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  • Trail Blazing The Off Grid Cabin

Mission Impossible: Trail Blazing 101

Real Men live off the grid, step lightly, and carry a Husqvarna!

HOLD IT… My wife would disagree with me right there. Who am I to argue ūüėČ

Here’s a sketchy glimpse into out first day handling a chain saw. Notice I’m behind the lens and not the saw? It’s for a reason.

If you’ve wielded an axe, chain saw, hatchet or buck saw in the past year… then this post is for you!

We’ve got an Axe To Grind

[FACT] Every thing looks easier in the movies. Including trail blazing.

It’s official, we are cutting a path though 650 ft of dense Canadian Boreal Forest and we’re doing it by hand.¬†And by golly I’ll either do it… or die trying.¬†

It’s been months in the planning and finally, the process begun with the resounding roar of a Husqvarna in the middle of nowhere.

Russian, Scandinavia, Sweden, Finland, and Norway all feel my pain when I say cutting a swath through a dense forest IS NOT child’s play! We’ve been anxious since the day we bought our 3.5 acres of land, and ought our first chain saw to get to choppin. Well, the day is finally here and after a few hours of falling trees, hacking away at brush and tripping over every mushroom and root visible and invisible… ¬†I can’t wait for it to over.

I can hear the Paul Bunyan’s of the world right now…paul-bunyan

Psssffft… silly city slickers!

Did you know that we originally thought hey… “Let’s do this by hand. Let’s grab some gloves, a buck saw, some bear spray and a hatchet and blaze a trail!”

That lasted exactly 2.5 hours, 4 liters of water, 1 argument with a stump and 2 band-aids.

Trail Blazing 101

So… people have asked us to share the details of where we’re building the off grid cabin as well as what kind of forest we’re dealing with.

You got it…

So here you can see the trail in purple that we needed to blaze.

It‚Äôs 664ft from the top of Hidden Lane (that‚Äôs the “L” shaped 574 ft dirt road that came with our property) all the way down to the cabin build site.


Below is a panoramic view of the off gird cabin build site BEFORE¬†we started trail blazing. We ended up having to clear all the trees out by hand as there was no way to get an excavator down to the build site. There’s no road… yet!

We wandered around the 5+ acres near the water front for a few weeks prior to purchasing our land to find the best build site and orientation for the cabin. Orientation is critical if you’re thikning of putting on a roof-top soalr system like we are. The best part about the 3.5 acres we bought was that we actually got it for HALF PRICE because of a ridiculousd typo the real estate agent made in the write up for the property on-line. You can learn more about that here¬†http://theoffgridcabin.com/cheap-off-grid-land-for-half-price

The off gird cabin build site BEFORE trail blazing 1

The off gird cabin build site BEFORE trail blazing 2

The Off Grid Cabin Area

The Initial Trail Blazing Plan

Well, we really thought we could clear the trail, required to indicate to the road builder exactly where to build,  completely by hand.

And for the first hour or so, it seemed like a ‚Äúfun‚ÄĚ idea.‚Äô

Then by hour two… Yeah… no.

We began clearing out the area where the cabin will be built using nothing more than a buck saw, an axe, a bush axe, some pruning shears and some bear spray.


Look, I know better than anyone that if you go out into the woods ill prepared you better be ready for a Search & Rescue (SAR) team to show up, find you, and then FINE you.

I should know, I’ve plucked my share of stranded hikers, mountain climbers and even the odd homesteader off the ground and flown them to safety when I flew military helicopters

My point is…

Never go out onto your property un-prepared. Whether it be for a build project in the woods or even just a lengthy stroll around the area. Go prepared and you’ll be ready for anything. One of the things we do when one of us is out on the lake, down the road for a hike or just cutting down fire wood in the woods is bring a 2-way radio.

We found the BEST ones for our needs here at the cabin are the Uniden GMR5095-2CKHS Submersible Two Way Radio with Charger and Headset.

It took only a few swings of the axe and a few hacks with the hatchet to realize the shear magnitude of the build. This wasn’t something we were going to get done on a timeline. And it’s one of the reasons I started this website.¬†I’d prefer to open and honest about things I did wrong in the hopes that it prevents you from going down some of the same routes I did.

Now that’s not to say you can’t clear your own land by hand. In fact, it can be very satisfying, great exercise and save a lot of money (vs heavy equipment). Our issue is that we had a very strict timeline that we needed to have the land cleared by.

Stick with me and¬†we’ll show you how we have a ton of time and money with a couple incredible tools and some very smart building techniques.

Some Trail Blazing Equipment We Used

When you‚Äôre taking on a task like trail blazing with a chainsaw there‚Äôs a few things that you can’t be without. Can you use a chainsaw without safety equipment? Sure. Should you use a chainsaw without safety equipment? NO!¬†

Proper Safety Equipment and the tools to maintain your equipment.

  • Chainsaw Safety Chaps
  • Chainsaw maintenance kit
  • Leather gloves
  • Head and face protection
  • Eye protection
  • Oil/gas can combo
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone

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We have the Husqvarna 240 14-in 38cc Chainsaw and it has worked flawlessly for our needs. We’ve used it for over two years now and it’s still going as strong as the day we got it. I love that it’s light weight and has very low vibration levels.

Take care of your saw blade. Keeping it sharp will extend the life of your chain and the saw. It will cut more straight and a lot faster using less fuel and a sharp chain prevents binding which can get your bar stuck in the middle of a cut. You can’t be without a saw blade file kit and this is the one we have.

For smaller trees and saplings we used a Stanley 610mm mid sized bow saw.

For a great hand-tool that’s lightweight and does a phenomenal job on the small stuff we used a Fiskars brush axe.

Reality Check… We Needed A Chain Saw

So after those initial few hours of swinging the Fiskars Bush Axe, wielding a bow saw and clipping at saplings it was quite apparent we were not going to be living the pioneer lifestyle and blazing a trail by hand. Forget about that! 

So our folks got us an early Christmas gift. that was the new Husqvarna 240 X-Torq Chain Saw. That made the 100ft trail we blazed by hand look like a joke. We were able to blaze from the build site all the way up to the road in about three days. That would have taken three months by hand. Lesson learned.

Here‚Äôs my wife “smiling” for the camera we we hacked away at the build site by hand. Gotta love her spirit and ambition.


My wife ready, with good intentions of cutting 650ft of trees, stumps, shrubs and roots.



Stopping to take a break and just enjoying the silence of the sun!



We burned through 2 rolls of red trail tape to mark off the trail.



Hard to imagine this is where we’ll be building a 24ft X 20ft cabin!



The left overs of just the 40ft X 60 ft area that we’re clearing for the building area.



No chain saw in the world is going to get these stumps out!



We’re finally starting to see something of a trail!



Now… that’s something we can walk down every day!


The Trail to the Off Grid Cabin with Steve Barnes

Last day Trail Blazing… WHEW!

So far it’s been actually been a lot of fun and we are excited to get the road put in, get the building materials delivered and get started building.  

There’s something truly magical about creating your own path through the woods that will forever stand as the access route to your freedom and happiness. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Trail Blazing part of our journey and I hope to see you back again soon for the next phase!

Your Turn…

Share your thoughts on our build. Do you like what you see so far? if so give us a shout out and if not that’s ok too. This project might not be for everyone but we’re certain there are some things down the pipe that you WILL find incredibly interesting and revealing.

If you have some tips, advice, experience or an off grid trail blazing story of your own please share it below in the comments.

P.S. You may already be a subscriber but if not go ahead and subscribe here to that the next phase of the build is sent right to your in-box. so far we’ve had over 120k+ folks excited to see the next step and we hope you’re one of them.


We’ll see you back soon for the next phase ok!

Oh… and if you like the off grid lifestyle then you really ought to see a coupe of our most popular posts we’ve made so far.

Our Most Popular Posts

Are you familiar with Richard Proenneke? He hand built his own Alaskan off grid cabin and lived there for decades. Truly an incredible documentary that you can watch in full on our most popular posts page. Or a family of seven who are raising five young girls completely off grid.

Our Most Popular Posts

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The Off Grid cabin Trail blazing

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2017-03-14T11:53:23+00:00By |Building The Cabin|0 Comments

About the Author:

After being physically and mentally disabled by cancer a highly decorated Air force helicopter pilot overcame the odds to regain his health and began an off grid odyssey that has helped change the lives of thousands. During his recovery he launched The Off Grid Cabin and today over 1 million people have seen his posts and read his blog every month. Read Steve’s inspirational comeback story here.

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