Stay in the historic Musick Guard Station – Forest Service cabin rental

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After a major illness forced us to miss our “grand adventure” last summer, we wanted to make this summer’s adventure trip absolutely epic.  We have 6 kids, so it needed to be safe, kid-friendly, and super fun.  We pored over the Recreation.gov site for weeks, voting on different options.  Musick Guard Station won and we booked it last February for an August stay.

Musick Guard Station is a historic fire guard station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on Bohemia Mountain in 1934.  Forest Service fire crews lived in the cabin, in sight of the Fairview Peak Lookout just a bit up the mountain.  Now, the cabin is available as a rental in the Forest Service’s recreation program.  Staying in the cabin puts visitors right in the middle of everything: dramatic views, unique hiking, 120 years of history, and best of all: exploring old gold mines.  We were sold.

Musick Guard Station - a rental cabin in the Forest Service recreation program

Musick Guard Station sits at the peak of a ridge, with views through the trees on every side, and wildflowers leading right up to the front door.

Musick Guard Station

We drove from Springfield to Cottage Grove (where we filled with gas…there are no gas stations in the 40+ miles up to Bohemia Mountain) and then started up the road toward the Musick cabin.  As the mile markers pass, the road narrows, turns to gravel, and finally tapers to a single track.  The road winds upward through the trees.  When the trees part, the view seems to last forever.  Each layer of mountain ridge fades from navy to royal to denim, until the endless trees and hilltops disappear into the sky.

Saddle on Bohemia Mountain

Fires in Oregon obscured some of the view in August, but I think the smoky haze also adds a filter of mystery and solitude.

The road to the cabin is wide and pretty easy to navigate, even for our people-laden minivan.

We arrived to the cabin early in the afternoon, and got our first look at our “home” for the next three days.  We delighted in discovering (and later exploring) the three outbuildings near the cabin.

Musick Guard Station - Barn below the cabin

My first thought, “Wow, this is more rustic than I expected!” Then I remembered there’s a barn, and other outbuildings. This is the barn, not the cabin! The cabin is just up the hill.

Musick Guard Station cabin

This is the Musick Guard Station.  A two-story, 4-room cabin perched on a ridge top, where the wind blows steadily.  If you open the side windows, the breeze is amazing and also makes cooking indoors in August completely bearable.

Outside Musick Guard Station

Musick Cabin outbuildings

Immediately behind the cabin is this building. I’m not sure what it was used for, supplies perhaps, or firewood. It’s nailed shut.

Musick Guard Station water tank

The last outbuilding, furthest up the hill from the cabin, is a water tank. This doesn’t work — there is no water at the cabin! — but it’s fascinating to see and to wonder how it worked when it was built.

And the bathroom! This is a standard vault toilet, same design you see all over Oregon. Nothing fancy. It was pretty clean and well-stocked with toilet paper (an issue we had earlier this year at a campground! No TP for dayssss…rough…thankfully we had our own, but that’s another story. )

Inside the Cabin

Once we’d unlocked the door, we spread out, exploring every nook and cranny of the cabin.  You’ll need to bring everything, including water, as the cabin doesn’t have much of anything.  On our visit, there was a pack of matches, a candle, and a 5-lb can of beans.  (If you really like beans, you’re all set!)  There is a sturdy wood stove for heating and for cooking, and firewood is often provided.  Wood is abundant nearby, if needed.

It was really dark in the kitchen, and I somehow missed taking any photos of that room.  But it contained a small table, a sink, and ample cabinetry.  There’s no running water, but the dry sink has a drain, and we set up a 5-gallon water jug for washing dishes and filling water bottles.

Musick Guard Station in Oregon

The main room, which holds a table and the wood stove. Keeping kids away from the stove was our biggest concern, and we used one of the benches from the table to block it off.

Musick Guard Station

Another view of the main room, with the stairs leading up to the bunk area.

This is the best wood stove I’ve ever used. There’s an OVEN!! I cooked a the best cornbread I’ve ever had, soft and flavorful in the middle, and crispy on the edges. And while I’m adept at cooking over a fire, I appreciated having a stable heat source to cook over. Also, the wood stove is important for hot, dry Augusts when fires aren’t allowed outside, as it was during our trip.

Museum in the Musick Guard Cabin

While you’re there, don’t miss the “museum” tucked into a cabinet. Lots of fascinating ceramics, metal, and glass found in the area. My favorite were the soles of two spiked boots…so small!  At first I thought they were a child’s boot soles, but I realized that, 120 years ago, men were much shorter on average, and these were the men’s boot soles.  We added a couple of railroad nails that we found at the nearby Musick Mine.

Sleeping Quarters

Musick Guard Station

Downstairs bedroom – queen or double bed with a closet.

Musick Guard Station beds

Upstairs is another queen/double bed. We brought air mattresses and our queen mattress fit here perfectly.

Musick Cabin beds

The bunks upstairs. These fit twin size air mattresses. The top bunks were pretty much off limits for us as there were no ladders. Two of our little ones shared a bottom bunk, and two more each had a bunk to themselves. The fifth slept with us and our sixth was just a few months old, so she had a travel bassinet. We all slept well.

Exploring Nearby

There’s a LOT to explore.  We stayed for 2 full days and didn’t begin to explore everything there is to see on Bohemia Mountain.  Gold was discovered on Bohemia Mountain in 1858 and people have lived and attempted to work up there ever since, building roads and trails and digging mines.  Boom towns sprung up overnight, only to be torn down and moved, or left to rot.

First, explore around the cabin.  Several trails take off right at the cabin.  Some we hiked to the end, only to find they didn’t really go anywhere (but what is adventuring if you don’t at least see where it goes?)  We poked around the buildings and caught peeks of Fairview Lookout through the trees.

There are numerous trails in the region for hiking and ATVs.  Many trails aren’t marked on maps, but may lead to old mines.   Others, like the Bohemia Mountain Trail, are well-marked and maintained.

Within about 3 miles in any direction of the cabin are remnants of old gold mines.  Some are still private property and are marked with signs.  Others are in the public domain and thus, you’re allowed to explore (but not actually inside any mines, of course).  We visited two mines, the Musick Mine and the Vesuvius Mine.  I’ll detail them in a separate post, but to whet your appetite, here are a couple of photos.  This is the post office from the Musick Mine.  It’s the only building still standing, and it’s maintained (as much as is allowed) by the Bohemia Gold Mining Association.

Booking the cabin for your own stay

If you go, and I really hope that you do, book early.  Bookings for Forest Service cabins start 6 months in advance, which is January-March for the summer season.  See Recreation.gov for booking details.

At the time of our visit, the Musick Guard Station is $50 a night and you pack in-pack out everything, including water and trash.

 

 

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Stay in the historic Musick Guard Cabin - Oregon Outdoor Family

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I’m a middle-aged mom of 3-6 and sometimes more, depending on day. I’m out of shape and usually exhausted. Our favorite summertime activity (and often on dry winter days) is getting outdoors and finding adventure.

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1 Comment

  1. January 29, 2019 / 4:46 pm
    I am editor of Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association quarterly OldSmokeys Newsletter and would like to use a couple of these Musick Guard Station photos to illustrate an article. Is permission required and, of so, may I request it. I will give credit.

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