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Home in the Woods

Unplug and unwind at The Hohnstead, a glamping cabins resort

Article by Susie Wall

Photography by Logan Lefler, Alla Ponomareva, Teleport Photography

Originally published in Missoula Valley Lifestyle

A simple description of The Hohnstead is to say that it’s an Airbnb property twenty-five miles northeast of Missoula off Highway 200. But for those looking to escape the daily grind and unceasing call of digital devices, it is a place to unwind, unplug, and reconnect in a simpler way. Picture it: five rustic cabins surrounded by 100 forested acres. To The Hohnstead’s proprietors, Alla Ponomareva and Garrett Hohn, it is a labor of love that provides them opportunity for months of travel once the snow begins to fly in Montana.

Around the time the concept of The Hohnstead emerged, Alla and Garrett were teaching at a university in South Korea and coming home for summer vacations to the Hohn family plot high up on Gold Creek Road where Garrett’s mom, dad, and sister live. One day, Alla said to the family, “So there’s this Airbnb platform. Do you think if we do that up here, people will come?” The initial response was doubtful as no one believed people would actually pay to stay in the woods. Slowly that initial response changed and the decision was made to go for it.

The couple is proud of their work transforming this property into a popular retreat that still retains its rugged beauty and peaceful nature. Visiting The Hohnstead today, it’s difficult to fathom the time and physical labor it took. “We really started from humble roots,” says Garrett. They had just a few months at a time to get the project off the ground since they continued to work abroad for most of the year, and the budget was very tight. “In the beginning, we had no construction skills whatsoever,” says Alla. “Garrett’s dad offered guidance since he was in the construction business for 30 years, but we did the work.”

In the end, they paid someone to pour a small concrete slab and create a blueprint for the A-Frame cabin. The rest was their own labor and their own vision. “We wanted to avoid building the same thing five times,” says Garrett. “That’s boring and why compete with ourselves?  We grew and learned and decided what to change as we went along. Touring the cabins, you can see how we evolved as builders. Every one has its own fingerprint.”

The first year in 2017 wasn’t incredible in terms of business, but Alla, Garrett, and Mom and Dad Hohn came to realize that people would pay to stay in the woods. The couple also found that they loved this job. They loved meeting people and connecting with them. They also realized they just might have discovered the perfect side hustle.

When you tour the rustic accommodations, you can see that the term “cabin” is used loosely as the A-Frame, Blind, Ranch Hand Canvas, Shanty, and Shed are all tiny, off-grid, and dry. There is no electric grid and no water running to any of them. What each cabin does offer is a small solar panel, stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and cozy spaces both inside and out to meditate, read, and regroup.

The A-Frame is bathed in natural light boasting one wall that can be propped open to welcome in the smells and sounds of the forest. The beds in the Blind are perfectly placed below translucent panels for optimal stargazing. Alla says, “These living spaces may not be super comfortable, but we believe that when you experience something totally different from your normal life, you will remember it better.” “And you’ll appreciate different things” Garrett adds. “Our guests really thrive on the uniqueness of it all.”

The cabins are approximately 75 yards apart from each other, and from the shared Common Area where guests will find a small kitchen, a sitting area, and internet access. Alla and Garrett spend summer days in their cozy home attached to the Common Area. Outside sits a rented portable toilet and a solar shower. “We explain to guests that if it’s sunny, you have hot water, if it’s not sunny, sorry,” says Alla with a shrug.

To ensure relaxation, The Hohnstead is an adults-only property, but four-legged friends are welcome. It operates May through October, or until the snow flies, and rates range from $120.00 to $200.00 per night.

For those wanting a little adventure, Alla and Garrett can recommend activities both on the property and in the surrounding area. One of Alla’s recent ideas is a scavenger hunt in which guests follow a 2-mile trail with six stations. Each station allows you to experience life in the woods whether it be panning for gold or splitting wood. The couple jokes that it’s also a way for them to get some free labor.

A few guests have been unsettled by the remoteness but most seem to relish the isolation. The majority have hailed from out of state but lately more locals are visiting. These guests seem especially interested in the lifestyle Alla and Garrett have carved out for themselves. “We’ve had so many people say, I want to do what you’re doing,” says Alla. “I’m like, are you ready for all the work?”

Tending to their guests, the constant upkeep, and preparing the cabins for the next round of visitors—it’s all a lot of work, but Garrett especially enjoys the routine. “It all seems to get done eventually and it’s not really difficult work. I enjoy the repetitive nature of it all,” he says. Alla goes on to say, “I think we complement each other where he enjoys the repetitive things and I love to create.” Alla uses this creativity to produce enticing photographs and videos to promote the property, and she offers photography sessions to guests at an extra cost. Both Alla and Garrett enjoy getting to know their guests and sharing some of Garrett’s home-brewed beer around the campfire.

All this hard yet rewarding work during the summer months affords the couple the chance to spend the off-season traveling abroad and enjoying what they call a “6-on-6-off” lifestyle, as in six months of work and six months of play. But The Hohnstead is never far from their minds, even if it’s far on the map. “I don’t think it will ever be done,” says Garrett. “We’re always trying to improve. We’ve been to 25 different countries and have stayed in many different places, so we get tons of ideas about what to do and what not to do. One of the most flattering things we hear from guests is that we’ve thought of everything.”

Visit The Hohnstead

Instagram: @TheHohnstead

"We grew and learned and decided what to change as we went along. Touring the cabins, you can see how we evolved as builders. Every one has its own fingerprint.” Garrett Hohn

"These living spaces may not be super comfortable, but we believe that when you experience something totally different from your normal life, you will remember it better.” Alla Ponomareva