Building The Branch in 2021 was a challenge, to say the least. Originally meant to be our second Benezette cabin, we always pictured building it immediately following the launch of The Sapling. But then, 2020. We were shut down from March to May, basically, and so we needed to watch our expenses closely. That meant The Branch was on hold until we knew where the world was headed.
By October of 2020, we had decided that enough people still wanted to get out and explore and what better place to do that then in Benezette. Plus, being right on Winslow Hill Road, across from The Elk Country Visitor Center, The Branch was perfectly located for viewing Pennsylvania’s elk herd year round.
The concrete pad was poured and we were feeling good about the project. And then we ordered the lumber for framing and the trusses. The costs for these materials were double what we had paid for The Sapling, which was a real kick in the pants, but the show must go on.
Jeremy, his dad, Steve, and our friend and neighbor, Brian got The Branch framed up, under cover and prewired in just a few short weeks from the concrete curing. We called to order the doors and windows, and found out that it would be upwards of 12 weeks for their arrival. Luckily, we had The Willow to keep us busy while we waited, if you haven’t read about our renovations there, check out this blog post.
Doors and windows finally arrived mid-March of 2021 and we were back at it (and also still finalizing The Willow). We got the rest of the interior walls framed and insulated the whole thing. We were ordering siding for The Willow in late March and were quoted a 12 week lead time on the color I had chosen. So, we decided to get it on order for The Branch too. I had multiple colors picked out, just in case there were lead time issues, but in the end, they had my first choice in stock! They just had to pull the pieces from multiple stores (which, they did without a hitch!).
Having primed and painted all of our other projects by hand, we knew that with the blank slate of a new build, a sprayer would make quick work of priming the fresh drywall. So while Jeremy installed our blue siding outside, I sprayed primer in the whole cabin. That. was. fun!
I did choose to paint by hand, since we leave the ceilings white in our cabins. When I cut in the green for the kitchen and main living area, I was a little concerned with how dark the color was. In the end, I loved it. It was rich, soothing and instantly made me feel like I was cocooned in warmth. It was exactly how we wanted guests to feel when they walked in to The Branch.
The Branch features one dark wood accent wall, which required quite a bit of staining. It was May by the time we were ready for the wood so I was able to do this outside.
We knew we’d have The Branch ready for ‘the rut’ and started taking reservations in June. We were overwhelmed with how many guests made reservations without even seeing completed photos of The Branch! It made us proud that the work we had put into The Sapling gave us a reputation that folks could trust for their Benezette vacation! We were set to welcome our first cabin guests for Labor Day weekend. But, because I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, I wanted to give one of our long time guests (who had missed her shot to get a reservation during rut) the opportunity to do a dry run for us a week sooner.
It turned out I had forgotten to tell Jeremy about our earlier guests until 2 days before they checked in (whoops!). We worked until 1 in the morning the day of our test run. There were still a handful of things to finish up in the daylight, so when our guests arrived early (Jeez, Cindy), the water to the cabin had still not been turned on or tested. Luckily, Jeremy does quality work and everything functioned exactly as it should for the test run stay.
When our first official guests stayed at The Branch the next weekend, they did need to adjust the float in the toilet to keep it from running (Thanks Karen & Al’s nephew!). I think they liked it though, because they’ve been back every year since then!
When I look back at building The Branch, I remember just how crazy I thought we were. The costs were ridiculous, the lead times were insane and the days were long. Coupling new construction with a renovation was certainly not the original plan, but we love how it turned out and we are thrilled to share our hard work with new and returning guests year after year.