Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 25, 2009

Moving the Little Cabin by the Big River, and a few words about Hillbilly Ingenuity

I’ll start with Hillbilly Ingenuity.  It’s our expression for the ability to think beyond the box. Sometimes, the best way we can explain something is just by giving examples.  So, here it goes:


Last summer, we were up at our high country camp, and I was cooking breakfast over the fire.  Pancakes.  But I forgot to pack the spatula.  Have you ever tried to flip a pancake with a fork? The boys took a quick walk in the woods and returned with several thin and wide splits of spruce wood from a fallen green tree stump, and with just a little bit of whittling, they presented me with a variety of wooden spatulas and spoons.


Last week, Bob had a broken snowmobile.  He needed to get it from here to the pick up truck nearly 7 miles down the road, where he could then haul it to the repair shop.  How?  He found a piece of roofing tin, probably an old roof to an outhouse, which fit perfectly under the track of the snowmobile.  A bit of bailing wire attached the tin securely, and the snowmobile was able to be hauled out effortlessly, pulled with ease behind another snowmobile.  


Yesterday this skill was put to an extreme test.


We had to move a log cabin just over a quarter mile. Yes, a cabin. Just a small, one room cabin about 12 feet by 20 feet, built nearly 70 years ago out of large round logs. 




Last week was spent in preparation.  We converted the cabin into a giant sled.  By slowly lifting the old cabin with hydraulic jacks, we first raised the front end higher, blocking it with stacked fire wood. Then the back end.  Underneath, we crawled and screwed on used roofing from one of those old junk piles that I’m always complaining about.  In the front of the cabin, where the little porch was, we brought the tin roofing up and curved it around the front to really give it a feel, and hopefully function, of a toboggan.  When the “sled” was completed, we spread straw under the cabin (Bob figured that would create less resistance than the dirt that was under the cabin), and lowered the building onto low blocks, and packed snow around the sides and front so that when it was ready to slide, it would slide…


Bob then gathered cables that he had saved off an old irrigation sprinkler down in the valley – how many years ago?  Over a dozen.  They’ve been sitting coiled up in the “cargo line” unused for fourteen years, but he knew right where they were when he needed them, hanging up on some other piece of “junk” (I should find a better word…) up out of the snow.


He wrapped the cables around the building, held in place with plumbers strapping and nails. When I questioned if the cables would be strong enough to pull the weight of the old log cabin, Bob came up with a back up system of chains bolted to just the outside of the bottom logs up front to help distribute the weight.  Both the chains and the cables were arranged at equal pressure length in the front center of the cabin, ready to be hooked up and pulled away (in theory).


Our secret ingredient to this plan was the snowcat operator.  He’s the groomer for the local snowmobile club.  A little while back, Bob had mentioned he’d wondered if the operator might just be game to help us out with this “little project.”  He was.  I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into, but I sure appreciate that kind of spirit in a neighbor – someone willing to come help, even in this case, when you’re not sure how deep that puddle is you’re stepping into.


Bob met him yesterday morning, first up at our parking lot where the snowcat was unloaded, and then an hour later at our front gate when the big machine finally made it in.  Bob jumped into the snowcat with the operator, and took a ride down the property line to the location we had staked out to have the cabin placed.  This would not only help pack the track, but show the operator the beginnings of what he had got himself into.


Then we showed him the cabin.  The operator started by packing a good track in front of the little cabin, then backed up close to the cabin, which by now seemed to be dwarfing the little snowcat. Bob just chained his cable/chain combo onto the snowcat, and signaled to the operator to move ahead.


At this point, I held my breath.  Would the cables snap?  Would the chain give?  Would the old walls collapse?  Would the snowcat tip over?  Would nothing happen, and the cabin not budge at all?


But all that happened was the cabin moved forward, smooth sailing, and the operator pulled it (pretty quickly, I might add!) down the property line to its new location, on a bluff above the mighty Rio Grande.  The windows didn’t even crack.


Moving the log cabin, part 1

Moving the log cabin, part 1

Moving the log cabin, part 2

Moving the log cabin, part 2

Moving the log cabin, part 3

Moving the log cabin, part 3

Moving the log cabin, part 4

Moving the log cabin, part 4

Moving the log cabin, finally in its new location

Moving the log cabin, finally in its new location

That cabin was originally built by Bob’s grand dad, back probably around 1940. It’s just a little one room cabin, about 12 feet by 20 feet.  Although originally built as a rental cabin, for the past 34 years, it’s been known as Bob’s Cabin.  For years, it would be a place he could just sleep when up here visiting or working, then for years as additional room to store more “junk.”  Not too long ago, it was even used as our Honeymoon Suite… 


So, this cabin is very special to us. And now it sits in its new location. The little cabin by the big river.

PS – Thank you, Mr. Snowcat Operator!

PSS – Here’s my first attempt at uploading video onto YouTube, thanks to Forrest’s help.  These are links to videos of us moving the cabin. 



  1. That was really cool! i’m glad i got to watch it firsthand, but the youtube videos do it justice! Keep up the ingenuity!

  2. Great job wish I could have seen it in person,video was wonderful

  3. Thanks – wish you were here – we know you would have been as thrilled as we were!

  4. Hillbilly ingenuity or mountain madness??? How did you ever convince the snowcat operator to do it? Bet it took a lot of your great cookies. Instead of “junk”, how about calling it resources for recycling?
    The videos are great!

  5. That was incredible!. . .love the videos. What a beautiful new spot for the little cabin.

  6. You guys can think of more creative ways to do things….This makes the experience even more real for your readers. The videos turned out great!

  7. Thanks! It’s so neat to be able to share it with the video – they looked so funny to me, we just kept laughing. It was a very fun day.

  8. Guess keeping “junk” around is not such a bad idea. Problem is, I’d never know how to use it the way you do! The photos were fun, but the sound effects from the videos made it feel like I was actually there.

  9. Fascinating! I am amazed at how fast the snowcat moved the cabin! The videos were incredible–I could actually feel the energy of the move and it was nice to feel like I was at the ranch again! How far is the cabin from the river? It looks like it is really close–I can just hear it now!

  10. From the little front porch, you can hear the river rushing under the snow and ice, so I imagine in summer it will be glorious white noise! And from the little southern window, you can stare out over the bluff and down to the river, which now just appears as a white ripple of snow. It is going to be our new home someday… believe me, there’s a lot more to this story I can’t wait to share with you.

  11. It was a hoot. Forrest’s idea on sharing the video, of course, and a brilliant one!

  12. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story and see the cabin in person! (Might even want to take a pillow and sleeping bag down there one night while we’re there ;~) — of course, Forrest will probably already have made it into his “room” by then!

  13. Even if he has, you know our home is always open, and I know it’s going to be a beautiful place for a picnic or camp fire.

  14. […] above sea level and when we are dressed like the Michelin Man. It was a 20 minute mile down to the Little Cabin and back to the warm glow of our cabin, in a path like the coyote, rarely able to keep a straight […]

  15. […] our desire to keep it light… and portable.  Yes, portable.  We intend to skid this shed down by the Little Cabin by the Big River when foaling season is over… three or four more mares are due to foal after […]

  16. […] get on the ATV with him, drive down that new road we put in to the  Little Cabin by the Big River, and see that there’s this river forming, just along side the road, fortunately for the most part, […]

  17. […] working on the road down by the Little Cabin, I noticed a bluebird flying about the outside of the cabin.  I wonder if I am too late… I had […]

  18. […] housekeeping.  Sweeping up cob webs and chinking knocked from between the old logs during the Big Move.  We pull down old shelving and expose the weathered Spruce walls, opening up the past, the […]

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