Thomas J. Story
From the veranda of their cabin, all Patti and Neal Mitchell hear is the wind whistling through the pine trees c and, if they're lucky, one of the turkey-size grouses that live in the area. "Sometimes we'll also hear the screams of mountain lions or see the footprints of a bear we call Oscar," Neal says.
Their metal-clad cabin sits near Grouse Ridge in the Sierra Nevada, about 6,500 feet above sea level and about 30 miles from Nevada City, California. Its exterior design is simple and functional, since it must deal with heavy snow loads, provide fire resistance, and also be able to lock securely. Architect David Wright based its shape and metal surfaces on U.S. Forest Service maintenance buildings that dot the area.
The 980-square-foot structure is "off the grid," thanks to an array of photovoltaic panels that store the electricity in a series of heavy-duty batteries. A propane tank powers the stove, refrigerator, and a pump, while a woodstove heats the interior.