During the past summer the Friends of the Rossland Range were busy tearing down some of the old huts in the Rossland Range Recreation Site, and building new cabins to replace them.
Mosquito Cabin was one of those replaced, and Don Liszt and his wife Laura Mackay took on the rebuild as FORR volunteers.
“The old one was just an a-frame with a ridge pole, and poles, and Tyvek and a tin roof,” said Liszt who teaches wood shop and construction at Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar.
The old cabin was also infested with mice and pack rats.
“Whenever we did the fall clean up to be ready for the next ski season it was disgusting,” said Mackay. “Going in and having to clean and get it ready, and knowing that your cleaning was kind of fruitless because they would just poop again and it would just be filthy again.”
A key requirement of the new shelters is that they be rodent-proof. Not only will keeping mice and rats out make for less mess, it may also help prevent the spread of disease.
Deer mice can carry hantavirus, which causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a rare but potentially fatal disease. Only a couple of people in BC are reported as being ill with hantavirus each year, but in North America one in three people with HPS has died.
The disease is spread when the deer mice droppings, urine or nesting are disturbed and virus particles circulate in the air where they can be inhaled.
Rodents had chewed numerous holes through the plywood in the old Mosquito Cabin, but the new one is built three feet off the ground with a sub-floor made out of pressure-treated wood, and a layer of mesh between the sub-floor and the plywood floor of the cabin.
“This has to be a really determined little rat or mouse to get in there,” said Mackay.
Mackay and Liszt were conscious of the old cabin’s history when planning to replace it, not least of all because the old cabin is where they got engaged and celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
They made every effort to keep what they could from the old cabin.
“We kept the logbooks from the old one, and the picture of the old crew that built the original Mosquito Cabin, we got in touch with the only surviving builder from the original cabin and redid the photo and put their names up,” said Mackay.
Dr. Trudi Toews, who helped build many of the original cabins, came up to visit during construction of the new Mosquito Cabin.
“It was really an honour and a pleasure to show her [the new cabin],” said Mackay, “because she had a stake in the old ones. It felt very important and kind of special to show her around.”
Twenty-eight volunteers put in over 750 hours to help build the new cabin, and many local companies donated materials.
Interfor donated lumber for the walls, Columbia Glass donated all the windows and the door, and Maglios’ Building Centre, Korpack, Gold Island Timber and Kootenay Sawyer all gave generous discounts. The Recreation Sites and Trails BC branch of the Ministry of Forests donated the new outhouse.
Liszt’s students even helped out with pre-cuts for some of the walls.
Mackay and Liszt said they’ve also talked to many people who would have liked to help out on the cabin, but didn’t realize the rebuild was happening. Luckily, the Friends of the Rossland Range still have another six cabins to build, so there will be plenty of chances to help out next year.