In an initial armchair approach to preparing for some longer and tougher hiking trails (I’m starting to train for Mount Whitney), I’ve been reading some great books on people tackling the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The popular book “Wild” was fun, but I am really enjoying “Awol on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller.
David’s 2003 hike is documented in this beautifully written story that really brings the trail to life. He also goes into details about his “homes” along the trail since he rarely used a tent: the AT shelters that dot the 2,172 mile long passage across the mountain range. There are around 250 backcountry shelters along the trail where both section and thru-hikers can stay for free. Most of them are basic and open to the elements, but some are actually beautifully constructed and take advantage of views, light and airflow. Most of the shelters are near a creek or a stream and some have a privy or basic toilet nearby. They are kept clean and in shape by hikers and trail volunteers.
Most of the shelters have basic sleeping platforms, but no cots or beds. Food is either kept away from bears and other critters in boxes or hung from strings on the ceilings. Some shelters have picnic tables and food prep areas and most of them do not allow open campfires.
Top photo: William Penn Shelter. Photo by White Blaze.net.
by Cheryl Preston
I am new to the world of living “small” and just joined your group last night. In the next four months, I will be downsizing from a 2000 sq foot farmhouse I’m renting into a 440-sq foot 2-room cottage that I call the Cowboy Cottage.
This little cottage started out as a shed built by its original owner who had a small vineyard and needed a place to make the wine. The second owner decided to build out from the shed and add a living/sleeping space for his visiting grandkids as a playhouse.
I purchased the property (a total of 10 acres with the main house I keep rented out) with my husband in 2005. After he died the following year, I decided to rent the main house out and turn the playhouse into another cabin to rent out. I used the original 1940′s stove (a castoff from the main house) as the inspiration piece and created a vintage western theme and named the guest cottage “The Cowboy Cottage.”
I have some success renting out this little cottage as a vacation getaway, but have now decided to downsize and move into the charming Cowboy Cottage. The drive will be an additional 30 minutes to work, but at last I will be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
I took out the closet and had a full-size Murphy bed installed. I had the plywood countertop taken off and had a nice piece of molded countertop added; updated the fixtures, laid down 5″ T&G yellow pine flooring throughout, added a wood stove, and western touches including a 5′ longhorn rack I picked up in Texas. I put in a hot water tank, small septic tank and insulated and sealed off the attic crawlspace over the living area. I also had 2 stables built under the part of the shed that originally housed a tractor.
Unfortunately, I cannot get a CO from the county to put in a separate electric meter because the shed does not have a 3′ required crawlspace so the power and water come through lines connected directly to the main house, 125′ feet away. Since I will be moving out there full time, I’m looking at having a new well drilled and looking into solar power as an option.
I was out there today taking measurements and trying to figure out how I am going to “fit” into it, but I’ve stayed in it many nights while out there for a weekend retreat; very different than actually moving in. But I am bound and determined to be out at my property at last.
Here is what it looked like when I first moved in, before the deck and stables were added (circa 2007) and a couple of before and afters the inside remodel in kitchen. Reduced the double bifold doors that lead into the bathroom down to 1 bifold door and added a new wall where the other bifold door was.
On my way back from Copenhagen, I stayed for a few days in cold and dark Iceland. This fascinating and stark island in the North Atlantic is fast becoming one of the top places to visit in Europe — with or without Eyjafjallajökull blowing it’s top. Reykjavik is stylish and easy to get around in and the rest of the country is a mix of mountains, seaside, towering cliffs and, of course, hot springs like the famous Blue Lagoon. It’s interesting how the Icelandic tourism industry has turned this essentially inhospitable land into a place that is comfortable to stay.
While most Icelanders live in modern homes and apartments, even up until the 1940s, many lived in tiny houses called turf homes. Since wood was so hard to come by on this nearly treeless island, farmers scavenged driftwood from the black sand beaches, marked the wood with a brand to show that they belonged to his family, and planed them down to build small homes. These homes were then surrounded with turf as insulation. These homes were not heated as there was a real fear of fire burning down the precious driftwood homes, so a separate “fire house” was built to hold a fire and cook food.
While there are some beautiful hotels in Reykjavik and the main touring areas in the south and east part of the island, I kept seeing tiny cottages nestled up against the volcanic mountains topped with creeping glaciers. Many of these cottages are available for rent all year long and feature small kitchens and amazing views.
The Hvoll Cottages near the small town of Vik is about two hours from Reykjavik. “Vik” means “bay” in Icelandic and these cottages have access to several black sand beaches, rock outcroppings and many of the waterfalls and parks in the south. Vik has become more famous since becoming the setting for many scenes in the Games of Thrones TV series. Also near Vik are the Hotel Laki cottages. These little cottages are for two to three people and have simple beds, cooking facilities and showers. Most of these little cottages are heated with steam or power from local geothermal power plants. Continue Reading »
Most architecture students don’t have to build their graduate project first in order to be able to live and study. However, at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter office and now an architectural school, students have to sleep outside in the desert in either a tent or in a shelter of their own design. Student David Frazee fashioned his desert shelter after an old miner’s shack — with a few more amenities.
David based his tiny shelter from some architectural ruins found on the school’s site. The concrete pad it sits on and the old chimney were used as a base for the tiny house. The shelter is held at two feet above the desert surface by two steel posts and one of the original concrete walls. The shelter is covered with rusted steel panels that are attached to metal channels , which hold the panels three inches off of the wall. The air space allows for hot air to vent away from the structure. The home is also paneled with redwood sheets and shaded by a tall Palo Verde tree. The steel and wood were selected for their aging qualities and durability in the desert sun.
The interior walls are a combination of plaster and birch plywood. The shelter’s operable windows allow gentle, desert breezes to flow over the bed. This student shelter does not contain a bathroom, shower or kitchen. Some existing blocks found on the site were used to level out the ground of the existing concrete pad, creating a wonderful sitting area for some nighttime viewing of the stars, the outdoor fireplace and probably more than a few textbooks.
David Frazee currently works with the Broken Arrow Workshop. A collective of Taliesin graduates who are dedicated to continue the legacy of Taliesin, by living through design.
Photos by Archinect