Trail Blazing 101
Real men live off the grid, step lightly, and carry a Husqvarna… right?
HOLD IT… My wife would totally disagree with me on that one.
She’s the one holding the chainsaw!
Here’s a glimpse into our very first day handling our new chainsaw.
Notice I’m behind the lens and not the saw?
It’s for a pretty embarrassing reason.
I’ve never used a chainsaw before.
So what’s a good off gridder to do?
Watch a bunch of YouTube videos and… let my wife go first.
If you’ve wielded an axe, chainsaw, hatchet or buck saw in the past then this post is for you.
If you’ve never used any of those before… this post is for you.
We've Got An Axe To Grind!
FACT: Everything looks way easier on TV than it actually is in real life.
Our new favorite show Building Off Grid Grid is helping inspire a new generation of folks to build their own off grid home.
Want To See The Entire Cabin Build Instructions & Costs?YES, Show me it all!
Whether it’s a tiny house, cottage, weekend getaway or a cabin like ours this show will definitely get you motivated!
And it’s not just about building the homes either.
We’ve seen several episodes that begin with folks purchasing virgin ground and walk you through the process of clearing the land overnight and putting in access roads over a weekend. Heck it almost looks fun and easy.
We laughed about how we were going to blaze our own trail through the woods, 650ft, with our axe and buck saw during commercial breaks.
Let me preface this post by saying…
Who ever said trailblazing was fun and easy has either never done it before or paid someone else a lot of money to do it!
It’s official, we’ve started cutting a 650ft path though our 3.5 acres of dense Canadian Boreal Forest. And of course we did it by hand.
It’s been months in the planning and finally we’re ready to begin.
Getting Started Trail Blazing!
Well, the morning arrived and spent the first few hours chopping at trees, hacking away at brush with our hand tools and ungracefully tripping over every root and fallen log we came across.
I can hear the Paul Bunyan’s of the world right now…
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!”
We lasted all of two and a half hours, went through four liters of water, had a long lasting argument with a tree stump and used up three band-aids from our new first aid kit.
We need to really rethink this whole trailblazing by hand thing!
The Trail We Need To Trailblaze
Lots of people have asked us to share the details of where we’re building the off grid cabin as well as what kind of wooded property we’re dealing with.
So here you can see the trail in purple that we need to blaze. Our property is a total of 3.5 acres and is really quite an awkward layout to work with.
It is a total length of 664ft from the top of Hidden Lane (that’s the “L” shaped 574ft dirt road that comes with our property) all the way down to the cabin build site.
Below is a panoramic view of the off grid cabin build site BEFORE we started trail blazing.
Click the photos for a closer look.
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.
We’ll explain why we couldn’t get one to “just drive down there” shortly, keep reading.
We wandered through approximately 12 acres, all of which led down to the waterfront. We really wanted a lakeside cabin and these four properties all had lakefront access. However each property had pros and cons.
TIP: Orientation is critical if you’re thinking of putting up a roof-top solar system like us.
The best part about the 3.5 acres we eventually bought was that we got it for half price.
This was all because of a ridiculous typo the selling real estate agent made in the online write up for the property.
You can learn more about how we got our cheap off grid land here
Here's Our Plan For Trail Blazing
We wanted to take full advantage of the waterfront are of our property.
But to get there we needed to thread our way through the narrow property lines and ensure that an excavator could get through it as well without touching the adjacent property lines.
TIP: Google earth makes it incredibly simple to map out your property. Provided the satellites have done a recent fly by over your property. Chances nowadays are good that they have.
We go into greater detail of exactly how we used Google earth, an online real estate app and our cell phones to precisely locate our property markers. this was critical in marking the trail that we wanted to blaze. You can read more about how we did it here.
I’ll be the first to admit that we really underestimated the whole blazing the trail by hand. It seemed it might take just a day or so with our new hand tools.
Definitely this was not the outcome for us.
To be clear, the road builder who was going to put in our gravel road (from the top of Hidden Lane to the build site) needed a narrow trail to follow to ensure his excavator operator did not go outside the narrow lines of our property.
The Trail blazing Tools We Used
We began clearing out the area where the cabin will be built using nothing more than a couple hand tools.
Please note: many of these links below are affiliate links, so when you purchase any of these items through the links on this page, we will receive a small commission that is used to help keep The Off Grid Cabin running. We’ve found that Amazon has excellent product descriptions, detailed personal reviews, and some of the lowest prices available.
These are all products that we either personally own, use or support and if you purchase items through these links, you have our sincere thanks!
The Ultimate List Of Must Have Off Grid Tools
We’ve crafted for you a most detailed tools list and broken it all down into six sections.
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.
Never go out onto your property un-prepared no matter how big or small your property. Or based on how close it might be to the nearest road to civilization. And above all don’t go out unprepared thinking your expertise will save you.
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 firewood in the woods is bring a 2-way radio.
We found the BEST one for our needs here at the cabin is the Midland – GXT1000VP4.
This particular model had 50 channels, is a full GMRS two-way radio, has up to a 36 mile range, is waterproof, and has the NOAA weather scan plus alert.
By now you know that it took us only a few swings of the axe and a few hacks with the hatchet before we realize the sheer magnitude of this trail.
This wasn’t something we were going to get done within our 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 roads we did.
Now that’s not to say you can’t clear your own land by hand. In fact, it can be very satisfying. It’s definitely great exercise and can save a ton of money vs using only heavy equipment.
Our issue is that we had a very strict timeline that we needed to have the land cleared by so that our road builder could get in his equipment and start the road.
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 Chainsaw
So after those initial few hours of swinging the 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!
This is where our Husqvarna 240 14-in 38cc Chainsaw finally came into play.
We’ve now had it for over two years and it’s as good as the day we got it.
I love that it’s a smaller saw making it fairly lightweight and has a very little vibration.
TIP: Keeping your blade sharp will extend the life both the chain and the saw.
A sharp chain will cut quicker and more straight than one that’s dull. Another perk of a shark chain is that it uses less fuel.
You can’t be without blade sharpening kit and this is the one we’ve found does the trick for us.
Husqvarna Chainsaw Blade File Kit
The saw made the first 100ft we blazed by hand seem like unnecessary torture.
With the chainsaw we were able to cut a trail all the way from the build site up to the road in just over three days.
That would have taken months if he had gone with our original plan of doing it by hand.
However my wife “smiling” for the camera as we hacked away at the first 100 feet.
Gotta love her spirit and ambition.
Trail Blazing Conclusion
So far it’s been actually been a lot of fun blazing the trail with my wife.
We wanted the full “homesteader/off grid” experience and so far… we feel like we’re getting it.
We’re also excited to get our access road put in so that we can get the building materials delivered right down at the build site.
There’s something truly magical about creating a path through the woods that will forever be the access route to the home you built with your own two hands.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Trail Blazing part of our journey.
Ready To See Our Finished Trail?
So what do you think of our trail blazing techniques so far?
If you have some tips, advice, personal experience or an off grid trail blazing story of your own then please go ahead and share it below for everyone.
This phase of the build is pretty physically intensive and might not be for everyone.
Don’t worry… it gets easier from here!
P.S. You may have seen our other posts about the cabin but have you seen the entire build from start to finish? Check it out in our Building The Cabin section here.
REPIN and SHARE if your find it pin worthy.
Thanks for the great info. I have acerage in Lake George, Co. I have named it Serenity. Your story is always giving me good ideas. Thanks