Hand Lake Forest Shelter … Restoration

August 9-14, 1993

Hand Lake Shelter is unique among surviving shelters on the Willamette National Forest in that Obsidians in earlier years played a prominent part in its establishment.

Constructed in the Adirondack style with a peeled log frame and with walls and roof covered with split shakes, it has withstood the elements for more than 50 years in an area with a high annual snowfall.

The shelter is located on the edge of a meadow surrounding Hand Lake. It is on the boundary of the Mt. Washington Wilderness, and is easily accessible – just a quarter-mile off Hwy. 242 (with convenient parking across the road from the trailhead).

It was built in 1939 by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the development of Hand Lake Ski Area. McKenzie District Ranger Ray Engles directed and personally supervised the work. One of several such winter sports structures developed during the ’30s, it is today the only surviving specimen.

The ski area was first developed in 1932, when an Obsidian work party cleared and graded a ski run near Hand Lake; many years later, a keen eye can still recognize the ski run site!

Later, the Forest Service in conjunction with the Obsidians, the Willamette Ski Patrol and the Ski Laufers, cleared other ski runs in the area. An uphill rope tow was installed, and a ski jump on the east side of the lake was constructed.

Hand Lake Ski Area and its warming but was in much demand in those days and up until 1941, when the State Highway Department quit plowing Hwy. 242, thus making it inaccessible for winter use.

Serious deterioration of the Shelter has been caused in recent years due to contact of its sill logs with the soil, and by the moist debris which has been allowed to pile up along its walls. It has also been heavily vandalized through the years: shakes had been removed for use as firewood by thoughtless picnickers and campers. Serious repairs and restoration work were needed if it was to survive many more winters …

Obsidians, in conjunction with the Forest Service, agreed to assist with the restoration work, and individual members were urged to volunteer to work during August by project leader Bill Eimstad.

The week prior to Obsidian Summer Camp, the young people of McKenzie Ranger District’s Resource Center removed all remaining shakes, some of the 1" x 12" underlayment, epoxy filled the soft spots in main sill logs, cut up some felled snags at the site and removed heaps of debris from inside the shelter.

Obsidians and Forest Service personnel worked each and every day of August 9 through 14 (see box below, “WORK LOG”). On leaving the site on the 14th, the rain had set in and there were four more courses of shakes left to close the rear roof and finalize the project. (With just a couple more helpers during the week, the job could have been completed…!).

Jim Denney then added the final shakes to the roof, did some minor interior restoration to the project, and generally cleared the site ready for trail user access.


The 1993 Hand Lake Shelter Restoration Project was fun to do, and I am sure all those involved learned something from Gene Thaxton’s professional building experience. Jim Denney was a tireless worker and a great Crew Boss.

Some of the comments heard while work was in progress were: “Use every shake, at this price there are no rejects”, “Don’t backup (redo)”, and “Don’t look back”, “My knees will never be the same again”, “My bottom has a permanent line across it,” “Don’t yell at your wife”, “I am not getting back on a ladder for 10 minutes” and “I can’t believe I’m up here sky-walking”.


Work Log

Monday, August 9: Work Crew - Jim Denney (USFS), Obsidians Bill Eimstad, Glenn Meares, and Gene Thaxton. Gene and Glenn removed old sublayment 1" x 12"s on rear or east Shelter side, added new fir boards and started to attach shakes. Jim and Bill removed old underlayment (1" x 12"s and shiplap) on Shelter’s north side and hung replacement material on lower and upper walls.

Tuesday: Crew - Jim Denney and Bill Eimstad. They removed old boards and hung new ones on south wall.

Wednesday: Crew - Jim Denney, Bill & Donna Eimstad, John & Lenore McManigal, Glenn Meares and Gene Thaxton. Glenn and Gene cut and fitted shakes around log rafters on Shelter’s rear (or east) side; John and Lenore and Bill and Donna put shakes on north and south walls; and Jim put new shiplap on roof and repaired some of the log rafters with resin epoxy.

Thursday: Crew - Jim Denney, Bill Eimstad and John McManigal. Bill and John finished shaking south wall plus three courses on north wall. Jim spaced and nailed new shiplap nailers on roof.

Friday: Crew - Jim Denney, Bill & Donna Eimstad, Glenn Meares, Marriner Orum, Dave Predeek and Gene Thaxton. Bill and Donna finished shaking north wall. Gene and Glenn finished rear wall. Dave and Marriner removed nails from old lumber and cut off ends of nails inside structure. Gene, Glenn, Dave and Marriner began applying roof shakes to back of Shelter.

Saturday: Crew - Jim & Pam Denney, John Cecil, Bill & Donna Eimstad, Bea Fontana, Gene Thaxton and Dave Predeek. Jim and Bill (with Pam hauling shakes) completed front roof. Bea, Gene, John and Dave (with Donna handing up shakes) finished six courses on rear roof.

— Report by Donna & Bill Eimstad


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