Ah, Wilderness! Mountain Man vs. the Building Inspector
BOONE, N.C.—Eustace Conway says he has stared down a grizzly bear, wrestled a thrashing buck and ridden a horse from coast to coast. But he may have met his match in the Watauga County planning department.
Mr. Conway, 51 years old, is best known as "The Last American Man," the title character of a 2002 biography and National Book Award finalist by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love." He has lived in the wilderness since the early 1980s.
He traps, shoots and grows much of his own food, makes pants out of buckskin and stitches his own wounds. He bathes in the cold creek that rolls through his 1,000-acre Turtle Island preserve in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. And he teaches others how to live off the land.
But now, Mr. Conway is devoting most of his time to the type of meetings, red tape and compromises he went to the woods to avoid.
Last fall, a team of health, construction and fire officials showed up for an unannounced inspection of the preserve, acting on an anonymous tip. Escorted by two sheriffs' deputies, they executed what Mr. Conway describes as a "SWAT-team raid"—peering into outhouses, stomping around log cabins, and climbing hand-hewn ladders.
Their findings are compiled in a 78-page report with a bullet-point list of violations. Mr. Conway's sawdust urinal and outhouses? Unpermitted, according to the officials. The wood he used to erect two dozen buildings? Built with lumber that isn't "grade-marked," meaning it doesn't specify the mill where it was produced.
Continued: Ah, Wilderness! Mountain Man vs. the Building Inspector - WSJ.com
Black Blade: You gots to keep a low profile if you go off grid. This guy obviously turned it into a business. If you are unconventional and become noticed then the Nazis will come.