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  • Writer's pictureKelsey


Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Over the weekend someone decided to carve their instagram hastag into one of the cabins so it reminded me that this article might be good to share again. The person in question has apologized, but you can imagine that if even a small percentage of visitors "make their mark" on these 100+ year old cabins (Or rocks or anything in our public lands) they'll be gone before you know it. At least it wasn't burnt down like the old Barker Ranch cabin.

Originally published in 2015:

Adopt-a-cabins are first come, first serve, leave it better than you found it, remote cabins.

In most cases they are well over 100 years old. Some volunteers, and in the past even BLM sponsored groups, will work on these old miners shacks to keep them standing.

One may just have a repaired roof to keep the rain out. Another might have a working stereo/solar panels/working refrigerator/BBQ/fresh water/garage etc. The fun part is finding these cabins and participating in their continued stewardship for all to enjoy.

It sounds a bit hokey, but when you see the amount of work and ingenuity you either want to be a part of it or apparently, you want to destroy it. Don’t be like the second type of person.

How the cabins work:

1. No one owns them. (In some cases someone does actually because they are on an old mining claim, but the rules are first come first serve no matter which one you’re in.)

  • 1A: Most of these cabins have mice/rats. If you don’t want the Hantavirus, it’s best to sleep outside. We spend a lot of time inside of them and there are several of my friends that sleep in them. I’m not one of them. I prefer to retire to my truck for bed.

2. How do you go about staying at one? You arrive, put up the American flag and that’s it. It’s now yours to stay in. We always invite other visitors to stay with us because it’s just the right thing to do. Sometimes people have traveled for hours or days to stay there so it’s nice to share. (Also, sometimes the folks that work on the cabin or originally repaired it show up and we always offer to leave out of respect for all the work and time they put into it)

3. What’s the cost? There is no $ cost, but often times there is a jar of money you can contribute to. The good folks that keep the cabin in shape will use it for nails, paint, windows etc. Or, you can simply bring what the cabin needs! Paint, toilet paper, some piping to repair water lines etc. It’s all appreciated. Sometimes there is a list of “needed items.” (It really blows your mind when you see a jar of $20's. It gives you faith in humanity)

4. Why wont people tell me how to get there. Because, some people suck and that’s the only way to protect them, at least somewhat. I’ve seen a beautiful cabin one year, only to see a burned out hulk the next. We all have to find them. That’s part of the fun! Once you find the first one, you feel proud and now you’ll want to find more!!!

5. Why don’t they make the road to them easier to traverse? In most cases, there is no “THEY” to improve the road. Also, often times the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deems a cabin too accessible and it becomes an attractive nuisance to be removed! No one wants that to happen. I’ve gotten to where I know a cabin once stood and it’s just a perfectly manicured piece of flat dirt.

6. How do I know if it’s an adopt a cabin or some ones actual home!? Obey private property signs, don’t go past locked gates (unless you KNOW the cabin past it is one of the shared use ones). Every one I've seen is on public lands or sometimes on a small square of private within hug public tracts of land. The Adopt-a-cabins have a different look/feel than private property.

7. How do I find out more about these cabins? Go out and find them! There is info all over the internet about them. Some even have very general directions to get you started, but the actual location is generally hidden and should remain this way. When you see how much work has gone into some of these, you’ll want to keep it that way out of respect for those who’ve brought these abandoned places back from the dead.

If you want to start with one, research the Barker Family ranch. It’s where Charles Manson was captured. I bet the Barker’s regret ever renting to a crazy hippie. Their once picturesque ranch will always be associated with him although no one was ever thought to have been killed there.

So, with that. Here are some pics.

Basic one in Nevada.

A very nice one that was in use until the 70's. The pool was fed by a natural warm spring so it was always fresh. Word is, that some folks know how to turn the piping back on to fill the pool. What a day that would be. A Toyota Corolla with a good driver can get to this one. This will be one of the first you'll likely find.

Here is an example of what can happen. This cabin/ranch was Barker Ranch. Here are a couple of before and after photos from back to back years of visiting it.

Most of these cabins have some sort of artifacts that have been found in the area or left by previous travelers. It can be tempting to all of us to take something we think is neat, but then we're depriving everyone of the feeling we had in seeing it. Just like those before you, please resist the urge to take anything from the cabins.

This one below has water, power, a stereo inside and out, batteries, solar panels, full propane hookups for the fridge and stove, a homemade cooling system, a target shooting table and range, a garden, a bathroom etc. It’s absolutely amazing.

Here is a collection of some other cabins you might find. There are many more out there waiting.

I could go on for hours, but I’d rather plan my next trip and you should start planning yours. The deserts of Arizona, the Mojave Desert and remote areas of Death Valley are where you’ll find the majority of them, but they do exist in the reaches of Colorado and Utah so keep your eyes peeled!! You never know, you might even find a bar, that’s not a bar since there is no liquor or business license. You just take beers, but then feel a strong urge to donate some money to the bars preservation.

Good luck!

P.S. Remember to sign the guest book and if you want to learn more about the cabin check out the first few entry's as the folks who've started the repair work often tell their story in their first signing of the book!

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