Steamboat Springs Forest rangers in the Colorado Rockies during the early part of the 20th century had to be rugged individualists who could shoot straight, build a cabin by hand and use surveyor's tools properly.
Now, the public is invited to experience the lifestyle for a couple of nights in a carefully restored forest guard station.
The Parks Ranger District of the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest will begin renting the historic Grizzly Creek Guard Station this weekend. The cabin is on the opposite side of the Park Range from Steamboat Springs. It sits in an open park at the foot of the eastern approach to Buffalo Pass. The cabin is about 40 miles from Steamboat via Rabbit Ears Pass, and 30 miles from Walden.
Tina Lanier, recreation program leader for the Parks District, said the cabin was built in 1922 by Forest Service ranger George McClanahan. The cabin was intended to house his family while he was in the field, and to serve as a proposed tree nursery and research center.
Other buildings at the site have been torn down or simply rotted away. However, Doug Stephens with the USFS Regional Foresters Office in Denver helped to arrange a restoration grant for the cabin. It was provided through the Historic Buildings Trust Partnership of the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.
Lanier said McClanahan built the cabin to Forest Service specifications, but his own personal style of carpentry is evident in the building's dovetailed joints. The cabin has a new roof and fresh chinking between its logs.
Lanier said early forest rangers in the area were required to have expertise in ranching and livestock, surveying, mapping and lumbering. Before they were hired, they were required to pass field exams designed to test their ability to rope livestock, use firearms, and a compass. They were even required to prove they could cook over a fire.
There is no electricity or running water at the guard station, and the bathroom is an outhouse. There are some modern conveniences, Lanier said. Propane provides a source of heat in winter and fuel for cooking on the stove. It also powers a refrigerator.
The guard station has two rooms -- a kitchen and a sleeping area. It sleeps five in a pair of bunk beds (the lower level of one bunk is a double).
People familiar with North Park will easily find the guard station opposite the Grizzly Creek Campground on the way to Teal Lake. It is accessible by vehicle in the winter, but the snow in the area is quite deep. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are readily accessible from the guard station. Mountain bikers will find many trails and forest roads in the area.