North Cottonwood Cabin Restoration
Manti–La Sal National Forest, Utah, 1998
by Sharon Wangelin, PIT Volunteer
Here was a chance to camp out in a beautiful southeastern Utah canyon for a week, and I thought “sign me up”! Up in that canyon lies an old rock masonry ranger station built in 1911. Our job was to restore the old cabin for use in the FScabin-rental program. The project was held in early fall, which is a beautiful time of the year. We could not have asked for better weather or volunteers. Some of the volunteers went directly to the site on their own and had the shower and pit potty facilities all set up. The rest of the volunteers arrived the next morning, and while waiting for the army transport vehicle to arrive with our supplies, we got to know each other a little. We met Joe Gallagher, our restoration expert, and Leigh Ann Hunt, our resident archaeologist. In no time at all, the supplies arrived.
I wondered exactly what part I would play in this, knowing my skills as I do, but after finding out what jobs needed to be done, everyone just seemed to find what they could do best or wanted to learn to do. The roof on the cabin had to be taken clear down, and the men got this job. The roof planks were covered with dirt, making them very heavy. Some of us dug and sifted sand for mortar in a nearby creek. The FS wanted to rebuild the cabin as close to original as possible. We learned all sorts of skills. The volunteers who were learning to point (caulk) around the rocks were soon very frustrated. It took over an hour of practice before one could do the job well. Rebuilding the fireplace had its own challenges. Lifting heavy rocks was handled by a volunteer who was a former structural engineer. A hoist system using ropes and boards did the trick. On the hill behind the cabin we found where they had quarried the original stones, so when necessary, replacements could be found easily. Everyone worked hard and had a lot of laughs. In the evenings our food, even if it was canned chili, tasted great! We sat around a fire and got to know each other better. This was my first PIT project, and it won’t be my last. We are hoping to help finish the old rock ranger cabin in August 1999. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and fulfilling experience. Thanks to all the crew.