Rebuilding The Bathhouse

We’ve been busy little campers this spring and I thought it was high time for an update from Mowich Camp.  Our all consuming project this year has been to rebuild our barely serviceable bathhouse and take it from a wasp infested, sloping, creaky wooden box, to a level, flood proof, four seasons building.


Job #1 was to get the electric issues squared away.  I’ll try not to make this post sound like too much of a “bashing” session on the previous owners, but please note the two power poles in the above photo.  Well after the permanent line was put in they didn’t take down the temporary power pole.  They just used a combination of pluming fixtures, tape, and bubble gum to energize the temp pole from the permanent line… Yikes!  I’m amazed that it hadn’t already burned down.

No worries for our friend Walker, an electrical contractor in the real world.  He took one look at the monstrosity and casually said, “oh, that’s just the way things are done up here in the woods”.  “I have enough stuff just lying in my yard to completely fix this mess”.  And so it was that in one long day, all the electric issues were sorted.  Well done Walker!

Stripped down to the studs

Next up was to strip the building down to the studs on the back wall and one end.  We needed to jack up the building and level it out, above the height of any possible spring flooding.  Remarkably this year, even with the massive winter snowfall, there wasn’t any flooding… But we know with the Yakima River just across the road, there is a possibility of flooding every year.  No sense doing a lot of work on a structure if its only gonna be submerged every year in river water.

Our next hero to the rescue was one of my old SWAT teammates Otis.  As soon as he heard of our plans he immediately came through with all the concrete blocks we needed to raise the building.  And he delivered them to my house, 25 at a time in his very well used, little Honda Accord.  Well done Otis.

Delivery day

A local lumber company in Cle Elum, Bator Lumber, dropped off the initial lumber package and I was off to the races.

Those are 20 foot long pressure treated 6×6’s and I needed to get them under the building, and then jacked up a couple of feet into the air.

Drawing on my experience from building a couple of log houses (almost a lifetime ago) I knew that moving heavy timbers is possible with a minimum of equipment as long as you just take it easy and do thing incrementally.  Concrete blocks and 4 bottle jacks were all it took to slowly get the structure raised up and level.  And I mean, level for probably the first time ever.

Jacking up the building

I made some small forms for concrete pads, so the concrete blocks could sit on something solid and level.

The foundation is complete

Once the foundation was complete I framed up the “add on” section of the bathhouse.  Anyone who’s ever done any kind a remodel can tell you that trying to match some existing structure with new stuff is always harder that just building new from the ground up.  And this project was no exception.  Weird birds mouth cuts on the rafters, the back wall where the existing plumbing was run was so drilled full of holes it was mostly missing.

The new plumbing wall

I rebuilt that entire wall with 2×6’s so my “plumber” would have plenty of room to run all the necessary water and waste lines and we would still have sufficient room to get lots of insulation into that wall to keep things from freezing during those long, sub zero freezing spells that happen every winter.

One thing we learned last winter was that we really enjoyed our snow adventures at the camp.  We are already looking forward to next winter and the added luxury of a working, heated bathroom.  Bonus!

The “plumber” and his unskilled helper

And let me just take a second to thank my son-in-law Richie.  A plumbing contractor in the real world.  Besides being a wonderful husband and father, a talented musician, and just generally a ton of fun, he is a master of all things plumbing and gas piping.

Richie has been instrumental in the planning and layout of the project and you will never find a harder worker.  His biggest challenge has been trying to make time to get away from his real world job obligations to get up to camp and get dirty.  Not to worry, on his last trip to camp he got “really dirty”… (the details of that session are being left out to spare those with delicate stomaches). What a joy to have him along on this project with us.  Well done Richie!

Walls are framed

So with the walls framed up it was time to try to match the rafters and extend the roof.  I made a cardboard template of the rafter notches and used those to fabricate the new rafters.  That actually worked pretty well.

Suzie gets all the sucky jobs

I got the roof sheeted, and with a little help from some tarps we were basically dry inside the bathhouse.

What a trooper my beautiful bride Suzie is during all these projects.  It seems that she is always getting stuck with the sucky jobs.  In this case she spent hours with a heat gun and a scraper trying to remove the old vinyl floor from the existing footprint of the bathhouse.

Well done Suzie!

And one more hero to add to the list.  This is really turning into an “it takes a village” kind of story.

Our friend Johnny, you guessed it, a roofing professional in the real world, came through with all things roof on this project.  I was standing on the roof in the early morning sunlight texting with Johnny as we figured out all the specifications for our new lid.  I was so pleased to have Johnny on the job.  Many of the products and procedures he was suggesting weren’t even invented way back when we were roofing our log houses.  I’ll be applying the Ice and Water shield waterproof membrane on my next trip up to camp.

Well done Johnny!

Our progress to date

Well that’s where we are at this point of the project.  I’m home for a couple of days to celebrate Mother’s Day and some family birthdays.  Tomorrow I’ll be headed back up to camp to pick up where I left off…

Once again thanks to all of our family and friends who are involved and helping with this project.  We are really excited to get it done and then spend the rest of the summer just goofing off with you all at Mowich Camp.


About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
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7 Responses to Rebuilding The Bathhouse

  1. John says:

    Wow Kat, this is a huge job, and it’s nice that you have many skilled friends and family to help you out! Can’t wait to see the finished product. Best of luck.

  2. Tim Bowman says:


    That’s some serious progress! I fully identify with the challenges of adding on to existing structures especially when those structures weren’t likely built correctly.


  3. Neil's in... says:

    Oh Jeff this is great! Too bad you didn’t call upon your overland enthusiast structural engineer trained architect, now English teaching buddy: Neil for some extra braun on the matter! 😉

    It looks great!

    Will you be blocking off the underside of the bathhouse? It might feel a little cold in winter with with the base open to the elements.

  4. Otis says:

    Nice work

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