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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
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.
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.
Outside Musick Guard Station
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.
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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