A Log Cabin Dream in the Poconos
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A Log Cabin Dream in the Poconos

After purchasing a small fixer-upper cabin, this family ultimately decided to build a new log cabin. Now, they're living the log cabin dream in Pennsylvania.

Story & Photos by Joe Caruso
For 40 years, my wife Suzanne’s family vacationed on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountain region of northeast Pennsylvania. Her parents rented the same cabin on the lake for two weeks every summer. After Suzanne and I married, we continued the tradition and returned to the lake for the annual family vacation. Eventually, we had two children, Jamie and Jenny. They love being at the lake just like their parents. During our vacation, I would spend a day looking at properties in the area with local real estate agents. In 2002, a Realtor contacted me about a lakefront cabin that was just listed, and described the property as being “a beautiful and private lakefront lot, but the cabin needs a little work.”

A Fixer-Upper Cabin

In reality, the cabin was in such a state of disrepair – having stood vacant for seven years, except for critters – that Suzanne would not even get out of the car to look at it, saying “this place is an embarrassment,” and that the trip to see it was “a waste of her time.” Needless to say, I needed every bit of my sales skills to get Suzanne to support my desire to buy the cabin. After totally gutting and renovating the cabin, it became very popular with family and friends. Unfortunately, the 800-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath cabin wasn’t very conducive for entertaining. So, Suzanne and I started to consider our options, which included expanding our cabin, building new or relocating to another place on the lake. We even considered purchasing the cabin where Suzanne’s family vacationed for 40 years.

Log Cabin Dreaming

In the spring of 2008, I picked up a log cabin magazine, and a light bulb flashed on. That started a chain of events that would ultimately consume us for the next two-and-a-half years. We began scouring various log and cabin magazines, books and websites. To find out if our dream was financially viable, we attended log cabin consumer shows and open houses and talked to as many log cabin companies as possible across the entire country.
Through all that, we developed a preliminary specification that included a floor plan, log sizes, corner types, square footage and design requirements in order to get budgetary estimates from about 10 log cabin companies. After evaluating all the companies’ quotes, design options, construction techniques and log home manufacturers’ value propositions, we selected Estemerwalt Log Homes (Honesdale, Penn.). We broke ground on the construction of our new log cabin in September 2010. We designed a five-bedroom, four-bath log cabin as a year-round, permanent residence. In the near term, we are using it as a weekend retreat and summer vacation place.
Nowadays, Suzanne doesn’t want to leave the cabin. She calls it “My happy place,” and says she feels like a different person when she is there.

Cabin Life on the Lake

Life on Lake Wallenpaupack is fantastic! It’s slower paced than our regular life, relaxing, an escape, refreshing, rejuvenating and exhilarating! There is much to do for fun and recreation that specific activities depend on the season, our mind set and if guest or family members are visiting. During the non-summer months, Suzanne and I use our cabin as a weekend escape to relax and recharge our batteries. A typical weekend includes afternoon walks on lakeside trails or on nearby nature trails with our two dogs (King Charles Cavalier spaniels) and sometimes with our lake neighbors. At night, Suzanne and I cuddle up to the fire and read books or watch movies.
During the summer, Suzanne lives at the cabin full-time from the middle of June through Labor Day, during her time off from being a first grade teacher near our primary home in New Jersey. I join her as much as possible in the summer, depending on my work schedule. Daytime activities include walks, fishing, boating, waterskiing, riding our PWC, swimming, kayaking and golfing. Evenings are spent outside under the stars telling stories or listening to music by the campfire. Our summer schedule fills up quick, with a revolving door of family and friends.
We call the cabin, “The Bed & Breakfast” because once guests visits us, they want to come back again, summer after summer. It’s a challenge managing the schedule to keep a balance between relaxing on our own versus entertaining others, but it’s all good. Other nicknames for our cabin are “Camp Caruso” and “The Knotty Pine Cabin.” We have made wonderful memories there, and hope that continues for many more generations to come!

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