November 10, 2014
“This isn’t looking familiar, but I think we’re going in the right way,” I announced as I continued hacking through an alder saplings with a machete. My jeans were drenched from 45 mins of hiking on a compass bearing through dense second growth forest that more closely resembled canopy jungle than a Pacific Northwest forest.
Landon, Bill and Tucker acknowledged my reassurance with silence and continued their personal battles crawling over and under saplings. The rain had subsided, but the trees, ferns and bushes held water like a paint brush. Stopping, I thrust the machete into a moss covered stump and pulled a rumpled up waterproof topo map with a handful of GPS coordinates highlighted in red from the pocket of my fleece.
“Tucker… I think this is where we are,” I said, pointing towards a small plateau indicated by a U-shaped flat spot on the map.
Tucker looked up and scanned the surroundings. “It’s pretty fucking tough to see whats going on here, but, yah that looks about right,”
“Do you hear that creek?” Faintly, over the constant dripping of water off of the fooliage, the sound of a small creek rushing through rocks was thinly audible.
“Yah, I do. Barely.”
Pulling the machete out of the rotting stump, I chopped down a Devil’s Club with a deft swipe. “Be careful of this shit,” I said holding up a section of the recently severed Devi’s Club with the tip of the machete before flicking it to the side.
Fifteen years earlier, I spent time in the same woods with my Boy Scout troop, working on trails and building a makeshift camp. The second growth forest had grown considerably in that time and the trails had faded from a group of 12’s year olds most sincere attempts at trail design to obscurity. The only mark of civilization was the lingering evidence of logging; giant old growth stumps, the occasional road cut and sporadic steel cable rusting away at the hands of 70 inches of annual rainfall.
Taking a break from the progress at The Cinder Cone, we loaded into Lando’s pick up and headed to the southern tip of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest during a break in the fall rain. Inspired by childhood days spent building forts, we brought food and minimal camping gear with the intention of building a shelter to protect us from the forcast rain.
Lando, time warped from 1971.
We found a clearing in the early afternoon and set off to work.
Starting a fire form the leftovers from the night before’s fire.
Rise and shine.
We constructed the shelter out of alder logs and used lap joints with a few Gerber Hatchets, a folding saw and a machete.
Tucker owns this DVD.
The American Boys Hand Book was one of my favorites as a kid and has tons of plans for forts, boats and other good ways to spend a day in the woods.
We framed the fort between three conveniently located Y-shaped alders. The platform was triangle shaped with a square, A-framed roof. We built the roof out of layers of ferns, maple leaves, and branches.
We worked feverishly for four hours, finishing the roof shorty after sunset. Passing out after a gorging on a dinner cooked on rocks, I prepared for the arrival of the predicted rain. Waking up, I rolled over and looked at the fire, the last remnants of a log were melting in to ash. Unzipping my sleeping bag, I jumped down to take a piss. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
“Guess we didn’t need this fort after all,” I thought to myself as I stared up at the stars through the Alder tree canopy. The chilly October night ended my star gazing. I grabbed handful of logs and threw them on the fire before sliding back into my sleeping bag.
Here are some more links,
Out Of Reception (Tumblr),
Home Is Where You Park It (Webstore).
September 23, 2014
Summer at the Cinder Cone
The forced air furnace in my camper kicked on with a whir, signifying that for the first time in almost 4 months, the temperature was into the low fifties. Rolling around in my sleeping bag, I reached for my water bottle, gingerly unscrewed the cap and took a swig. The air was by no means cold, but certainly cooler than it had been since May. I looked out of my camper’s screen window towards the east from the Cinder Cone’s hill towards the Columbia River Gorge. The first hint of sunlight illuminated the Oregon side of the Gorge. It was 6:54 on Tuesday, the 23rd of September; the first full day of fall.
The day before, we installed the windows in the lookout, at octagonal structure 35 feet off the ground in a Douglas Fir. Instead of hoisting the windows up by block and tackle and modified sailing rigging equipment like we have done with all of the wood, building supplies and tools, we walked the windows one at a time up 3 flights of stairs and across the cable suspension bridge. Installation went off without any problems, capping off a summer that passed in the blink of an eye. Her are some photos from the summer.
Tucker installing treads on the staircase. If you’re in the market for some design build carpentry, check out Tucker’s business here.
Taking a break and swimming in the Columbia.
Shooting the bowl.
Peter high-lining in the deep end.
Dog day skate sesh.
Watching the sunset from the studio platform.
Swimming on the Washougal River.
Installing the sub floor on the Octagon.
The first night in the trees.
Tucker and Phil working on the burned out Douglas Fir Dunk Tank.
Michael Garnier directing from the ground.
Ansel and Brian after a long day of working on the bowl.
The jorts of wrath.
Spraying the bowl.
With all of the structures water tight, we are starting to work on the interiors. This move couldn’t come at a better time as a the fall’s first storm is projected to arrive in a few hours. We’ve got lots to do before the winter starts. I’ve been documenting the project extensively and am planning on turning images into a book after the build is done. For more photos and information about the build, check out the following links:
The Cinder Cone (Tumblr),
August 11, 2014
“Would you take 45 bucks a piece for those mortars if I buy five packs of those bottle rockets and some of those blackcat firecrackers? Ohh and some of those waterproof firecrackers too?
“Ehhh normally we do 55 for those mortars.. Let me check with my boss. You paying card or cash?
“Okay, I’m going to grab the boss,” a partially toothed man in his forties wearing a Seahawks jacket announced as we left the firework shack and headed towards a nearby trailer.
After a minute or two, the trailer’s screen door flung open and out marched the matriarch of the firework stand, followed closely by her genuine Seahawks apparel-clad henchmen.
“You paying cash?” She said with out breaking stride.
“Yup.” I said shifting my gaze away from the wall of fireworks and towards the 5o-year old Chinook women.
“Well pick out everything you want and we can go from there.” Her demeanor and the way the other Chinooks hanging around the firework shed and accompanying trailers treated her with reverence reminded me of Pilar from For Whom the Bell Tolls.
I nodded in approval and returned to the task of selecting enough fireworks for the coming night’s festivities.
As a young kid growing up in the Columbia River Gorge, we would head east down the 14 to a handful of Native fishing camps and buy fireworks in the days leading up to the Fourth. Starting in June, I’d scrape together as much allowance as I could to spend on Mortars, M80’s, bottle rockets, Saturn Missiles, and assorted firecrackers. Overcome with excitement, I would blast off my bag of fireworks before sunset on the fourth.
Years spent on the East Coast and in New York City where discharging the fireworks of my childhood would earn you an interview with a few men with suits and ear pieces, built up a strong yearning for the sizzle of a fuse and the smell of discharged gunpowder. This year, for the first time in the last three, I was in Washington for the fourth.
One of my favorite movies.
Tying off three mortar fuses into one.
After Half an hour of haggling, I exchanged with the firework Matriarch a wad of bills for a box full of fireworks and headed towards my truck. Heading west on the 14 through Bingen and Underwood, hundreds of of kite boarders punctuated the Columbia’s whitecaps. I had two hours or so before the sun started setting. With any luck, I’d get to blast off my first mortar before it was dark.
Here are some more links,
The Cinder Cone (Tumblr).
July 22, 2014
The Cinder Cone
Throughout my travels, I reference the area I grew up in, the Columbia River Gorge, as a yardstick to measure a place’s charm and beauty. After three years of living out of my camper, I’ve decided to set up a seasonal home base a stone’s throw from my childhood stomping ground. Informed by my time living in the modest space of my VW and Toyota camper, and inspired by the work of friends like Jay Nelson, Tucker Gorman, Trevor Gordon and Lloyd Khan, I decided to follow up on a lifelong dream and build a tree house.
I started working on ideas and plans with my long time friend, Tucker Gorman, in January for a cabin on piece of property owned by my family in the Columbia River Gorge. The plans developed from a lone 200 square foot cabin to multitree house and finally settled on a studio suspended between two Douglas Firs connected via suspension bridge to an octagonal cabin, 35 feet off of the ground. Although competent working with wood and design, we needed help with the logistics and engineering behind tree house building and turned to family friends, Michael Garnier. Michael is a pioneer in the world of structures in trees and came up with the Garnier Limb, a large metal bolt that a tree grows around and strengthens over time. He told us what was possible given the trees we have, large second-growth Douglas Firs, and plans were finalized.
The idea of building tree houses in the rain didn’t appeal to any of us, so we decided to wait until summer to break ground. One month ago, a crew of tree house pros installed the platforms and handed the project off to Tucker, myself and a group of friends. We’ve been hard at work for the last month and are shooting for completion during September. I’ve been documenting the build on my Instagram and on The Cinder Cone’s site and hope to put up a zine with photos of the build from myself and others that stop by and work on the project.
The Grateful Goats. Two Soay sheep and three goats have been munching blackberries all summer.
Taco time after a long day of working on the the tree houses.
Looking west towards Portland, the night after work started on the trees.
Dean cleaning out the wood-burning hot tub.
Locally grown and milled 3×12’s for the foundation of the hot tub and the staircase stringers.
Rigging equipment and supplies.
Tucker lowering a limb and making way for the 16-foot octagon.
Stacking wood in the locust-framed shed.
Firing up the twin turbo tub.
Burning out a Douglas Fir log for a bath tub/dunk dank.
Trimming a 4×4 for a timber framed bunk bed.
Setting the glulams for the 28×16 foot platform.
Ian Weedman and his mobile tree-house building shop.
Organizing supplies for the summer.
The last month has passed in a blur as days of waking up balled in a sleeping bag, drinking coffee and climbing into the trees to work turn in to weeks. After long days, I fall asleep thinking about the day’s work and curious what will come the next.
Here are some more links,
The Cinder Cone,
Michael Garnier Treehouse Equipement,
Perspective Design Build,