Rebuilding A Hikers' Cabin, Log By Log (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Rebuilding A Hikers' Cabin, Log By Log

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We'll head to a different wild place now, Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. At the edge of the park, at the foot of one of the most popular hiking trails in the region, you'll find a house. But not just any house. It's a log cabin that was originally built 135 years ago in 1878 in the rolling farmland near Hancock, Maryland. So, what is it doing in Virginia, 100 miles south of its original home? Jacob Fenston has the answer.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

00:00:31
John Corwith is standing near a pile of 135 year old logs, trying to make sense of a list scrawled on a sheet of ruled paper.

MR. JOHN CORWITH

00:00:38
The guy that wrote the drawing, when we were taking it apart, isn't here.

FENSTON

00:00:42
The list has a number for each log, but which log goes where?

CORWITH

00:00:46
When I was off doing something else, somebody squashed the plan that I had, which was to draw every log and where it's at. And just make this list of where the logs are stacked.

FENSTON

00:00:56
It's a crisp, bright autumn day at the foot of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. There's a constant stream of hikers heading up for the nine mile loop, but Corwith doesn't have time to hike.

CORWITH

00:01:07
I've never been to the top of Old Rag. I've been coming out here for two years, and I haven't hiked the mountain yet.

FENSTON

00:01:11
Corwith and the dozen or so volunteers with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club are hard at work rebuilding this cabin that, eventually, they'll be able to rent out to hikers right here next to the trailhead. The project started two years ago when the cabin's owner got in touch with the trail club.

MS. LAURIE BURCH

00:01:28
Yeah, my name is Laurie Burch.

FENSTON

00:01:29
When Laurie Burch bought a parcel of land in Hancock, Maryland, the previous owners told her she'd probably need to demolish the derelict old cabin on the property.

BURCH

00:01:38
Take it down or even just burn it down or whatever.

FENSTON

00:01:40
But she soon it was actually in pretty good shape. Wood siding had protected the logs from the elements.

BURCH

00:01:45
I found logs that looked like they had just been in pristine condition.

FENSTON

00:01:49
But still, it would cost thousands of dollars to restore.

BURCH

00:01:51
I just really wasn't quite sure what to do, because I could not afford to put that kind of money in it, and yet, I didn't want to see it just deteriorate and fall down.

FENSTON

00:02:00
A friend suggested she donate it to the trail club. A couple guys from the club came and looked at the cabin and the location, surrounded by farmland, not hiking trails. When they reported back, they said, great cabin, bad location.

CORWITH

00:02:14
I came in and said, can we move it?

FENSTON

00:02:15
John Corwith again.

CORWITH

00:02:16
Here was a structure that had stood since 1878, and I thought, those logs are still good. Wouldn't it be great to reuse them?

FENSTON

00:02:25
So, last year, a crew of trail club members descended on the property and, like a busy ant colony, deconstructed the cabin, bit by bit. Lou Schuetze was there.

MR. LOU SCHUETZE

00:02:34
It was quite a job.

FENSTON

00:02:35
First, they tore out all the interior structures.

SCHUETZE

00:02:39
Walls and everything, and they were just full of animals and bees and wasps and everything else. And then, we had to get it down to the bare logs. And then took it down a log at a time.

MS. KIM BENDER

00:02:53
But that was the easy part. On this day, in the shadow of Old Rag, things aren't going too well for the volunteer construction crew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

00:03:00
Put one on the end, then figure out where the other one is. I think you can handle it, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

00:03:05
Yeah.

#1

00:03:06
Clear as the ears on a chicken. Hey, well, there'll be a little something extra in your paycheck.

#2

00:03:11
Yeah. What's two times zero?

#1

00:03:12
Zero.

#2

00:03:13
Or three times zero, or...

MR. EDDIE MURAWSKI

00:03:17
Frank, do you have all the holes drilled along the middle?

FENSTON

00:03:19
Eddie Murawski has spent a frustrating day fixing an unfortunate mistake.

MURAWSKI

00:03:24
There's vents that are required on the foundation, and somehow one was missed.

FENSTON

00:03:29
In September, the crew finished the lovely stone and concrete foundation, only to discover they didn't leave enough holes for vents under the cabin. So Murawski has spent most of his Saturday in the dark crawlspace, drilling and sawing and chiseling and hammering through the thick concrete.

MURAWSKI

00:03:47
It's this thick, it's 10 inches thick. Plus there's rebar in there. You know what rebar is? I think there's a piece of rebar right in the middle of this, holding it together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #3

00:03:58
We've had more problems today than we've had the whole time we've been building. We had to send somebody off to buy gas, cause we don't have a spare gas can. The generator stopped, the air compressor died. But we're having fun.

FENSTON

00:04:10
Mark Allen is working on the subfloor above the foundation.

MR. MARK ALLEN

00:04:13
I love it up here, being in the woods. I love building things, so I'm right at home, and happy.

FENSTON

00:04:20
The new cabin won't be exactly the same as the original. The crew's adding an addition for a kitchen and bathroom, and they're redesigning it to be handicapped accessible. Laurie Burch, who donated the cabin, is pleased it will be available to as many people as possible.

BURCH

00:04:34
As much as I would have loved to have had it, and had it as a wonderful structure on my property, I would have been the only one using it. You know, other than me and family and friends.

FENSTON

00:04:42
There's no date yet for when the cabin will be finished. When it is, it will be one of some 40 that the club rents to hikers, mostly along the Appalachian Trail. And in this busy location, it's likely to be one of the most popular. I'm Jacob Fenston.

SHEIR

00:04:56
Wanna see the reconstructed cabin for yourself? We have photos on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:05
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jacob Fenston, Bryan Russo, Jonathan Wilson, Michael Martinez, and Martin Austermuhle. WAMU's Managing Editor of News is Memo Lyons. "Metro Connection's" Managing Producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our Editorial Assistant. Our intern is Steven Yenzer. Lauren Landau and John Heinz produce, "Door to Door."

SHEIR

00:05:24
Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website. Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts," and our Door to Door theme, "No, Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks," by John Davis, and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can find all the music we use each week on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story, and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

00:05:49
And if you missed part of today's show, you can stream the whole thing on our website by clicking the "This Week On Metro Connection" link. You can also subscribe to our podcast there, or find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and the NPR News app. We hope you can join us next week when we'll wax philosophical about wisdom. From the wisdom of local gardeners to the lessons learned by D.C. kids who've tangoed with the law. Plus, the truth about a groundbreaking document written by a wise leader of yore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

00:06:17
For something that has been studied so intensively for the last 150 years, there's still so many mysteries about it.

SHEIR

00:06:23
I'm Rebecca Sheir, and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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