.
By BT,TC on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:11 am:

Wow....great cabin

By Dave, Cairo on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:12 am:

Good Morning from the land of the Pyramids.

By M.B., IL-WI-MI on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:20 am:

Impressive! Impressive! When was the cabin built?

By Uncle Bud/old Mohawk guy on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:26 am:

The wasps/yellowjackets, chipmunks,squirrels and skunks will love that place.

By flyintodaysure on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:48 am:

Mighty lonely in Trollville today. All the boyz are "up north." Some are probably very near that cabin pictured so keep your powder dry. I keep my lens clean. Save the powder for the critters much closer to home.

By Margaret, Amarillo TX on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:08 am:

I love it!!

By Donna on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:20 am:

Awesome!! Happy Sunny Sunday all!


By NKR Mishawaka IN on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:38 am:

The pictures are great. I just read Len's bio. and he is true outdoors man.

By Therese from just below the bridge on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:50 am:

When can I borrow the cabin for a week? Maybe next fall?

I saw a program on PBS a while back about a man who, using only the barest of tools available to 19th century pioneers, built a log cabin out of what was available on the site, mostly cedar and pine. I remember that for a door he split logs into boards, and carved his own door hinges and locks out of wood. All large and rough, but they worked. He dragged stones to the site and built a fireplace and chimney, mortared with clay mud and gravel. And as I recall he was no strong youngster but in his 'declining' years.

I am always amazed at what some people can do with a few tools. I can't even hang a door straight. Although given some good soil and a few stones I can make a decent raised garden, and with a waterproof liner I can make a pond and wetland out of a lawn. And can turn wild apples into a decent pie. So I guess there's hope for me.

By John from the prairie on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:54 am:

Paradise indeed.

By Mel, Kansas on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:57 am:

Therese -

I think I watched the same show - wasn't he a photographer or filmographer that moved to Alaska? It was very intriguing to watch.

By MG, MI on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 10:40 am:

Did he get a building Permit?? :-)

By Ms. Katie on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 11:01 am:

Oh to be young and hardy today. I guess I'll get the book and live Mr. McDougall's experience vicariously.

By MooseJacket, Mi. on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 11:02 am:

Hi: Packed the car--ready for deer camp. Our camp was built 1954 out of an old chicken coop with hand tools--no power tools (400 sq. ft.) . Looks a little worn out, but we keep it going, here in the Keweenaw. Good Luck to all the deer-hunters. Stay safe.

By L-O-V-E Pastycam! on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 11:21 am:

Good Morning!

This site is just sooooo cool! Great pics.... Thanks!

By Uncle Chuck, Little Betsy on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:01 pm:

Nice cabin, I guess we're not really not roughing it here at L.B.

By Kate, Ann Arbor on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:06 pm:

Thank you so much for the deer camp. This is the first since 93 that I will not be joining deer camp..shoot straigt and be safe

By Ron, Michigan on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:38 pm:

Good luck to all the hunters. Hey Charlie, how about setting up a special gallery for people to post pics of their "Deer Camps"?

By Scott,Wi on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:38 pm:

The cabin building taps into the independance
idea of living. Everybody wants that!

By Cousin Jack on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:46 pm:

Therese and Mel:
That would be Dick Proenneke whose cabin site is in the Lake Clark National Park in Alaska.
Just type Dick Proenneke on the search engine and you'll find all sorts of links to his story.
One of my all time favorite PBS series.

By Bthecute1, San Jose on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:54 pm:

I admire the gentleman who built this 'camp'. But come on folks don't you like your creature comforts. Like electricity, indoor plumbing, running water, radio/TV, a nice cozy fireplace, a nice down bed to sleep on, maybe a lazy boy or two. And Betsy Boys... Why not be a real sportsmen and use a bow, say maybe with a 40 - 60 # pull and not a cross bow either.

By julie b., MI on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 12:57 pm:

Very impressive! Thanks for the information on how it was built!

Praying that everyone has a safe and successful Opener tomorrow! Be careful out there....

By wonderin' on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 01:10 pm:

Would like to see more photos of these camps and cabins.
Do you need permits for building and cutting trees?

By FRNash/PHX, AZ on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 01:48 pm:

Do you need permits for building and cutting trees?

All those camps must keep the building code inspectors busy too, as the creeping bureaucracy gains an ever greater foothold in the Keweenaw! L

By Candy, CA on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 03:55 pm:

Bev, I remember watching your dad with his bow in your back yard, shooting at targets far away on a hay bale. He taught my dad how to use one, and he spent countless hours with me, too, teaching me how to be safe. I'll never forget that, or the sight of him and my dad standing at the top of our driveway, shooting at targets on the old barn in our backyard, between our yard and yours. Those were indeed golden hours...

By MARTY ILL on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 05:28 pm:

WE have a hunting cabin in Ishpeming. The cabin was built in a cemetary in 1877 , The cabin was dismantled and brought to its current location . Its on thirty acres and we just love it .It was moved in the 1940 s. BY horse and buggy, We bought it from the original owners , It brought tears to my eye when we purchased it because the people liked the camp but could not upkeep it. we will up keep it and continue to enjoy it , Our family love the up and feel very much passion for it , GOOD LUCK HUNTERS AND BE SAFE.

By Bthecute1, San Jose on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 06:28 pm:

Candy, thanks, my dad taught me to use a bow also. I have such wonderful memories of him.

By Born to be wild on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 06:29 pm:

Makes me so happy that I only spent 16 years in California.

By Lena, MN on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 06:36 pm:

Jocko, there you go. Thanksgiving you can start cutting the logs.

By Skylar in Wi. on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:27 pm:

I saw the same show on PBS. Very interesting indeed. The question is, how many of us today, could do that, if we had to? I don't know if I could. Later, Skylar.

By Therese from just below the bridge on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 08:28 pm:

Cousin Jack -- thanks for the info! I believed I missed the beginning of the show with all the background info. Also I rely on the airwaves for TV reception so my picture is grainy and sound bad. But it's free!

By Yopper away from home on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 10:02 pm:

My friends and I built a cabin about the same size between February and June of our 7th grade year. However we only had hatches. The door we constructed was a cut piece of plywood on two hinges with a pad-lock. We had no windows, but did have a flat roof and a loft.

By observer on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 11:02 pm:

Self satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, a job well done, and a nice hunting camp in the end. I would say that is something accomplished.

By Lowell Mo. on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 12:15 am:

I don't Know how many can say it, But I was born and raised in a log cabin just a little bit larger then the one shown. It was build around the early 1930's of white cedar logs with the notched corners and all that. It had poles for rafters in the roof. The only thing that wasn't pole or logs were the roof and floor boards, the doors and windows. That was in central U.P. The last I heard someone bought it and moved it for a camp.

By Roudy Mi on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:10 am:

Yopper away from home...Good for you. I did that too! Was around the 9th grade though. Had to do it myself. Set it on rocks for a foundation and had a wood floor too. Used cedarlogs.

By Roudy Mi on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:10 am:

cedar logs.

By yooper days on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 09:40 am:

we used to build our home in the woods with railroad ties.lots of work and lots of fond memories.

By Dave - Colorado on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 11:29 am:

Very nice cabin! But based on my expereience, I would recommend peeling the bark off the logs, otherwise the bark will hold moisture in and cause the logs to begin to rot in less than one year... Also, I hope the bottom course of logs is sitting on rock or gravel (something that will drain) rather that directly on the ground. Otherwise the logs will wick moisture up from the ground and rot.

We built a cabin using only hand tools in 1976 and didn't peel the logs at first and they started to rot within a year, but after we peeled them, they dried out and the cabin is still there.... and sound!

By Bill, in CO on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 02:39 pm:

looks like a UP "Walden" to me! ;-)

By Dan Rusen on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 04:09 am:

I noticed in the film "Alone in the Wilderness" that the narrator makes some really stupid blunders. He says in Dick Proennecke's name that he saw "geese heading north" in the fall. And there seemed to be a lot of daylight for a place so far north - after the winter solstice.

By Jason, Knoxville TN on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 02:40 pm:

I remeber as an architecture student at NMU a few years back, we had to design a "tiny house" that was no bigger than this cabin...and mine looked about like the picture! Brings back fond memories of home...just like everytime I get a chance to check in on this site! My tiny house here in Knoxville is a little bigger than 144sq. feet but looks about as rustic!

By Len McDougall, Paradise, MI on Saturday, November 27, 2004 - 03:24 am:

Thank you all for the kind commentary. The cabin, 10-foot hand-dug well, smokehouse, etc., was a big job for one 44 year old man with hand tools, but I lived there for 15 months, and I have no regrets. Still, I'm in no hurry to do it again.

Len McDougall, author of the books: The Encyclopedia of Tracks & Scats; The Log Cabin: An Adventure; The Field & Stream Wilderness Survival Handbook; The Complete Tracker; Practical Outdoor Projects; Practical Outdoor Survival; The Snowshoe Handbook; The Outdoors Almanac.

By MPP on Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 02:24 pm:

I knew Sam Keith .He was asst.pricipal in the Jr. High where I taught.He was friends with Dick Proennke .Visited him in Alaska.Talked about him when you asked.Cabin building has fascinated me since I was a Boy Scout.I built amore modern place in Greenville ME in 1982.Still rustic .No electric ,No Inprovements.I think your place is great .Good to know there are still some of us around ,who think its be self reliant.

By Mike Klasen, MN on Sunday, March 20, 2005 - 10:55 am:

Dan Rusen,

The narrator of which you speak of in the documentary film "Alone in the Wilderness" is actually Dick Proennecke. I'll also agree with you on the fact that "there seemed to be a lot of daylight for a place so far north - after the winter solstice". (Cinematic liberties taken in order to make the film). Still it in my mind, this is a 'gem' of a movie...

By Doug Pattengale (Dougpattengale) on Saturday, January 21, 2006 - 05:01 pm:

I originally read these comments and shut down my pc and walked away. Soon after this I felt compelled to return and write this response...please read on: I have seen and read much of the information on this mans life. Mike C. states (in an earlier posting) that Dick participated in the production of "Alone In The Wilderness". This seems possible that he would participate, but only in order to get his message out. I believe that the people that got hold of his notes and film (a national treasure in my humble opinion) had money on thier minds. This is evident by the use of film clips that are used in multiple movie productions. This is Ironic because I believe that this is the complete opposite of what his life was all about and the thought of this makes me angry. It is true that there are several "Cinematic Liberties" as Mike so eloquently states but making home movies has shown me that these are necessary on occasion. On the other hand, I am thankful for the stories because I cannot get enough fo this guy and have been deeply moved by his "goings on" (As Dick may have stated it). I long for the time when I will downshift to a less complicated existence and duplicate his incredible achievements even if only in part.

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