Richard's Cabin

Richard Koontz is my cousin, the son of my aunt Dorothy Koontz and my mother's late brother Richard. He grew up in Vermilion, Ohio and we would see each other perhaps a few times a year. A couple years after high school he moved to Portland, Oregon. He now works at Portland State University in Facilities and Planning - Mechanical Systems and Energy Management. For years we have been hearing about his cabin on Tahkenitch Lake. In planning for this trip to Seattle, Richard and I talked and it worked out for him to have me visit the weekend after my business activity (which was preceded by several days with daughter Jennie and Adele).

So on the last Friday morning of February 2009 we drove from Richard's home in Sherwood, OR, just south of Portland, about 3-1/2 hours to Tahkenitch Lake, right on the Pacific Ocean coast about 12 miles south of Florence, OR.

The image below is from GoogleEarth and shows the layout of the lake. The horizontal white line is 0.9 mile long and the right end is just off US Highway 101 that follows the Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada. Coordinates of the marker pin are 43°47'59.03"N and 124° 7'54.95"W.

Once at Tahkenitch Lake, we parked at a small dock area where Richard has contracted for parking and dock use. When we first arrived, we saw five otters playing in the dock area and they were soon on their way toward the dam across the highway. We unloaded Richard's vehicle and loaded his 18' StarCraft for the ride to the cabin.

The Johnson 88 hp two cycle engine came to life and we were soon on our way. There was no other boat traffic on the lake. Captain Koontz pointed out other cabins, the boat launches, and much more.

We saw a lot of cormorants perched on trees that had fallen into the lake (below). At the right of this photo is the first of many great blue herons that we saw over the weekend. Thousands of coots floated together in open water.

Richard had been a part owner of this older cabin for some years.

In late 2007, Richard and two partners built a new cabin on the lake, literally on the lake. The common construction technique is to build on floating logs. (Sometimes other floatation methods, such as plastic 55 gallon drums or styrofoam in concrete are used.) The following series of photos showing the construction process came from Richard.

The logs were first cabled together.

They poured short concrete posts on the logs to create a level plane. Then they attached 6 x 6 beams to the posts, connecting the logs.

Then 2 x 6 floor joists were placed on edge across the beams.

This was covered with treated tongue and groove plywood floor over an inch thick.

This provided a platform on which the walls were constructed and erected.

Back to the weekend. After five minutes or so in the boat, we turned a corner and saw the cabins.

The original cabin is on the right and the new one is center. The cabin on the left has another owner and is in need of work. The cabins are in a bit of a cove with a breakwall of logs that can be seen separating the slightly choppy lake surface from the calm surface in front of the cabins.

We tied up right in from of the new cabin and unloaded. The blue cooler kept us nourished for the weekend. Richard seems to have the packing down to a science.

The cabins are connected with a log walkway.

Some of the breakwater logs have been there for awhile. This tree is growing out of a log.

The first night was really clear. Loads of stars could be seen. But this also meant low temperatures, in the upper 30s. So the woodstove was closely attended and the cabin temperature was in the mid to upper 50s for the night. The fan on the top of the stove is an Eco-Fan. It has a small DC motor that is powered by a Peltier junction device, which converts temperature differential into electricity. Richard's coffee was brewing most of the time. We also used the stove for heating soup for meals and water for hot chocolate. The wood comes from harvesting floating logs from the lake and downed trees.

I had a sleeping bag and a couple covers that I didn't need. Richard's partner Steve had purchased two sets of springs and mattresses from a motel and Richard built the bed frames. The bedrooms are set up with 12 volt DC ceiling lights and wall mounted adjustable lights which were great for reading. This was my view waking up. Note the two ducks gliding along in the center.

The toilet facility is an outhouse located a bit inland. While temporary, it is quite functional and offers a great view.

Saturday morning we met Steve at the dock. Steve had purchased a composting toilet and was delivering it.

We unpacked it and moved it into position beside the shower.

The water supply cames from a spring in the hillside and is gravity pressure. The alternative would be to pump water from the lake. Hot water for the shower, washing, etc. is heated by a propane fired instant water heater. This came from Chile and was purchased there by the third partner. An attractive feature is that ignition is powered by two D cell batteries, requiring no pilot light or AC power.

While Steve was with us, we explored the solar photovoltaic panel that Richard had purchased for charging the battery system. When the cabin was built, both 120 volt AC and 12 volt DC wiring were put in. Four 12 volt DC batteries, wired in parallel, sit in the loft. Before we got started, Richard wanted to vacuum some sawdust. For this he started up the Honda generator.

We unpacked the 130 watt Kyocera PV panel and hung it temporarily in front of the window. The orientation is not great, but we thought it could pick up some energy.

Richard read up on the charge controller he had purchased.

The yellow kayak is visible on the other side of the wood stove pipe. Much of the loft has good headroom. Richard found enough wire of a size to carry the 8 amp short circuit current of the PV panel and we wired the charge controller between the panel and the batteries.

Behind the charge controller is a small automotive battery charger that works when the generator is running. The box closest to the battery is a 12 volt cigarette lighter style receptacle that we also added. We bought it in Florence on the way to the cabin. I carry a small automative power inverter and soon had it plugged into this receptacle with an extension cord running down to the living area to power my computer and charge our mobile phones. With the Verizon card, we had Internet access.

After taking Steve back to the dock, Richard took me across the road to the dam that creates this lake. The sandy hillside on the other side is the start of sand dunes that continue on to the ocean, less than one mile to the west.

Beside the dam is a fish ladder to accommodate the salmon trying to work their way upstream. It has two parts, the actual ladder on the right and resting cells on the left.

We didn't have time to walk to the ocean, but could just see it on the horizon.

On the way back to the cabin, Richard gave me a tour of the lake. Trains no longer use the track.

This turning bridge was built in 1917. How it was turned was not obvious. We stopped at another cabin so Richard could check on things for the owner. A small island in the middle of the lake is privately owned.

We enjoyed a good dinner Saturday evening and the night was not so cold.

We packed in the morning and were on the lake by around 10:30. I was scheduled to pick up Jennie and Adele at the Seattle airport that evening and there were many miles to go.

The sadness felt when we pulled away Sunday morning I accept as a sign that a longer return visit is in my future.

We timed our departure to leave a little time to stop to visit Mike, Richard's brother. Mike lives outside Dayton, OR and has a lawn care business.

Mike is also a talented wood carver. Here is one of the ducks he carved.

We arrived back at Richard's home just in time to transfer things from his vehicle to mine. This photo shows the new addition to his home, to the left of the wreath beside the front door.

The drive to Seattle was filled with great memories of the weekend.

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