Log Homes Illustrated - March 2005
Roger and Kathryn Wirth did not necessarily intend
to build a log home when they set out on their quest to establish a
quiet place where thy could escape the pressures of their law
practices in Boulder City, Nevada, and perhaps eventually
retire. All they knew for sure was that they wanted a large
parcel of secluded land. They found just that when they
responded to an ad regarding property for sale east of Kingman,
Arizona, and purchased a portion of a ranch that was being
Their newly acquired 47 acres consisted of rolling hills on the
edge of Cottonwood Mountains in northern Arizona. Intending
to build a home that would fit in with the natural environment, and
they began to search the Internet and peruse magazines for ideas to
find something they felt had a connection to Arizona.
Although pinion and juniper trees abounded, the couple did not
think this high desert land had the feel that would lend itself to
a home constructed of round logs, which they associated more with
mountain settings. After considerable research, they selected
the square log package offered by Expedition Log Homes.
Expedition's square-cut half-logs feature a planed front with top
and bottom draw knifed edges, giving as much depth to the log's
appearance as if it were a full log.
The Wirths were crystal clear about their vision for their
vacation home. To take advantage of the magnificent vistas,
yet be protected from the wind that can and does blow from any
direction, they planned for covered and double-decked porches that
wrapped around the home. "We also wanted an abundance of
windows, vaulted ceilings and a loft bedroom." Roger says.
After reviewing their specifications, Expedition's design team
recommended that the Wirths engage architect Tom Terry of
Distinctive Homes in Prescott, Arizona. Tom took Expedition's
designs and made the necessary adjustments so that the home would
suit its distinctive site. Dan Rotvold, owner of Rotvold
Construction Company and a dealer for Expedition Log Homes in
the Southwest, shared general contractor duties with the
Built using conventional framing, the home features half-log
square timbers attached to both the exterior and interior
walls. Round log accents add architectural appeal.
"The home comprises 2,300 square feet on its main
and loft levels, with an additional 1,400 square feet in the
basement. The main floor features the great room, dining
area, kitchen with pantry, garden room, two guest bedrooms and one
bath and a laundry room off of the back porch. The loft is
reserved for the couple's private use, accommodating their master
bedroom and bath and a study over-looking the great room. The
daylight walkout basement, typical of many Arizona residences,
includes a guest bedroom and a bath, a root cellar, and a
recreational room complete with a pinball machine and table
Several features in this home add to the preventive maintenance
of the logs. Extended overhangs and wrap-around porches, for
example, protect the logs beneath them from the wear and tear of
the Arizona sun. Also, the view-end gable is almost
completely glass, reducing the amount of log work on the southeast
Because the Wirths' building site is 40 miles from the nearest
town, finding construction workers willing to travel that far was
difficult. Fortunately, Roger had supported himself through
college and law school as a carpenter and felt as comfortable in a
workshop as he is in a courtroom. Besides performing general
contractor duties, he installed all of the cabinets and completed
the rockwork around the kitchen bar and the exterior
foundation. He also assisted hanging the drywall, which he
and Kathryn textured to give a classic plaster appearance.
Together, the couple built their freestanding, one-car garage out
of 2-by-6 tongue-and-groove pine. "All in all," he recalls,
"it was very rewarding to be tired at the end of the day, knowing
we had a hand in creating our new home."
The Wirths chose Pella double-hung windows to provide the ranch
look they hoped to achieve. This style is also more suitable
than casement windows, which Roger says can get in the way of
furniture or traffic flow on the deck or patio areas when they are
open. "this type of window works very well in our area," he
explains. "We are able to open the windows from either the
top or bottom to regulate the amount of air flow."
For the floors, Dan suggesting using ponderosa pine tongue and
groove in lengths varying from 2-by-4 to 2-by-8 to create a
distinctive pattern for the floors. This one layer serves as
both the sub floor and finished floor. Overhead, the ceilings
were finished with 1-by-6 knotty pine, also tongue and groove.
When selecting new furnishings, the Wirths included those that
would exemplify the earthiness of the home and its
surroundings. They opted for a casual style, which they label
"comfortable rusticness." Their log package from Expedition
Log Homes included $1,000 credit toward furniture form Moosehead
Rail & Log Company. Roger and Kathryn used it to buy
The remoteness of their property resulted in the home's being
four miles off the local power grid. They took advantage of
the abundant sun and wind to power, installing solar panels and a
wind generator from Arizona Solar and Wind on the garage. A
propane generator serves as a back-up during the cloudy winter
holiday season when they host family and friends at the ranch.
As this portion of Arizona is classified as semi-arid, the
Wirths are endeavoring to restore the property's natural
appearance, using vegetation that can thrive on the average annual
rainfall of 15 inches. Besides adding cottonwood trees to the
existing pinions and junipers, Roger is experimenting with other
plants, although he points out that no matter what he tries to
grow, even if it is supposed to be less than appealing to rabbits,
they will eat it anyway.
One of the Wirths' favorite activities is hiking, especially
up Elk Hill on the western edge of their property. To
reach it, they must first climb down 160 feet to willow Creek,
which runs through their property, and then up the mountain.
"on our outings, we often find the skeletal remains of ancient
juniper trees, which are very picturesque as they darken over the
years." Rogers says.
The couple named their vacation home Cliffrose Ranch, after a
common shrub with a yellow spring flower native to northern
Arizona. Cliffrose also happens to be one of the favorite
lodges, located just outside of Zion National Park.
To appreciate their new home even more fully, Roger and Kathryn
just completed a year's sabbatical from their law practices to
spend time at their ranch. "the whole process has been a
challenge to be able to complete all of the work involved," Kathryn
says. "it also has been very fun and exciting."