|OFF THE GRID|
|January 12, 2005 12:00 am|
Pilot story and photos
by Ruby V. Ayers
In 1984, Clay and Sandra Brugger looked at 35 acres of old- and second-growth timber 18 miles up the Chetco River and asked themselves how they could build without access to electricity.
A myriad of thoughts ran through their minds, the Bruggers said: "How will we get power to the property? There is no power in the area. How will we get phone service where there is none? Can we overcome these obstacles?"
As they stood there contemplating the possibilities, a vision and a dream unfolded building a bed and breakfast inn and ultimately a lodge. The Bruggers said it could be a place that could provide a business which would use their training and skills, yet not be too demanding and burdensome.
They decided to go for it. They sold their home in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California and bought the property that would become Chetco River Inn and Lavender Farm.
"We were now ready to make major changes in our lives," Sandra said. "Our two children were now grown. Dan, our son was now in college. Holly our daughter had completed her education."
The Chetco River property was not unfamiliar to Clay and Dan because they had been to this area many times on fishing trips. It was one of their favorite places.
It was during one of their trips that Clay inquired about available properties with a local real estate agent. They were shown this parcel. The old homestead had burnt down with only the fireplace and chimney remaining. The road into the property was almost impassable.
The Bruggers had developed skills that prepared them for this challenge. Sandra had majored in home economics and had taught for many years. She had taken various specialized courses in the culinary arts, training her to become a chef.
Clay had worked for more than 30 years as a general contractor in the San Francisco Bay area. He had tackled many difficult jobs, but this one was unique. He would need to draw upon all the skills and resources he had developed and uncover ones he did not know were there.
The Bruggers developed the inn to be environmentally sensitive and to coexist peacefully with its natural surroundings.
Solar and wind power
Clay set up solar panels on the inn, shed and home. He has a wind generator that is located on the highest point of their property. He has it set up to switch automatically between solar and wind as needed.
Clay advises that anyone who lives on the power grid should "Buy a primary generator and not a standby. The manufacturer will not stand by the warranty with a standby generator. Also, use larger wire sizes than you think you need, for the electrical circuitry. One will later always be adding on, remodeling. "
"I have two 110 inverters and stack them to have 220 (volt) power. It is more efficient than having one inverter with a step up/step down transformer to get 110/220 power. All power comes into an inverter and out of the inverter to the house circuit breaker. The windmill makes wild three-phase current, which goes into a rectifier by our personal home on the higher part of our land. The rectifier makes 48 volt (direct current), which goes into batteries, then goes into the inverter making 110 or 220 volt," Clay said.
"The phone service is provided via a cell phone. I installed a high antenna to receive the signals from a repeater station. The calls come into a smart box' that allowed me to install extension phones throughout the lodge," Clay said.
Water from the ground
"The well produced water at 32 feet deep. The water has excellent taste with no impurities," Clay said. "The lodge is far above habitats, so there is nothing to pollute the water source. The water is tested regularly; no chlorine is needed."
A satellite system provides computer access to the Internet.
The inn was designed by an architect from Houston, Texas. It has five bedrooms and five full baths. There is a private cabin.
"Twelve to 16 guests can be served comfortably," Sandra said. "There is ample space for large gatherings such as weddings, family reunions and business retreats in the great room."
The towering vaulted cedar ceiling gives a spacious feeling. The second story bedrooms have an open staircase and railing to look into the great room. One bedroom and bath are on the main level.
The river stone fireplace is an accent to the cedar used to build the lodge. The great room and bedrooms are appointed with antiques and fine furniture.
The kitchen, open to the common rooms, is where Sandra bakes the gourmet breads, scones, cookies and biscotti.
Guests can watch as the specialty "Dutch Baby" pancakes are prepared. Breakfasts also include orange juice, melons, apple chicken sausage (from Harbor Meats), coffee and tea. The fresh eggs are provided by their chickens. Evening meals can be arranged by request.
Surrounding the inn are an an abundance of herbs and flowers. A field of lavender where the bees gorge themselves covers part of the property. The cutting season for the lavender fields runs from June to October.
Bee hives provide fresh honey.
The inn is accessed by traveling up North Bank Chetco River Road, which becomes Forest Service Road 1376, for 18 miles. Watch for the sign after crossing the South Fork Bridge. All but the last mile of road is paved.