Saturday, November 2, 2002
Steamboat Springs When the Big Fish Fire blew up in the Flat Tops south of here on Aug. 16 it stormed down from Himes Peak and took little heed of what was in its path.
Trappers Lake Lodge, a rare public building virtually in the cradle of the American Wilderness movement, burned.
Now, new owners Daniel and Melinda Stogsdill are intent upon rebuilding the lodge before winter sets in. Daniel Stogsdill said he was told it couldn't be done.
"It was relentless determination and a refusal to believe those who told us that building a new lodge at 9,600 feet, 50 miles from the nearest town and before the snow flies was an absolute impossibility," Stogsdill said.
Within 60 days after the log lodge burned, a roof was on the new building. It will offer twice the usable space of the old building, which was erected in 1918.
Modern building codes prevent replicating the old lodge, Stogsdill said, but the old building wasn't forgotten when plans for its replacement were quickly pulled together.
"No new structure could ever faithfully honor and replicate the old lodge," Stogsdill said. "That structure was very authentic to the traditions of turn of the century log cabins built in the mountains. The new lodge is a log structure compatible with other log structures at Trappers. We are working on various ways to incorporate some of the history of the old lodge through photographs, stories and artifacts that survived the fire."
In all, the Stogsdills lost eight buildings in the fire including individual cabins and a barn. The losses have exceeded $500,000 and Stogsdill expects insurance to cover about 80 percent of that amount.
"Any business that has ever suffered catastrophic losses will tell you that insurance coverages are not adequate to compensate for all of the losses," he said. "Our insurance philosophy on casualty losses is that you should insure the losses you cannot afford to suffer and you should prepare to pay for the losses that you have not insured. We balanced those objectives fairly well, although obviously in hindsight you always wish that you were better insured."
He said not all of the buildings consumed by the forest fire will be replaced.
"We lost eight structures in the fire and have placed all of our focus on rebuilding he lodge," Stogsdill said.
"We will not rebuild some of the cabins that were lost next to the lodge, which will allow more convenient parking for our guests and will not crowd the new lodge with nearby cabins."
The new lodge will offer a total of 3,360 square feet, with half the total in a full basement.
Although the rebuilt lodge will provide more usable space and allow his staff to seat 45 in the fine dining room, it's clear Stogsdill has mixed emotions about the building project now under way.
"Quite frankly, we were not excited at all about a new lodge," he said. "The fire was a devastating experience; we've lost an irreplaceable asset. Generations of families shared the best of times in that lodge, but traditions, by necessity, always must start somewhere and this new building will begin new traditions for many generations into the future."
Looking back on the August day when he had to turn his back on the old lodge and let the fire have it, Stogsdill describes a profound experience.
"Anytime a person suffers a loss like this the events become somewhat surreal and difficult to explain," he said. "I have vivid memories of evacuating our guests and our employees and remaining with the firefighters to help as much as we could to protect the premises.
"I was on the last truck out. I looked back with the sky raining ash up at us and glowing with an almost eerie Martian-like light. I feel a sense of failure that the lodge had to make its last stand alone against a ferocious enemy and that in its final moments we could do nothing to protect it."
Stogsdill said he and his wife take comfort from the knowledge that the new lodge will be a place where extended families gather to enjoy the beauty of the Colorado Rockies.