A Marvelous Mountain Hideaway


A Marvelous Mountain Hideaway

Here's how one couple followed their yearning for a simpler life off the grid, surrounded by wilderness:

Written by Gina Chiodi Grensing
Photography by Heidi Long
Because there are so many possible cabin locations, determining the whereabouts of a perfect piece of paradise might take some time, consideration ... and a little imagination.

Some people may want their cabin an hour or less away for quick and easy access. Others may seek the enjoyment of cabin life far away from the “real world” back home. For the most part, when starting to look for that ideal location, the sky’s the limit.

Ed and Susan Abel opted for a getaway that is far away. While their home is in Pennsylvania (they both grew up amidst farm country), their cabin is about 2,000 miles away in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. The sky is the limit for them – in Big Sky country. 

The Call of the West

For the Abels, time and distance were considerations during the process of searching for their getaway spot, but there was something else. It could have been a “call of the wild” or an urging to “go west, young man,” but something kept tugging at Ed to build a cabin in the western mountains.

“I really don’t have a concrete answer about why we built our cabin here,” says Ed. “One day I had a calling and just started dreaming about it.”

Though they originally set their sights on Wyoming, after two years of working with realtors, nothing quite fit the dream. “We wanted more trees,” says Susan. “The realtors told us, ‘You want Montana.’”

So in 2003, they found their dream location: 11,000 acres in Gold Creek on the Rocky’s Garnet Ridge. It’s aptly named Carten Creek Ranch after a stream that runs through the property. Their 3,200-square-foot pine log cabin is sited to take full advantage of the sweeping vistas.

It was built with attention to detail utilizing plans from Real Log Homes and the skills of Bill Pelc of Big Sky Log Construction. The cabin features a wide assortment of unique local architectural attributes and locally crafted furnishings.

Off the Grid

Due to the remoteness of the ranch, it’s off the grid, so the electricity comes from solar power and a generator. “We have to be very conscious of the amount of energy we use,” says Susan.

Two things the Abels decided to forego to enhance their simple life: television and a telephone landline.

“We read a lot when we’re here,” says Susan. We'd rather read than watch TV. “We usually have a puzzle going too.” Internet access and cell phone coverage keep the couple connected to the world.

Peace & Planning

Solitude and the easy way of life on the mountain rank high on the Abel’s list of enjoyments.

“I love the simple life we have here,” says Susan.
 “Our world in Montana is totally different than the other world we live in,” says Ed about life back in Pennsylvania, where he’s involved in large alternative energy projects.

Since the cabin is a half-hour drive from the main highway followed by nine miles into the heart of the rugged countryside, these folks have to put some forethought into their sojourns.

“We stay on the mountain without going off for a week or two,” says Susan. “So we need to plan accordingly to get all of the supplies we’ll need.” She loves the cabin’s 4x8-foot pantry that holds their bounty of necessities, including Ed’s favorite, Honey Nut Cheerios

Hunting Happiness

Though Ed Abel’s parents have passed away, he says the Montana cabin “gave [his parents] a lot of happiness. We have six wonderful years of memories of them at the cabin."

Those memories include the family’s hunting expeditions. Ed and Susan's son and Ed's parents, brother and sister would all come from Pennsylvania. “It was a big deal when it was big game season,” says Ed.

Ed's father was a passionate and lifelong sportsman, hunting into his 90s. He got his last two mule deer when he was 88 and 91 years old.

Those two mule deer, mounted and hung in the cabin, are prized by the family and a tribute to their happy hunting days.

The Land’s Abundances  

The Abels take full advantage of being in Big Sky country, thoroughly enjoying their land. However, one of Ed’s pleasant pastimes might be called work by other people, as he becomes a one-man road crew.

Sixty-one miles of roads – either former logging roads or those that the Abels built – provide access to their acreage. But most of the roads were in extremely poor condition when the Abels bought the land.
“The old roads had grown over with weeds and weren’t taken care of,” says Ed. “So I’ve put on a battle for weed control. I’ve got spraying equipment, tractors and all the things you need for upkeep.” He jokingly adds, “With all the equipment, we have a highway department all our own.”

Susan cheers on Ed’s progress and spends as much time as she can outdoors too. “Ed is very handy and capable with all of the equipment. I’ll go out and support him with what he’s doing, but I also love hiking and marveling at the views, the wildlife and the land as it slopes down away from us.”

Their 11,000 acres of terrain boasts a variety of scenic elements. “Our place is very rugged – more than most,” says Susan. “We have our open park areas [natural grassland clearings], rocky mountainous areas, streams and trees.”

It’s the perfect place for abundant wildlife to thrive. Carten Creek Ranch is home to black bears, mule deer, elk, moose and “a large population of mountain lions,” according to Ed. “I love watching the animals,” says Susan.

When off the ranch, the couple enjoys heading to the area’s various rodeos.

The Abels are truly enjoying all that cabin life has to offer in Montana – so much so that they have increased their time there, spending May through October in the Rockies. Apparently, they chose their cabin location well.

Reader Resources

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Big Sky Log Construction, (406) 370-4280.