Gettin’ and Splittin’!
Here at the Hiker Hostel, our guests are often curious about the “little shed on the hill”. We are often asked questions like, “Is that a meat smoker”? The quick and easy answer is: “No, it’s not a meat smoker”. The uncomplicated answer is: “No, it’s not a meat smoker; it’s a Heat Master Wood Furnace. It burns wood 24/7, provides heat for the hostel, and heats the water for the hostel and container cabins”. The technical answer is a little more in depth…
The “wood boiler” itself is a small stainless steel structure that sits outside, about 30-40 feet from the hostel. It gets “fed” wood a few times per day and can hold firewood up to 4 feet in length. In order to meet the demands of the hostel it will burn between 8-10 cords of wood per year (ONE full cord of wood measures four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.) and has a volume of 128 cubic feet). With all that wood, comes a lot of hard work! …And you thought we “just ran a Bed and Breakfast”!
It all starts with getting a permit from the US Forest Service. The USFS allows permit holders to collect any down wood within 100 feet of designated Forest Service roads. Then it’s a “field trip” into the woods with a four wheel drive vehicle, towing a custom-made trailer with a welded-on “arch and wench” system. “Smaller” pieces of wood are cut into 12 foot sections and loaded onto the trailer; while other, larger pieces that may weigh up to 500lbs.each are cut into 4-8 foot sections. These “beasts” are the ones that require the wench to load them for transport.
Once the wood has been hunted and gathered, it is brought back to the hostel where it is unloaded using a system of steel cables and pulleys. This same strategic system helps move the enormous pieces from the pile to the splitter. The splitter is a one of a kind, Hiker Hostel original. Parts and pieces were gathered and assembled and after a few You Tube welding videos, a custom-built masterpiece was created. It uses a 10 horsepower motor to run a 48 inch hydraulic push arm, which produces an estimated 45 tons of push force. With this, logs are forced along an I-beam into a splitting wedge, slicing them into perfect 4 foot sections.
The wood is then stacked and ready to use. Now…repeat a dozen or so times throughout the year!
Despite occasional “mishaps”, which might include things like smashed fingers, running out of gas, broken parts, stolen equipment, cables snapping, or vehicles sliding down a hillside, it’s a fairly straight forward process. And despite all the effort it takes to find, collect, lift, haul, split, cut, and stack all the needed wood, the benefits of heating a home with an outdoor wood furnace make it well worth it. Along with giving Josh and Derek an opportunity to stroke their beards and feel manly, one of the greatest benefits is knowing that, when burned properly, wood fires are one of the most efficient and environmentally-friendly ways to generate heat. There is zero net carbon contribution and the “fuel” is a renewable resource that is extremely abundant in the North Georgia Mountains surrounding Dahlonega.
In the words of Henry Ford: “Chop your own wood and it’ll heat you twice”…