Pentagon Cabin Stabilization
Flathead National Forest, Montana, 2004
by Mike Beckes, Regional Archaeologist, FS Northern Region
I spent August 14–22, 2004 participating in the PIT project at Pentagon Cabin on the Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead NF. Five PIT volunteers plus Facilities Engineering and Heritage staff (Bill, Carlos, Tim, and Lisa) from the Flathead NF conducted major historic preservation efforts at this 1929-vintage guard station. This NRHP-eligible historic administrative site sits at the junction of five major trails in this part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and is heavily used by trail crews, recreation managers, biologists, and others. It is an integral part of the network of historic backcountry guard stations now being studied for consideration as an NRHP district within the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
After gathering at Spotted Bear Ranger District, the crew hiked 10–12 miles to Pentagon Cabin. All heavy personal gear, tools, jacks, and building materials had previously been transported to Pentagon by mule string. The project involved felling, peeling, notching, and hewing trees to replace rotted spandrels and sill logs, digging 10 large footer holes, hand mixing and pouring concrete for piers to support the cabin, and then jacking and leveling the cabin to its former position. Native rock was placed atop the new piers at ground level to preserver the historic facade. In addition, the old porch was removed, and new log joists were prepared to support a new porch. This was heavy, challenging work that was somewhat hampered by cool rainy weather, but it was completed safely and on time by a highly motivated group of PITsters.
The Flathead NF supported the PIT crew by setting up a field kitchen that provided a steady stream of hot meals, snacks, and an endless supply of strong coffee. Crew members camped out or bunked in the cabin for the duration of the project. Safety was emphasized, with several “tailgate” sessions to discuss the use of unfamiliar tools like draw knives, broad axes, crosscut saws, and the like. I am happy to report that no injuries occurred. I made a short presentation on the history and origin of the PIT Program, which was well received by the volunteers. District Ranger Deb Mucklow and Packer Bob Starling rode in and spent an evening with us and had some lively discussion with the volunteers. Bob’s extensive logging experience came in very handy the next morning with a particularly challenging tree that needed felling. This was a well-thought-out, well-organized, and well-run PIT project.
Pentagon Cabin should now have another 70 years of useful life as a working administrative site. Once again, PIT volunteers provided the critical people power, energy, and enthusiasm to complete a much needed historic preservation project. I commend the Flathead NF staff and leadership for an excellent project and a wonderful experience.