The Colorado Cabin

It all began about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when something like half of North America was covered a mile deep in ice. The sheer weight of all that ice caused it to creep slowly southward, pushing a 3000 foot high pile of soil and rocks along in front of it. As the climate changed, the ice began to retreat, leaving a moraine stretching from the front range of the Rocky Mountains eastward for some fifty miles. A combination of the sandy soil and Pikes Peak generating heavy rains and snow, dumping up to twice the normal amount of moisture, provided an ideal growing environment for Ponderosa Pine trees. As settlers moved westward toward the mountains, the area was known simply as "The Pinery" providing a continuing supply of lumber. It was around World War I when the local residents began to refer to the area as Black Forest due to the dark color of the trees.

My first trip to Black Forest, Colorado was in 1970 when I went there to fly gliders in the strange atmospheric phenomena called a Mountain Wave generated by winds blowing over Pikes Peak. It was my second or third trip there when I was driving along the dirt road into the trees to a restaurant and bar known as "The Fox In The Forest" and spotted a small sign advertising a lot for sale.

The idea of a mountain cabin had been flitting through my mind for a number of years, so I gave the owner a call. He said it was an acre in size, 200 feet facing the road and 240 feet deep and he wanted two thousand dollars for it. I mentioned the property to a local pilot who was in real estate and he said that no matter what I had to pay for land in the forest, it would be a bargain in five years. I called the owner and we made a deal over the phone. I was about forty-five and retirement was so far in the future that I often wondered about the wisdom of buying the land. Little did I know that in only a few short years I'd find myself retired on disability.

Even though the land was located outside of an incorporated city, I still had to deal with the bureaucracy of the county building, land use and zoning offices when it came to getting building permits so I could begin construction. The only good thing about the endless delays and paper work, the ground was covered in snow and it was too cold to begin construction. That also gave me time to design the house and establish contacts with the various contractors I would need. We lived in Amarillo, Texas at the time and I was having to travel the 365 miles every two or three weeks. It was the first of May of 1978 when the driveway was cut and the location for the house leveled. It was a big step forward just being able to drive onto the property. All I'd been able to do up to this point was walk around through the trees.

The first contract was with a company to run the foundation and I left the plans with him. When I arrived two weeks later, his crew was just knocking the forms off the foundation and the first thing I spotted was they had run it rotated 90 from the way the house was supposed to face. I gave him a choice, he could break out the jack hammers and do it over or drive away without getting paid. He took the latter and it was back to the drawing board for me. While the floor plan remained the same, there was a total change in the design of the house. In retrospect, the results fit the area much better with the changes.

I'd been dealing with various craftsmen as the manager of the home remodeling department when I was working for Sears so I acted as the prime contractor on the job. I hired crews to do the heavy work like framing, siding and later the drywall and painting. I did the more labor-intensive jobs like electrical, plumbing, heating and interior trim. We officially moved in on December 20, 1978.

The footprint of the house was 28' x 36' giving 1008 square feet of floorspace downstairs where the front half of the house was living and dining area with a 20' high cathedral ceiling. The downstairs was two bedrooms with two full bathrooms. The upstairs area over the bedrooms was a sleeping deck plus a room which became my office and darkroom so I could process my own photos. The total square footage was 1340.

Once the house was built, I was able to do the things I'd always wanted to do like writing, photography, flying and traveling. As a diversion from writing, I worked part time at the gliderport as a towpilot and glider instructor which allowed me to fly gliders as much as I wished. I also delivered airplanes which resulted in some interesting trips.

Situated at 8,000 feet elevation provided crisp nights and mild days in the summer. In order to escape the several feet of snow that came each winter, we spent most of our winters traveling in a motorhome, usually to Baja, Mexico.

Urban encroachment and loss of airspace spelled the end of our reasons for moving there so we sold the house in 1986 and hit the highways in the motorhome. For the next two years, our address was where we were parked. I had no living relatives other than our kids who were scattered in Texas, California and one remained in Colorado Springs. We ended our nomadic odyssey in Moore, Oklahoma so my wife could be near one of her sisters.

Click the photos for a larger view.

Winter pix: House and shed with snow.

Black Forest House  Shed Click here for a story about this shed.

Summer pix: Exterior and interiors

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