During a back country patrol of snowy woods southwest of Sisters last month, U.S. Forest Service workers made an unusual discovery.
Near Black Crater Lake and Whispering Pine Campground they found a small log shelter, complete with a metal roof and a metal box wood stove, said Kirk Flannigan, recreation team leader for the Sisters Ranger District on the Deschutes National Forest.
What made the shelter unusual was its complexity, and the fact it was built without a permit, he said.
“It is against the law to construct a structure on national forest land unless you have a special-use permit or contract,” Flannigan said.
Under Forest Service rules, the agency may fine the shelter builders $250 and require restitution for any damages to the land, Flannigan wrote in an email. It could also be considered a Class B misdemeanor, under which a judge could assess up to a $5,000 fine and order up to six months in jail.
It's a mystery who made it and when. Whoever did “put a little bit of work” into it, Flannigan said. The structure was about half the size of typical wooden snow shelters on the Deschutes National Forest. Inside was a bench that could seat three adults.
It appears the shelter was built from a kit, he said, with the logs hauled in rather than cut from the surrounding forest.
They were then stacked, “like Lincoln Logs,” Flannigan said.
The Forest Service left a notice on the shelter for about a week, he said, asking whoever was using it or had built it to call. It received no response.
Since then, the Forest Service had the shelter dismantled, hauling out the metal sections and burning the wood.
The agency still has the roof and stove if the owner is interested in claiming them.
Each year forest workers find a couple of makeshift shelters, but Flannigan said they are usually much more rudimentary “shanties.” This seemed built to last. He said it was likely being used by skiers or people doing some other snow sport.
As executive director for the Oregon State Snowmobile Association, Peggy Spieger of La Pine said she hadn't heard of the rogue shelter on the Sisters District. She was sad to hear it had been burned.
“It is kind of a shame to burn down a perfectly good shelter,” she said. “If you were a guy stranded you would be happy to see it.”