Sometimes a little R&R is just what the doctor ordered — even if that reprieve is only about 15 minutes down the road. Gregg Harding’s 560-square-foot getaway is just a quick jaunt from Cumberland, Maryland, where he and his wife, Sharon, primarily reside, but for him and his family, it feels like a world apart.
“I can drive 18 miles in 15 minutes and never see anybody,” he explains.
“Hidden Spring Farm,” as the cabin is called for the spring that runs through the property, sits on 13.6 acres of land at the base of Wills Mountain in the Appalachian Mountain range near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Gregg had a specific set of requirements for his cabin property — namely that it was private property set against game land with no neighbors — and went searching for the perfect parcel in local property records. He found one adjacent to 10,000 acres of Pennsylvania gaming grounds and made the owner, a woman in Michigan who had inherited the land from her father, an offer of $25,000 that she was willing to accept.
In addition to fitting all of his lifestyle criteria, Gregg found another reason to believe he really had struck property gold.
“I was so lucky — I didn’t know there was [an unused septic system],” he recalls, noting that installation probably would have cost another $20,000. “Then I drilled a well, which turned out to be an artesian well, which will run forever.”
A few years after retiring from his position as an ultrasound technician at a nearby hospital in 2004, Gregg had begun to work with local Mennonite community members tearing down barns for lumber. This relationship proved fruitful as he began to look for materials for his cabin: The stud frame, T1-11 siding and interior wood finishes (such as the No. 2 pine tongue-and-groove ceiling and wide-plank flooring) were all sourced from the community at affordable prices. The 14-by-40-foot building, comprising the shell and siding, was delivered to the site in August 2010, and Gregg worked diligently throughout the next six months to finish it.
“I’ve always liked to work with my hands,” says the amateur furniture maker, completing about 90 percent of the work on the cabin himself, including the design. “It is a hunting cabin, but I’m so over the top, it had to be perfect. I just really wanted it to look good.”
The cabin includes a master bedroom, bunk room, full bathroom, kitchen and great room, as well as a small ladder-accessible sleeping loft above the main living area, under a tin roof that Gregg installed himself. The 8-foot walls feature drywall and board-and-batten siding that Gregg trimmed with 2-by-4 timbers. The interior walls are beamed with matching wood.
Gregg’s handiwork extended to the cabin’s furnishings as well, with many crafted from his various antique finds. For example, the kitchen bar is an old general store cupboard with a new countertop cut to fit. Unique collectibles, such as a series of old game prints and 1960s trapping magazines, and hunting trophies adorn the walls to set the right tone for this getaway.
“I always have to have something no one else has,” he explains.
Overall, Gregg estimates the entire cabin cost less than $15,000 to construct and furnish, minus the well and septic, and only about $20 a month in electric bills and taxes. Eventually, the property may also include another cabin to serve as his and Sharon’s primary retirement home, with this building available to their children and extended family as a guesthouse. But for now, it’s a testament to his dedication to create the ideal hunting cabin within a reasonable budget.
“In this world of cost, cost and more cost, I just wanted to show what can really be done on a shoestring income,” he says. “As bad as things are, you can build your own little getaway.”
Square footage: 560
Builder: Shawnee Structures (866-631-4799; shawneestructures.com)
Cabinets: antique cupboards
Countertops: antique stone base covered with pine (built by homeowner)
Doors; windows: part of original stud-framed structure
Roofing: Kauffman Metals (814-623-6044; kauffmanmetals.com)