Bureau of Land Management
Volunteer Feature

Historic Cabins "Adopted" by Volunteers

California Program Helps Repair Remote Structures

By Richard Abele and Elizabeth Rieben

Gusty winds that come roaring through the canyons are only one of many concerns that occupy a dedicated group of volunteers who travel far into California's Mojave Desert and surrounding mountain ranges to do their work. They are part of a unique effort to restore historic cabins on public lands within the shadows of Death Valley. This sturdy group of volunteers works tirelessly to shore up and stabilize these structures so they can withstand those howling winds, and the heat and sun so characteristic of the area.
The Stone Canyon Cabin is one of many cabins being refurbished through the Adopt-A-Cabin program in Southern California.
A volunteer carries a flat rock for the steps.
Rocks are used to stabilize the steps.

A prized example is the remote one-room Stone Canyon Cabin, located at an elevation of about 4,500 feet in a designated wilderness area in Stone Canyon of the Argus Range. Rich Abele originally discovered the Stone Canyon Cabin while exploring in the Argus Range in 1997. He and fellow volunteer Dana Ouellette adopted it in 2002 after hearing about the Adopt-a-Cabin program.

The cabin has one table, three old wooden chairs, a single spring bed frame, a "shot up" refrigerator and some shelves. The deck consists of original wooden planks.

Materials have to be lugged by hand through the wilderness. Volunteers carry the refurbished (original) window frames the 1.5 miles to the cabin.
The original corrugated tin roof had to be reinforced with nails.
Original wood steps are stabilized and repaired.

Volunteers visit this cabin about four times a year in one- or two-day work parties. Their goal is to repair and stabilize the original stone and wood structure. They have already installed felt tar paper over the cabin floor, replacing the old torn-up paper which had been removed a few months earlier, and which revealed large air gaps between the planks. They also have worked to repair the roof, nailing down the original corrugated tin sheets which tended to "curl up" or blow off during the frequent high winds. Most of the window frames have been repaired and the steps stabilized using local rocks.

Getting to the cabin is a job in itself; it requires 4-wheel drive vehicles to reach the trailhead at the wilderness boundary, then a 1.5 mile hike up the canyon, often while carrying equipment and supplies!

Four months later, the cabin is looking sharp!
Tar paper will insulate and cover the floors which had large gaps between the planks.

That's the romantic side of the Adopt-a-Cabin volunteer program! There also is office work to be done. This includes updating all the cabin files, inventorying contents, installing checklists, cataloging MOUs, tracking down Volunteer Agreements, and the list goes on. In addition, Rich makes community service presentations about The Adopt-a-Cabin program to garner interest and support in the local community. This work has paid off.

The BLM's Adopt-A-Cabin program was started in 1989 when BLM and a group of concerned citizens agreed on a plan to repair historic cabins once used by ranchers and miners in Southern California. BLM provides the materials and volunteers provide the labor. About 37 cabins in remote and often inaccessible areas have been identified for adoption under this program operated out of the BLM's Ridgecrest Field Office in California; almost half have actually been adopted. Today a dedicated group volunteers mostly from Southern California take great pride in restoring these historical treasures of the great outdoors.

Adopt-A-Cabin Update--December 2003

For more information on Friends of Minnietta Cabin, go to http://www.geocities.com/fomc_1999

The Minnietta Cabin, before volunteers began their restoration work...
...and after. Notice the repaired deck, roof, stonework, steps, windows and doors.

Adopt-a-Cabin volunteers place rocks along a hillside and around desert plants near the Minnietta Cabin in the Argus Range on December 13, 2003. Volunteers enjoyed campfires and lots of great food, tossed plenty of horseshoes, worked on the rock garden and pathways, and met new friends.
Wreath hanging at the Minnietta Cabin decorating event December 2003.

Rich Abele is a BLM volunteer and a member of Friends of Minnietta Cabin (FOMC) and Co-Coordinator, Stone Canyon Cabin. Elizabeth Rieben is an education specialist in BLM's National Office in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the BLM's Adopt-A-Cabin program, contact Steve Smith of BLM's Ridgecrest, California, office at 760-384-5440 or at rssmith@ca.blm.gov.

This cabin in the Panamint Range of California was recently fully stabilized by volunteers in the Adopt-a-Cabin program.

To view other BLM Volunteer Features, click here

Last Updated: January 13, 2004

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