Back to nature: Living life on Naked Mountain

ADDRESS: Dutch Creek Hollow

ASKING: $675,000

SIZE: 1,000 fin. sq. ft., 108 acres



CURB APPEAL: 9 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Jim Bonner, Roy Wheeler Realty Co., 979-9200


Anticipation can make a journey feel much too long. Hairpin turns in strange territory make one acutely aware of details and landmarks. Thus, as the familiar terrain of Albemarle County gives way to the wilds of Nelson, each new house and tract of land holds a special attraction.


Prefabs (and that's not short for "pretty fabulous") dot the countryside, and lighted reindeer are permanent fixtures in front yards. Past Lovingston and on through Shipman, where route numbers jump to four digits and the mind starts playing tricks, the road curves ever deeper into the woods.


With the directions propped on the dashboard, finding this house actually isn't that difficult. You come upon it after winding along the edge of a mountain on a well-maintained gravel road past forests of trees and a babbling brook it's the only dwelling as far as the eye can see. And like the Gingerbread House of fairytales, it exudes a come-hither coziness. A small spiraling blue plume of smoke adds to the charm.


Tiny by today's colossal standards, this reconstructed 1800s log cabin undoubtedly in its former incarnation was home to many rustic generations. (Think Little House on the Prairie.) As the space opens up into one main room with a cheerful hearth fire, you can almost see the Ingalls family engaged in their pioneer activities. Almost.


The hand-hewn chestnut oak log walls, pine floors, and whitewashed ceiling are as close to authentic as one dares imagine. There are old windows, wrought iron hardware, and plaster– installed in the service of authenticitywhich completely seals out the howling wind. The living room is on one side of the big open 400-square-foot space, the kitchen on the other. Storage gets tucked under the stairs and seems ample considering that if this house sums up your living style, you probably haven't collected a lot of junk anyway.


Through the one interior door next to the stove, a fully functional utility space and a bedroom-sized bathroom await. Because we weren't expecting much, this room is a pleasant surprise. A stand-alone clawfoot tub and minimalist toilet continue the pioneer theme, but the shower stall with beautiful handmade tiles upgrades the space. A door leading outside could add a little al fresco to the bathing ritual come summertime.


Upstairs is one big lofty room. Again, the stairs split the space, allowing for two queen beds, an office corner, plenty of bookshelves, but no privacy. The modern addition of dormer windows floods the beds with natural light. And still, as the wind blows harder and the temperature drops, the entire house stays warm. Before modern apparatus and application, log homes often had gaping holes patched with sticks, papers– anything that was close at hand– but, thanks to wire mesh and plaster, these walls are now insulated and airtight.


Patched plaster notwithstanding, pioneering living these days still means not receiving more than one television station, so satellite service and internet access has been provided. But the real boon is the land– buy this house and become the owner of not one, but several mountains.


The current owner is selling 108 acres with the house, but she's retaining 560 more to ensure that within these boundaries the land will not change. The road through the hollow used to connect to Route 29, but it fell victim, like so much else, to Hurricane Camille. The few families living back here at that time decided that Nature had made her decision and left it as is.


Granted, the house is small. But someone's reasons for living here probably don't have much to do with furniture placement and displaying dishes in a sideboard. To retreat, to simplify, to enjoy (and you really have to enjoy) the great outdoors, to revel in untouched forest stretching as far as the eye can see, this land (and house) is plenty nice, and should suffice.