By Tom Irons

At 67, my continued life in the wilderness depends on using my body wisely. Jeanie and I still build with logs, but my spine will no longer carry them. I enjoy the quiet process of human power and have learned ways to use my energy efficiently.

TIMELESS DESIGN: I designed this two-wheeled piece of equipment capable of transporting 300 pounds or more, and asked a friend to manufacture it. My “log wheel” has an aluminum tongue, steel supports and large wheels. The aluminum and steel were bought at a local supplier. I found wheels on line. Cotter pins retain the wheels on the axle for easy assembly and small-plane transport, and the tongue can be lengthened or shortened.

MAKING MOVES: I place limbed tree trunks on the cart, the weight almost centered over the axle—about 5 pounds heavier at the front. This allows me to press down, instead of to lift, for balance. Securing the wood to the tongue gives better control and safety. I often attach a nylon strap to the front of the logs, and Jeanie pulls. This requires little work for either person, even uphill. Using wheels to move logs minimizes damage to the forest floor. A drawback is that wheels require fairly smooth terrain.
When building with logs, we cut dead trees and I raft them downriver, then “wheel” them up to the cabin. After placing plywood slats on the cart, we also use the wheel to haul sods cut from a riverbank. We lay these over thin plastic to make a living roof. And with slats and a tarp, we can transport moose quarters or other awkward loads.

Ed. Note: To learn more about Tom Irons and Jean Aspen, watch their documentary, Arctic Son Fulfilling the Dream, and read Jeanie’s books. Visit


This article was originally published in THE NEW PIONEER #171 2013 magazine. Print and Digital Subscriptions are available here.

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