Golden Eagle Oaks Property
For Sale by Owner
Now being offered by Ted Denmark (owner)
P.O. Box 122 4398 Harmony Lane Avery, CA 95224
Visit my listing on Zillow
For sale by owner in Calaveras County off State Highway 4, in the scenic “Angels to Bear Valley” corridor: an off-the-grid solar-electric (photo-voltaic), partial passive-solar space heat (wood stove backup), 3 bedroom “Country House on a Hill” on 5.74 acres of land adjacent to Stanislaus National Forest near Arnold, CA. Priced to sell at $375,000 (with new 4th bedroom addition upgrade, currently under construction). Property located on eastern side & near top of Dowd’s Hill (4,000’) with 180 degree panoramic views of Love Creek watershed, Big Trees State Park, Stanislaus river canyon & long views of Dodge Ridge approximately 20 miles to the east. Year-round Spring water on premises (750 gal/day), 2 land phone lines, full sine wave electric power, propane cook stove, hot water & refrigeration, limited cell signal and data-link availablility (satellite). Beautiful quiet private rustic lifestyle in park-like setting just above the Motherlode’s most charming town of Murphys (“Queen of the Sierra”) & near to Kautz Ironstone Winery & Amphitheatre, Arnold, Sonora-Jamestown-Columbia, Angel’s Camp, etc.
contact: Ted Denmark, POB 122, 4398 Harmony Ln., Avery, CA, 95224
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
phone: 209-795-2160 (home during the day)
The property is located about 90 miles due east of San Francisco off state highway 4 on the way to Bear Valley Ski Resort and about 20 minutes from Arnold, CA (three hour travel time from S. F. Bay area) off Love Creek Road, on the eastern slope of a high ridge called Dowd’s Hill, above the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the Stanislaus River. Dowd’s Hill is the highest point in the area offering panoramic views in an exceptionally beautiful area of mixed Central Sierra forest of Ponderosa and Sugar Pine, Cedar, Manzanita and remnant fir with abundant deciduous Black Oak, which is something of a “banana belt” microclimate, compared to Arnold, a couple of ridges to the north—even though it is at nearly the same 4,000 feet elevation—being typically five to ten degrees warmer in winter because of warm air currents coming up the river canyon from the Central Valley. The summer climate is typically ten degrees cooler than valley or low Sierra foothill environments, ranging through the 80’s and reaching highs in the upper nineties a few times in late summer.
The approximately 6 acre parcel is on the eastern slope of Dowd’s Hill, extending from the local private gravel access road called Harmony Lane (one mile from paved Love Creek Road) up to a point just below the top of the hill in a rural and very private subdivision called Dowd’s Landing, a group of about 16 similarly-sized parcels created in the late 70’s, adjacent to Stanislaus National Forest, which was once part of a local mountain cattle ranch (still existing on the other side of the ridge). The sited position of the house about 400 feet below the top of Dowd’s Hill, allows for panoramic views from the north around to the east and south, with the hill blocking the western view, but a fifteen minute hike on the property to the top of the hill from the house provides the remaining views towards the S.F. Bay region (Mount Diablo visible on a clear day) as well as revealing the waterfalls of Beaver Creek to the east which can be heard on typically quiet nights when the water is running high. The top of Dowd’s Hill is owned by Pacific Lumber Co. whose last timber harvest was selectively done with reasonable environmental safeguards about 15 years ago and will probably not be visited for another decade.
The rustic but conventional (2×4 & 2×6 baloon frame) owner-built semi-custom house sits about 40 yards above Harmony Lane on a small flat carved out of the hill side and has striking views of the Love Creek watershed and ridge between Love Creek and the Stanislaus River canyon to the north, Big Trees State Park across the canyon to the northeast, Dodge Ridge Ski area to the east and tall Ponderosas in the south-facing distance. The approximate 15 degree slope of the property (including a ~35 yard long driveway to the gravel road) would be a little challenging for inexperienced flatlanders, and it is four wheel drive territory for all but seasonal summer visitors, but 4WD or all-wheel drive vehicles are a way of life for safety sake in these high foothills and a local minimum standard for reliable year-round residency.
One of the distinctions of the Dowd’s Hill subdivision is that its residents (three or four full-time and as many seasonal with the remainder absent, occasional visitors) are all “off the grid” because power lines have not been run into the area—and probably will not be any time soon. So it is a solar-electric power enclave with all residences having solar electric power systems with gasoline or propane generator backup, including this house at Golden Eagle Oaks, using a Honda 5 kilowatt model that synchs without loss of continuity to the power inverter, when needed (consuming 15 gallons of gas annually). This sturdy and reliable generator, now 20 years old, but still in good condition (because it gets so little use, perhaps an average of 8 hours total during winter!) has its doghouse just outside, but is battery-started and controlled from the power control panel inside the house. The auto-start relay feature in the power inverter was damaged by a huge lightning storm a few years ago, but could be replaced—I’ve just never really needed it. Currently the house is outfitted with about two kilowatts of flat glass covered, solar-collector panels on the new addition roof and on sturdy owner-built structures in the south side yard, and a small wind generator (with only slight to moderate prevailing winds from the south) connected to a large 36 unit gel-cell battery system with automated charge controllers driving a Trace 4 kilowatt full sine-wave power inverter with adequate power production for most needs (10 KW surges). The abundant sunny days (~300 per year) allow for moderate battery and backup requirements for a comfortable life style free of utility bills on a somewhat Spartan power budget (compared to conventional houses).
There are numerous advantages to having one’s own local electric power production—I have never had a power outage in twenty years while the people connected to the grid over the ridge along Love Creek have at least several power outages over the course of a typical winter. There are also some extra chores, such as brushing/shoveling off heavy snows sliding off the lower panels in winter (as well as hustling firewood) involved with managing local electric power production here that requires some effort, but mostly it is automated for easy monitoring and use. The house is well-wired for both 120 VAC and 12 VDC appliances with only super efficient 12 VDC LED and compact fluorescent lighting throughout. One must also be able to adjust to a somewhat cooler house temperature condition away from wood stoves during colder Winter storms without sun, but I find the arrangement is still superior to forced-air furnaces, not to mention the expense of electric or fossil fuel space heating (!)—and at night the house is completely quiet for the most relaxed sleep possible.
One of the most valuable resources on this property is a natural water spring that reaches the surface towards the lower edge near the road, producing between 750 and 500 (late summer) gallons of fresh and very tasty “sweet” water every day (ph = ~7), obviating the need for a well. There are two thousand-gallon tanks near the spring to capture gravity flow water first in settling containers and through filters, which is then either slow-pumped up the hill by solar power or more rapidly by a larger well pump, also solar powered, to another thousand gallon tank sitting about 40 feet above the house which serves domestic water and irrigation. Again, it takes a certain amount of work to keep an independent and somewhat complex water system like this tuned up for optimal production, but the water is exceptionally good, and the effort becomes part of the lifestyle of getting out and doing the small routine maintenance required a few times a week (also really good exercise). The main problem with the water system is that the amount of water in the upper main 1,000 gallon redwood storage tank is not currently gauged at the house for easy assessment (but could be), although normally it runs well enough during irrigation season with opening and closing two valves twice daily (for the two drip irrigation lines going down either side of the house to the orchard and garden).
Work on developing the property was begun about 25 years ago, and I purchased it with the house started and almost inhabitable 21 years ago in still early stages of construction after the original owner decided to move to far northern California after his job on the nearby McKay’s Dam was concluded. The original owner lived in a small house trailer about 40 yards from the house, which is now used for rough storage, but is in poor condition. The house itself is of conventional 2×4 frame wall construction with T-111 exterior fir ply (including a couple of 2×6 structural and water service walls) with fiber glass insulation, and abundant dark-framed, double-glazed aluminum slider windows to take advantage of all viewing directions (too much glazing on the north side for ideal heat retention!). The east and south-facing glazing allows for approximately half of the space heating to come from passive solar gain with three wood stoves (two on the lower floor and one on the upper) for backup heating needs. I have used movable aluminized bubble wrap insulation panels in north-facing windows in winter to conserve heat as needed (panels for all windows in extended cold spells, more like sailing a ship than kicking back, but something that works reasonably well in a moderate California climate at this elevation, but would not be adequate in a higher more severe mountain environment).
This, too, is more work but good exercise that becomes part of the rustic lifestyle—cutting and putting up firewood in the easy-access indoor shed room for completely dry wood storage adjacent to the upstairs living room wood stove, holding the nearly two cords that are typically needed over the course of winter to heat the main upstairs living space. There is dry outside firewood storage for the lower floor in another storage shed with power panels on the roof, just south of the house. There is abundant fire wood on the property and, of course, for sale and delivery from local suppliers in the area, whose main industries are wood products, outdoor recreation, summer and retirement housing.
The three/four bed-room, 2½ story house with a modified “salt box” roof shape, is currently in process of having a major addition added on the south side: an upstairs solarium and downstairs bedroom, and future “large event/party room” with garden level understory shop (now mostly closed in and completed). It currently has approximately 1,948 ft2 of finished and heated living space (544 ft2 additional after new addition for a total of 2,396 ft2) on the upper two story levels with a top-floor having the following main room and outdoor areas:
- Living room (20’ x 14’ = 280 ft2) with tiled floor main entry and white oak top mantle in wood stove area, 8’ x 4’ picture window with screened slider side lights, 8’ x 4’ bay window projection (8’ x 2½’ = 20 ft2) trimmed in cedar with screened sash side lights, both facing north, two overhead LED lighting tracks on 8’ ceiling, with main entry door through dry wood storage shed (16’ x 4’ = 64 ft2). [total = 364 ft2.]
Kitchen (16’ x 16’ = 256 ft2) with large glazed pantry area (“panoramic pantry”) having broom closet and hutch (drawers, open shelf and glass doors), heritage propane Wedgewood cook stove with light & fan hood, outside-vented heritage Servel gas refrigerator, steel work table with butcher-block top, large dual-tub corner “butterfly” sink, Formica counter tops, glass-door maple cabinets, 6½’ x 2½’ maple built-in peninsula counter/bar with foot-rest, ¾” maple strip floor and two 8’ LED light tracks on 9’ coffered ceiling.
- Dining room (16’ x 14’ = 224 ft2) with 5’ x 4’ and 4’ x 4’ picture windows to main eastern high Sierra ridges viewing area, ¾” maple strip floor, ceiling fan and lights, redwood wainscoting, small garden window, swamp cooler, custom hardwood stair treads going to downstairs and two LED light tracks on 9’ coffer ceiling.
- Bedroom (12’ x 10’ = 120 ft2) with adjoining writer’s nook (8’ x 4’ = 32 ft2), smaller clothes closet (3’ x 3’ = 9 ft2), and two 4’ x 4’ screened slider picture windows. [total = 163 ft2]
- Bath (8’ x 8’ = 64 ft2) with tub and tiled shower, low-flow commode, three-mirrored, hinged medicine cabinet doors, tile floor, 4’ x 3’ picture window, and also opening to dining room and stairs down for circular flow access.
- Redwood deck (now a bit weathered) approximately 10’ wide (840 ft2) wrapping around the south and west sides, where the main house entry is located coming upstairs from the parking spaces. (The 16’ x 12’ eastern end of the south redwood deck is being captured into the new screened glass solarium room, now under construction.)
The lower floor has the following finished and heated four main rooms (not counting the new construction) that can be utilized as bedrooms, office or storage spaces in various arrangements (with interior French, patio and double-hung carved wood doors and a total of six closets):
- An entry/utility laundry room (12’ x 8’ = 96 ft2) with tiled floor, washing machine (clothes line out back), wood stove with firebrick and tiled wall wainscoting and wall storage cabinets.
- A central long rectangular room (22’ x 12’ = 264 ft2) currently carpeted and used as the main or master bedroom with three moderate-sized walk-in closets (his, hers and storage) one of which houses the thin-profile electric power center control panel, with a small oak strip-floor entry, a full-size hot water heater closet, French doors into the adjoining larger east studio room, a cedar wood paneled west wall, a short light track and a T&G pine ceiling.
- A fully-tiled double shower (10’ x 8’ = 80 ft2 ) and bathtub trimmed in redwood (around the corner from the entry wood stove) with opposing shower heads, low flow commode, corner sink, 4’ x 3’ picture window, large glass mirror, opening medicine cabinet and redwood storage cabinet above the commode and “dusty pink” Italian floor tile (same as entry).
- A larger northeastern “studio room” or office (18’ x 12’ = 216 ft2) with continuous 12’ x 4’ glazing to the morning sun, a private entrance with small covered entry landing, open rough-fir beam & pine T&G deck ceiling, cedar ply interior, a small closet, mirrors on one wall, carpeting, and a large overhead loft storage area running the length of the room.
- A smaller southeastern “studio room” or office (14’ x 12’ = 168 ft2) with two large adjoining 5’ x 5’ screened slider windows, French doors into the “large event room” (20’ x 20’ = 400 ft2 ), slated to be new construction over the existing shop, a woodstove with glass door, same cedar interior and open beam T&G pine ceiling, overhead loft storage, carpeting and entry access to south side yard for fire wood and a solar hot-water heated soaking tub (currently not usable—an older redwood wine tank that began to leak too much …).
- A large (24’ x 4’ = 96 ft2) storage closet, with wood floor deck, 9’ ceiling, switched lights & outside doors at both ends, one near parking spaces.
- A large (24’ x 12’ = 288 ft2) storage/utility/entry room with concrete paver floor, storage shelves and racks, work benches and a 10’ ceiling clearance that was originally planned as a single car garage. There is currently no indoor or garage car-parking space available and only four outdoor parking spaces adjacent to the house on the north side where it would be desirable to have a garage or covered parking area—a planned addition pre-empted by other priorities.
The down stairs southern side yard has under-deck, outside materials storage racks, two fruit trees, a very hardy and productive Canadian cherry and a Fuyu Persimmon in addition to the main electric power panel structure, the solar hot water panels (currently not in use), and a small garden space for a future green house opening onto the small sub-alpine meadow, much favored by local deer.
The third, lower garden level has a long storage area (28’ x 10’ = 280 ft2) with nearly continuous eastern glazing, insulated, fully closed-in walls, concrete floor pavers, and 7’ ceiling, a general storage area (24’ x 8’ = 192 ft2) with 6½’ ceiling, a low 4’ overhead clearance storage area for the battery pack, power inverter, power cables and associated equipment (24’ x 4’). There is an 8’ x 8’ walk-in storage shed (originally slated to be moved further from the house and used as a chicken house) and flat for building materials, etc. adjacent to the north entry to the garden level parking space. There is a small rose garden with lilac bushes and rustic wood sculptures across driveway on the north side.
There are French doors and concrete stoop from the east storage room to the terraced, fenced garden (40’ x 36’ = 1440 ft2), and French doors into the new shop (20’ x 16’ = 320 ft2), also with concrete floor pavers, 8’ ceiling and with its own covered outdoor storage area for building materials and an annex storage area with concrete retaining walls with 6’ ceiling clearance (~60 ft2) suitable for general use or wine storage (also currently under construction but mostly finished). Just outside the shop is a redwood picnic table next to the garden and under a large evergreen Valley Oak. A 1,000 gal fiberglass water storage tank has been placed just outside the shop for eventual use in a future adjacent green house with the existing solar hot water panels.
The total closed-in but unfinished and unheated storage/utility areas with a minimum 6’ ceiling clearance, floor space = 948 ft2 (doesn’t include the low-clearance battery storage area or bin storage around shop annex). There are two outside stairways and one finished interior stairway.
The roof currently has a combination of asphalt shingles and roll roofing of several vintages (with heavy felt underlayment). The long western roof projection has a double roof with interior cavity for heat/cold buffering and access door. Eventually a second layer of comp shingles or full metal roof should be provided for fire protection, after the last phase of construction is completed (there have been two large and very dangerous forest fires in my 20 years). There is a 4’ glass panel shed roof projecting from the roof line on the south side that is used to shade the interior of the upper story in Summer to limit heat gain (covered by canvas or plastic tarp) which is pulled clear for Winter heat gain.
Just uphill behind the house on the west side is a small orchard and vineyard with about a dozen vines producing very tasty seedless table grapes, a group of seven apple trees (Fuji, Golden delicious, Orange Pippin and French White), six pear trees (Red and Yellow Bartlett, French Desert, and d’Anjou) and a few odds and ends (almond, peach, Burbank Plum, a few thorn-less blackberries, a couple of Persian Mulberries and another larger and more productive Fuyu Persimmon (the first tree I planted upon arrival). There is a seasoned park bench, a hammock and outdoor table for summer lounging just off the orchard, below a thicket of very large, tree-sized Manzanita bushes. The main gravity feed, lined redwood water tank lies just above the orchard between two older Black Oaks.
The larger part of the property lies further uphill from the house with dozens of Black Oaks and evergreen Valley Oaks (the only ones in the area!), many standard size Manzanitas, Ponderosas and now stunted cedars (from the years of drought) with Bear Clover cover in the higher areas and buck brush in the lower. There’s another very beautiful Valley Oak cluster on the property just north of the house with a meandering wet season creek running through it. This area had been used as summer residence by Native Americans, probably for centuries, because of the nearby springs, and whose acorn grinding rocks can be found just below the house on national forest land. The place has gotten its new name, Golden Eagle Oaks, from sightings of a pair of young golden eagles who have often been sighted in the last couple of years. Formerly, I called it White Eagle Oaks in recognition of a large old White Oak, just south of the house that must have been brought in long ago by the Indians because there are no other White Oaks to be found anywhere else in the area—they may have also brought in the Valley Oaks as well as a wild plum growing by the driveway and wild red berry bushes near the grapes. Wild life, such as foxes, bobcats, squirrels and frogs—and the occasional bear and mountain lion—and birds, such as blue jays, finches, robins, wild canaries, woodpeckers, ravens and an occasional owl, are often seen in the area, with a state wild life preserve and wilderness area just across the Stanislaus River a few short miles away.
This sparsely populated river canyon area is clearly very special, though it takes more of an independent homesteading attitude to appreciate all it has to offer, as either a summer or winter vacation getaway or year round residence, either of which is suitable (I have lived here full time for 18 years). Winter use during heavy snows on some recent years can make accessibility an issue, necessitating reliable and sturdy 4WD transportation, but the road is plowed by several residents having trucks with blades, further down Harmony Lane, who commute to day jobs. Cell phone reception is marginal at the house (but comes in just above the water tank—so a wired booster antenna would work), television reception from Monterey (NBC and ABC) and Sacramento (PBS) is available but spotty (better late night) from an antenna on top of Dowd’s Hill, and it is expected that a satellite data link would be desirable for anyone requiring broadband (I’ve been waiting for AT&T DSL service, but unfortunately, it is not yet available).
The adjacent undeveloped property (with a road right-of-way access across the lower portion of my property) may also be coming onto the market (the previous resident has moved to far northern California. It is believed my property with current improvements would have been valued at around $425,000 at the height of the real estate market in 2007, and now with discounts consistent with property values in the area, off by about 40-50%—still modest by California standards for conventional housing—it is currently priced to sell at $375,000 (with ’86 4WD Toyota utility pickup truck and various spare parts, included), as single owner in late sixties must now begin to look for an easier winter lifestyle. My ideal move-out date would be before winter of 2012-2013.
Come and have a weekend vacation look around the area. It is a uniquely interesting and valuable house—generally unavailable at any price—designed and built by an architectural designer and retired engineer on a very special piece of land that the right person, who would benefit from some technical skill, will probably immediately recognize (!). A valuable retreat for anyone living in the hectic Bay Area, looking for their place in the Sierras—now a buyer’s market steal.