Mount Grace is currently fundraising to ensure public access of the Richardson Overlook in Northfield.
Mike Zlogar: The Other Half of the Richardson-Zlogar Cabin
There are several special places along woodland trails in our region with nice views, but I can think of only one such place where hikers can enjoy an ample, comfortable cabin.
That place is the Richardson Overlook on Stratton Mountain in Northfield, and the building is known as the Richardson-Zlogar Cabin. I’ve had occasion in recent years to meet Northfield residents Sam and Barbara Richardson, a retired teacher and a librarian (respectively) at the Northfield Mount Hermon School. They are the generous owners of the land where the cabin was built along with tent platforms. However, I have been wondering about the cabin’s other namesake. Who is Zlogar?
Now I know, and I’m sharing what I learned with readers of this newsletter, which is appropriate since Mount Grace is purchasing the cabin and the 38-acre parcel it sits on.
Mike Zlogar of Amherst, age 72, is a retired Amherst firefighter and an experienced hiker and building contractor. Doing volunteer work often alongside Sam Richardson, he played a major role in building the cabin in 2011-2012 and refining it ever since.
“I have been involved in construction since I was a kid -- living in Bourne on Cape Cod,” Mike explained, “working with my brother and my dad, Joseph Zlogar, who was a sheet metal worker as well as carpenter.”
Mike has been an avid hiker and has done trail maintenance in many New England locations with different groups for more than 30 years, including work on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which was mostly transformed into the New England National Scenic Trail. The Western Massachusetts Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club has maintained these trails for decades and continues to do so—and the AMC also will continue managing the Richardson-Zlogar cabin and the reservation system (at www.newenglandtrail.org) after Mount Grace becomes the proud owner of the Richardson Overlook.
Mike credited Pat Fletcher, an active AMC member and chair of the trails committee for 30 years, with being an advocate for having more shelters on the trail. A decision was made to build something more elaborate than the typical three-sided Adirondack shelter. Furthermore, those planning the cabin construction didn’t want to start from scratch, so they purchased a kit and thus pre-cut lumber was delivered to the site.
Mike reminisced about the process of siting the cabin facing east, putting up siding, and getting it winterized with insulation. He said, “It started to take on some momentum that included moving away from a primitive cabin to make it a little nicer.”
The 16 by 20-foot structure includes a sleeping loft that is 10 by 16 feet, with mattresses. There are benches with storage underneath.
He added, “Sam brought forth the idea that we could make it not just an overnight shelter, but so that it could be used for events and programs, such as training,” said Mike. “We added screens to the glass windows, as well as shutters and nice one-inch by six-inch pine paneling.”
“We got creative with things, using scrap lumber, and we made a screen door from scratch -- and one of the unique things I made was the ships style ladder to the loft and a railing making it safer.”
Future plans include replacing a porta-potty with a privy and adding a deck with a ramp to improve accessibility.
Mike has stayed at the cabin several times, including overnight experiences with his wife Sue and some of their five grandchildren.
“It’s truly a dark sky place,” he said with enthusiasm, adding: “I’m always amazed how dark it is up there, looking out over that view, with no lights from Keene or Brattleboro – it’s black and dark up there!”
He concluded, “I’m thrilled with the cabin’s use and how it’s really become an important part of the community. There are many day users, so it’s not just about the trail. School groups use it, also mountain bikers, equestrians – enjoying both the views and the cabin. And folks have really looked out for it, so there are no problems with vandalism or damage -- so that’s one of the impressive things. It’s nice that they’re keeping it nice.”