I first met Mike in Utah in the late 90’s. I visited his house, which at the time, was the coolest space I had ever seen. It had climbing walls and a screen printing set-up in the garage. Although, I could tell he was already starting to grow out of that place. Flash forward to today, Mike has settled in the Sierra Mountain range on a cool 40 acres of land and has built his dream play ground. His cabin is built out of rocks and trees from the area and even has his own private chair lift, snow cat, and snowmobiles on the property. What else do you need? Mike invited us over for 2 days to check out his new spot and explore the land. Catching up with an old friend turned out to be more rewarding than I imagined.
What is your title? Snowboarder and builder of tiny homes.
What inspired you to buy land and build the ultimate playground? I always wanted to live off the land as a child. In my 30s I finally decided to do it and bought 40 acres at Donner Summit. I wanted to challenge myself with indulging in only the things I felt were necessities for living to really get a new perspective on life.
How hard was it to figure out everything? In some form it's really hard, but in others it's actually more simple than anything I've ever done because I'm not doing this for anyone but myself. The hard part is working in extreme weather, but I get to do this at my own pace which puts me at ease.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to live your lifestyle, but doesn’t know how to get started? Don't be afraid to fail. It's actually part of the process; it's supposed to happen and you will find your own way through it, it just might take a couple extra steps to figure that one out.
What are your key principles in life? Let nature make the laws of how to live.
What’s the craziest story you can remember from one of your past adventures? One of my more memorable journeys was snow camping in Alaska with my dog. We had to build a snow cave due to the weather and my dog actually ended up eating most of our food. We spent a week sitting in that snow cave, just waiting out the storm. As soon as the weather broke, we had an amazing experience being consumed in that sparkly world only Alaska can offer.
What projects are you working on right now? I'm interested in building another tiny house. There's so many needs for tiny houses in this world - basically anything to promote downsizing people's living space and spending more time outside is a huge goal and inspiration for me.
Tell me about your workshop, what have you built there? In the last two days, I've actually built a teardrop trailer in my shop. But, I always have fun doing anything from welding to cooking up some fun electric car projects. I run my own clothing company out of there too.
How do you live with a low carbon footprint? My cabin is designed so that I don't have to feed it outside of what's on the land; my water and my heat both come from the land. The cement was of course not from the land, but I believe that if you can make something that will outlast even your own life and be used by others in the future, it will ultimately save resources in the long run.
Tell us about your average day when you’re at the cabin? I'll wake up, make a fire and cook breakfast on that fire. If it's snowing, I'll go out for a hike and check on how things are holding up in the weather. Some days, I'll do some landscaping with the snow. I spend 90% of my day outside, so summer or snow it's outside preparing for the day, whether its milling some standing dead trees, cutting some firewood, moving some rocks on my road to make it smoother, firing up my wood-fired hot tub, or going for a hike to shoot some photos. Soaking up the view and watching the stars at night is something I really enjoy.
How much time in a year do you spend here? I spend about half the year here. The other half is split between traveling and spending time at a shop where I do some of my welding and woodworking. I also like to spend some time on the coast near the ocean, as I am always hoping to fish more.
Is nature an important part of your creative inspiration? Yes, it was especially inspiration for for building my cabin. I admire all the different rocks on the land, they are such an amazing material to work with and can stand up against the harsh weather up here. I recently have been inspired to make a bathtub out of a certain type of rock that I have learned is very healthy for the body to soak in.
How does Mizu fit in your lifestyle? Mizu is such a beautiful product. Again, if you can make something that will outlast your life and eliminate further waste on this planet, you're doing something right.
Do you often see a lot of trash on your travels? For sure, on some level. It's hard to watch things get thrown in the trash wondering where it all goes. It just sits there. I have so many dreams of turning trash into something useful. But not enough time. I try to research ideas that other people are doing to get inspiration and hopefully make something one day on my own.
What does “Enjoy the journey, Leave nothing behind” mean to you? To me, that means to live something that is beautiful to your soul. I strongly believe that your heart's intuition knows how to guide you through life with no trace. And I believe, it must be done with listening and admiring nature.