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Life Keeps Getting Better

A couple trades palm trees for mountains & snowdrifts

By Mark R. Johnson
Published: November 1, 2009
Nancy and Ray's cabin in Sula, Mont.
Photo by Rocky Mountain Log Homes
How much do you love your cabin? Is your love so strong you’d commute 2,830 miles?

Nancy Anderson loves her place that much. She’s so fond of her Montana log cabin that she’s made it home – even though her job is based seven states away. Once a month, she travels from the cabin she shares in Sula, Mont., with her husband Ray to her office in Miami, Fla., where she works in mergers and acquisitions.

Ray and Nancy were born and raised in southern Florida and lived there until they built their place in Montana. Before his recent retire- ment and subsequent move to Big Sky Country, Ray owned a palm tree farm and landscaping business in the Sunshine State.

How Did They Get Here?
So how is it that Nancy and Ray traded in palm trees for ponderosa pines?

As it happens so often with the genesis of cabin ownership, it all started with a transformative vacation. In February of 1998, the couple – interested in escaping Florida for a taste of winter – vacationed at the Triple Creek Ranch in the French Basin of the Bitterroot Mountain Range. And they were hooked.

“While we were driving to the ranch, we saw no fewer than eight big game animals, beginning with moose, elk, big horn sheep, mule deer and whitetail deer. For both of us coming from Florida, we couldn’t believe it! My husband and I are both nature lovers, and we both hunt. Ray’s hunted his entire life,” Nancy says.

And it wasn’t only the wildlife that impressed the Andersons. The people they encountered during their vacation were “so wonderful, so friendly,” Nancy adds.
Burled log anchors the breakfast bar
One of the homeowners' favorite features is this large burled log that anchors the breakfast bar.
Photo by Rocky Mountain Log Homes
Worth the Wait
A year after their love-at-firstsight vacation, the Andersons found and bought 10 acres of land about 20 miles from Triple Creek Ranch. And the following year, the Andersons broke ground on their cabin building project. Construction was delayed by wildfires and wasn’t totally completed until two to three years later. But it was worth the wait.

The Andersons’ land is a far cry from the heavily populated area of south Florida. From their cabin they can see no neighboring homes, only the remnants of a single structure – the logs and framing from a now vacant homesteader’s place from the late 1880s.

And the Andersons’ 10-acre property borders state and national forests. “So it feels like we live on a million acres,” exclaims Nancy.

From their place on the western edge of Montana, they sit at an elevation of 4,600 feet and enjoy views of the Bitterroot Mountain Range. This is truly high country. In fact, they’re just nine miles from the portion of the Continental Divide where Highway 93 intersects with the Montana/ Idaho border. In that area you’ll find Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Resort, which receives over 300 inches of snowfall – that’s more than 25 feet of snow – every year.

Sporting Couple
Since moving to Montana, the Andersons have expanded their fishing and hunting pursuits.

Nancy and Ray hunt during both the firearms and bow seasons. The game the couple hunts includes turkey, bear, antelope, elk, grouse, ducks and geese.

Their hunting expeditions aren’t limited to Montana. Every year, the couple drives five hours to British Columbia to hunt grizzly bear and moose.
Snow piled up outside the window
Snow can be seen piled up outside the window. How much snow does this area of Montana receive? A local ski resort enjoys an annual snowfall of 300-plus inches.
Photo by Rocky Mountain Log Homes
Ray recalls, “I told a buddy of mine: ‘The coolest thing about this place is that it’s like a gateway to the West – with easy drives to the coast, Colorado, Idaho, Washington and British Columbia. It’s centrally located for that.’”

They’ve picked up fly-fishing, and have dipped their lines in area rivers, streams and lakes for rainbow, lake, brown and cutthroat trout, in addition to Arctic grayling and other finned species.

“I like going after the big fish,” says Ray. “The biggest I’ve caught here was a 65-pound paddlefish from a river. I also caught a 38-inch lake trout that went 22 to 24 pounds. I caught him on Flathead Lake and then released him.”

At times, the couple’s fishing adventures require a transportation triathlon (driving, ATV riding and hiking). To reach one favorite fishing hole, an 8,000-foot high mountain lake, Ray and Nancy first drive their pick-up truck with their pair of ATVs in the back to a forest service road, and then park the truck. Next, they climb on their ATVs and ride over four miles on the forest servicemaintained road to a trailhead, and then park the ATVs. Lastly, they hike a little over a mile to the lake. And if they’re feeling ambitious, there’s a second lake they can hike to after that.

Hiking With a Purpose
Hiking comes naturally to Ray and is his main recreation activity, with one caveat. “There has to be some purpose,” Ray says. Hiking to fishing spots and hiking while hunting with a firearm or bow are obvious, purposeful activities.

There’s also the not so common hunting activity that has Ray out hiking many days from February through April: antler hunting. Ray hikes a total of 50-70 miles each spring seeking antlers that have been shed by elk, deer and moose. “The more miles you hike equals the more antlers you collect,” Ray says. During a typical day, he’ll hike two to five miles, depending on how much snow he encounters. He’ll sometimes carry snowshoes with him in his backpack, so that he can use them to traverse snowbound areas.

Ray recently purchased a mountain bike. It seems likely his mountain bike rides will be purposeful too.
The fireplace is covered in manufactured stone
The fireplace is covered in manufactured stone (a Corning Cultured Stone product, Southern Ledgestone - Bucks Country). But the builder inserted three real stones to prove it's impossible to tell the faux stones from real ones.
Photo by Rocky Mountain Log Homes


Home Sweet Hunting Lodge
The Andersons’ love of the outdoors is celebrated everywhere in their three-bedroom log home.

The great room’s big beautiful windows offer a breath-taking view that starts at the bottom of the basin where a willow-bordered creek meanders into the distance. Your eyes then climb up, to a plateau where the old pioneering homestead sits, and then up, up, up to the peaks of the snowcapped mountains. “The view is spectacular,” Ray exclaims. “We love to entertain, and when our friends and relatives come to visit they’re blown away by the mountains and everything.”

The fireplace gets a lot of use. In late June, it’s not uncommon for the morning temperature to dip down to the lower 30s (degrees F). The fireplace is covered in manufactured stone, but it’s so realistic looking that the builder mixed in three real stones to prove it’s impossible to tell the faux stones from real ones. The Andersons had marked the real stones with pencil at one time, but the marks have worn off, and they’ve lost track of them.

The Anderson’s place was built by Pioneer Log Homes for Rocky Mountain Log Homes. Everywhere you look in the home, unique logs catch your attention. “The builder’s brother had something to do with the logging business, and he was able to get his hands on spectacular logs with burls and other interesting features. Burled logs cost a lot more, but the look is so much more of a statement,” Ray says.

With the Andersons’ passion for hunting, of course their cabin has a well-appointed trophy room, complete with a bar – so the Andersons and their guests can leisurely discuss the adventure connected with this trophy or that. It’s been years since the Andersons vacationed at nearby Triple Creek Ranch, and it still thrills them to spot wildlife. “We see elk all the time from our home,” says Nancy. And she and Ray continue to add to their list of wildlife sightings. On or near their property, they’ve spotted bears and gray wolves. “We can hear coyotes howling every evening,” says Nancy. Life just keeps getting better for the Andersons.

It’s a far cry from the palm trees of southern Florida. And it’s worth the trip.

Editor Mark Johnson has an uncle in Montana and thinks it may soon be time for another visit.
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CABIN LIFE from WISCONSIN said:
Dear Robert,

To get plans, you'll have to contact Rocky Mountain Log Homes:

http://www.rockymountainloghomes.com

Good luck with your future build!
5 stars
ROBERT L DIAZ from FLORIDA said:
will we see the floor plan? Photos look great...like to se more

WE travel from Palm Beach Gardens, FL to Cashiers, NC, 11 hr drive to our mountain lot that really needs a home!!
TAMMY GRANDE from NEW YORK said:
I would trade palm trees for mountains and snow any day! Good move! Nice cabin!
JEFF WHITE from OREGON said:
I am blessed. Our commute to our log cabin is just an hour away in the beautiful foothills of Mt. Jefferson in the Cascade range in Oregon.
4 stars
MARC ALLARD said:
Beautiful Log Home.Enjoy every minute. We also travel 580 km.Worth the drive to the Lake in order to recharge our batteries....Cheers to all who are blessed to live the Cottage Life experience.
12
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