Refurbishing a Southeast relic

26-year-old USFS public use cabin and site receives a major overhaul

It has a fresh coat of paint, refurbished interior, a new deck and a freshly constructed outhouse so nice, some joke there should be a “please wipe your feet” sign on the door.


After a six-week remodel this summer, the Peterson Lake public use U.S. Forest Service cabin is back open for business. Crews with the USFS and SAGA helped to complete the remodel.

But the improvements go beyond just being easy on the eyes. The remodel aims at making the cabin more accessible for users of all types, Rob Morganthaller said.

That’s a good thing, since this cabin is one of the most popular cabins in the Tongass National Forest. Morganthaller does cabin maintenance for the Juneau Ranger District and oversaw the crews working to remodel the Peterson Lake cabin in July and August.

“This cabin gets well over 175 paid user days every year,” he said. “It’s a popular spot for locals and for visitors.”

Peterson is just one of many cabins in the Tongass that have seen improvements over the last few years. Last year, the John Muir and Dan Moller cabins, for instance, saw some major overhauls, as well. Other cabins to recently see improvements include the Eagle and West Turner sites.

“We’ve been renovating our high use cabins on the ranger district, doing (what’s called) deferred maintenance,” Morganthaller said. “(We’ve been) trying to repair things that have been neglected for lack of funds and time.”

After 26 years, the old panabode-style cabin located north of Juneau was certainly in need of an upgrade. The interior was coated in dark paint, grime and soot from decades of use. The deck, which had already been repaired once, needed refurbishing after being coated with layers of Southeast rainforest slime. And the site, which never boasted a permanent outhouse building, needed a toilet facility that was not only easily accessible, but also easy for officials to empty and clean.

Using recreation site improvement dollars, Juneau Ranger District Recreation Program Manager Ed Grossman said, the cabin got all that and more.

The dark interior was replaced with light-colored, wood tongue-and-groove siding. New bunks, tables and cabinets were installed, as well as two new windows. The deck was rebuilt using the original supports and topped with Trex brand decking. A trail leading from the cabin to the new vault outhouse and building was widened and hardened.

In a wet site like Peterson, which sits directly adjacent to Peterson Lake, Grossman said the new vault outhouse is of particular note.

“We’re striving to do a better job of managing human waste,” Grossman said. “We know where it’s ending up; it’s ending up in the lake. By building new facilities, we can periodically pump it out and dispose of it properly.”

The funds, Grossman said, also paid for a fresh coat of paint on the exterior, a covered shed and a new dock that caters better to arriving and departing float planes — one of the three ways users can access the cabin. Grossman said the recreation funds also paid for a new aluminum skiff at the site.

Morganthaller said anyone who visits the cabin now can enjoy a site with minimal

The new dock, widened trail, wide doorways and ramps — instead of stairs — up to the cabin help accomplish this.

Certainly, it’s not perfect, Morganthaller said. But he said the USFS hopes it is one step closer to helping users of all types enjoy Southeast Alaska’s wilderness.

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at


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