Dan Moller cabin remodel to be complete in November

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

Instead of muskeg, I smell cedar. Light filters where only shadows crept before and the crackle from a neat wood stove offers a warm welcome to an otherwise chilly fall day.

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Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire

I'm standing inside the newly rebuilt Dan Moller cabin on Douglas Island. It's not quite done, but close.

Sawdust still covers surfaces in a film as thin as tissue. Stickers can still be found on newly installed windows. And in the background I hear the conversational hum of workers, inspectors and curious visitors as they hustle around the building.

Beyond the outhouse that still stands from years past, the new structure hardly resembles its former self. A combination of keen design, regionally harvested building materials and site upgrades now offers prospective visitors a warm, dry and bright place to stay the night.

Ed Grossman, recreation program manager on the Juneau Ranger District , said work should be complete by Nov. 15.

That's just in time for the snow, which won't likely be a problem no matter what Mother Nature has in mind.

Because this new structure, Grossman said, is beefy. Engineers designed this cabin to withstand extreme snow loads, 276 pounds per square foot, to be exact. For comparison, the lodge at Eaglecrest Ski Area was designed to stand up to snow loads topping out at 120 pounds per square foot. Other features such as extended eaves will shelter the new porch and deck, which extends from the second floor. The roofline was rotated 90 degrees to aid in the sloughing of snow.

"Hopefully, we'll never have to shovel this roof again," Grossman said smiling.

All new windows and doors will help ensure wind, rain and cold stay on the outside, while a closeable hatch between the second and first floors will help keep warm air used efficiently inside.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic is the fact the entire cabin is built from yellow cedar. Grossman said the fragrant and appealing wood was chosen for its ability to resist rot and has natural antimicrobial properties that help to preserve the wood.

In stark contrast, the old structure felt more like a cave then a cabin. The inside was constantly littered with various decrepit items including garbage, rodent droppings, soot and "gifts" from previous visitors. It was constructed with the supporting beams running vertically, making it both difficult to maintain and remodel. Weight of winter snow used to press against the logs sending them off center and the moisture-laden soil upon which they were built promoted rot.

But despite these characteristics, the historical charm that came with the structure and surrounding opportunities for recreation has drawn crowds for years. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service, who officially took over maintenance of the cabin in 1983, has reported this rental as one of the most popular in the area. Historically, the story is the same. Since the creation of ski trails on Douglas in the 1930s, and since the days when the Tucker Snow Cat "Oola" hauled skiers to the footings of Third Cabin, this hub has served recreationalists for around 80 years.

Even today, as construction crews work quickly to finish by the deadline, the cabin is already booked through the New Year. For only a few days from mid-November through December is the cabin scheduled to be vacant.

Overall, the design follows standard Forest Service specifications: 16 feet by 20 feet, overall and it sleeps up to 12 people. Next year, plans are in place to construct a covered walk way to the outhouse.

All construction work, including the tear-down of the old structure, was done by carpenters Lock Hendry, Buck Willoughby and Mathew Janowitz. The structure, prior to shipment to Juneau, was built and milled in Ketchikan by Larry Jackson and his crew at Tongass Forest Enterprises.

Whether it's the vistas, the winter sports or berry picking in the bowl above, this new cabin is not only functional, but also a lovely compliment to the natural beauty that surrounds.

• Contact Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

• This story has been altered on Nov. 3 to acknowledge the carpenters who did the work on the structure as well as the regional business who milled the lumber.

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