Tucked away in the woods: junior constructs log cabin

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Tucked away in the woods: junior constructs log cabin

The Southerner

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By Gracie White

Want to find a present-day version of Henry David Thoreau? Look no further than the halls of Grady. Lo- cated approximately six miles north of Highlands, N.C., the one-and-a- half story cabin, Junior Tucker Lan- caster’s “Walden Pond,” is equipped with a wrap-around porch, wavy clapboard siding and doors, windows and a roof made of reclaimed tin.

The cabin is built on a piece of land owned by Lancaster’s great aunt’s daughter who live in Louisi- ana. Despite distance in lineage and geography, Lancaster said when the husband, Chip Sloane, offered him the opportunity to use the land a few years ago, he quickly agreed.

The construction of the cabin was not a one-summer project. Instead, the process spanned three years of planning and preparation starting with clearing a portion of the wooded part of the property in the summer of 2010. The next summer, he began building the cabin. By the end of July, he laid the foundation: including the first and second floors, the framing of the walls and the groundwork for the future porch.

Lancaster said that some materials were a pain to transport; specifically, the 14 by 16 boards, the plywood and the doors gave him the most grief when he started construction. Along with the size and weight of these supplies, the actual haulage of them proved to be more difficult than he had originally planned.

“It was a long trip since I was transporting most of the materials from Atlanta in a small truck, plus driving on the winding roads in the mountains made the whole pro- cess pretty difficult,” Lancaster said. “But the hardest part was when we reached the point where we no longer had road access to the cabin and had to carry all the materials about 200 yards by hand to the site.”

Though he thoroughly enjoyed the entire process Lancaster said the past few months have been the most gratifying.

“This summer, we got to add all the finishing touches and were able to see everything come together,” Lancaster said. “After all the work we put into it, it was just really neat to see the final and finished product.”

Lancaster said the hardest part of construction was roofing, which took him several tries.

“The angles were all so difficult to work with, and I ended up guessing and checking with a lot of calculations,” Lancaster said. “It took more than a few tries to get the roof situated properly, but finally it all fell into place.”

The cabin itself does not have a bathroom, kitchen or indoor plumbing; however, Lancaster has provided viable alternatives. He was able to create a makeshift private outhouse because Sloane built a water system before Lancaster started developing the land. By tapping into a nearby stream and cistern with a series of pumps and a water heater, Lancaster built a shower and wash station.

“Tucker is a remarkable and extremely resourceful young man who has a knack for problem solving,” said Chris Paddock, a Grady parent who helped with construction. “He’s one of those people where if you drop him off in the middle of Alaska with a box of matches and hunting knife, he’d do just fine, and you definitely can’t say that about just anyone.”

Several times throughout the summer, Lancaster travelled up to the cabin and worked on it alone. He spent about a month total between separate trips by himself in the mountains, an experience he embraced and enjoyed.

“Most people ask me if I was scared to be in the woods alone at night, but it doesn’t really bother me,” Lancaster said. “I don’t psyche myself out; I’m comfortable in the woods. Once I had a scheduled daily routine for working on the cabin, there wasn’t much time to do anything but eat, sleep and build, let alone worry.”

His mother, Erica Lancaster, wasn’t quite as carefree about the whole idea.

“Even though he took the Wilder- ness First Responder course, I still worried about him,” she said. “I’m the reason he got the personal locater beacon — it’s similar to LifeAlert — because I was scared that with all the spotty cell service and utter isolation, he would hurt himself and not be able to find help.”

With the help of his family and a few family friends, Lancaster was able to construct the cabin on a relatively low budget. The bulk of the materials he used were reclaimed and therefore obtained at little to no cost.

“Our neighbor, Mike White, works in construction so we had access to a lot of material, like lumber, windows and doors that were going to be scrapped but instead went to us,” said Jim Lancaster, Tucker’s father. “It wasn’t expensive, an aspect lots of people find surprising.”

Though he had never taken on a project this complex before, Tucker Lancaster was no rookie and did the majority of the work by himself.

“As I gained more experience and skill, I started to really like construction, so when this opportunity presented itself, I took it.” he said. “I spent a couple summers doing something I love and now I, my friends and my family can enjoy it for a lifetime.”

The Sloane and Lancaster families plan to keep the cabin in the family, always available for a free, impromptu trip to the mountains.

“The fact that he built it is incredible,” Erica Lancaster said. “It’s not some shack, it’s a house that’s charming and has character.”

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