Star Meadows - Passport in Time

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Star Meadows Work Center

Flathead National Forest, Montana, 2001
by Lisa Keibler, FS Heritage Intern, and Timothy Light, FS Archaeologist
In June 2001, a team of volunteers and FS staff completed a PIT project to restore the Star Meadows Guard Station, now an FS work center. Isabelle “Izzy” Washburn (Wyoming via Texas), who has traveled throughout the West and participated in many PIT projects; John Hauer (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho), who used to be the assistant ranger at Star Meadows when it was still in operation as a guard station; and Pat Light (Missoula, Montana), Tim’s brother, who has volunteered on numerous PIT projects, all came together on this project. FS Archaeologist Timothy Light was the project leader. Gary Fairchild and Lisa Keibler cooked, cleaned, and provided logistical support. The project also received support from Tally Lake Ranger Jane Kollmeyer, and Dick Davies, Greg Beck, and the engine crew from the Tally Lake Ranger District. Becky Smith Powell arranged our stay at the Tally Lake Campground and came up to the station for a day of cleaning and scrubbing. Zone Wildlife Biologist Jane Ingebretson provided the trees that we later planted. We also borrowed scaffolding and miscellaneous tools from Rick Sievers at Spotted Bear Ranger District.

After meeting the volunteers at Tally Lake Ranger Station for the safety briefing and general welcome, we headed out to Tally Lake Campground and then to Star Meadows Work Center. The first challenge upon arriving was to haul out all the old road signs, surveying equipment, office chairs, benches, window screens, and other miscellaneous equipment that was stored in the old station. We then started the swamping-out effort. This included using spray bottles containing a combination of bleach and water to mist down everything inside the structure and everything we had removed. After this mixture set for a while, Tim put on the “moon suit” (actually, a hazmat suit) and ventured in to shovel and vacuum out the “ickiest” areas. This was done to prevent workers from contracting hantavirus. While Tim was “moonwalking,” John and Izzy sorted out the things that could be burned and brought them down to the burn pile. Other materials were set aside for Jane Kollmeyer and the fire crew to sort through.

Next on the list was washing and scrubbing windows, sills, cupboards, counters, and walls. Nails were either pounded back in or pulled out as needed, and then the floors were swept, mopped, and scrubbed free of grease and oil by John and Izzy. We planted 10 aspen trees in front of the station and 12 cottonwood trees alongside the creek. Pat, John, Gary, and Lisa spent the last two days repainting the ceiling and chimney while Tim repainted the sign above the front door. John and Pat took belt sanders and sanded the floors to ready them for varnish. While they were sanding, Izzy, Tim, and Lisa set up the scaffolding outside. They used the bottoms and tops of tin cans to cover the bird holes in the siding—a traditional technique in keeping with the building’s historic fabric. Varnishing was the last thing we did. John, Pat, and Lisa finished the varnishing while Izzy and Tim went around locking windows and doors and loading supplies and equipment in preparation for calling it a wrap and going home. We finished early Friday afternoon.

On three occasions, we had after-dinner presentations for the volunteers. The first was by Tally Lake’s Wildlife Biologist Amy Jacobs, who came out to the campground and talked about the many different animals that live in the area and the signs they leave behind. Francis Auld and Wain Lefthand from the Historic Preservation Office of the Confederated Salish and Kootenia Tribes gave a talk about the history of the tribes, the surrounding area, and their contributions to the FS. On Thursday, the Tally Lake Ranger District hosted a potluck dinner for the volunteers and Star Meadow neighbors. At the potluck, John entertained everybody with stories from when he worked at the guard station in the 1930s. Between stories, Tim and Jane talked about the PIT project, showed pictures of the whole week’s process, and discussed our hopes for the newly restored Star Meadows Guard Station.

Throughout the week, the weather was mostly sunny and hot, which provided a perfect setting to observe the local wildlife. Every morning during breakfast, a bald eagle would sit at the top of a dead tree and look out over the lake, watching for his breakfast to jump from the water. During the day, we would see deer on the road or walking to the creek; sometimes they would come by the front of the station. We also noticed a little frog on the west side of the station right before we started planting trees; we later documented this sighting for Amy Jacobs. Sometimes after dinner and the presentations, a couple of deer would walk through our camp, heading toward the lake.
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