PINEDALE – If the walls of the newly renovated Gannett Peak Lodge could talk, imagine the stories they would tell. Originally named Half Moon Lodge, the buildings were constructed to serve as barracks at the Farson Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.
Beginning in 1933, 19 CCC camps sprang up throughout Wyoming, with the closest camp to Pinedale going up on the edge of Fremont Lake, named Camp Fremont.
Workers filled the camps from around the country, taking part in a myriad of jobs to bring local improvements to the areas where they were based. Typical projects consisted of thinning forest trees, eliminating rodents, preparing public campgrounds, constructing trails and bridges, according to the book “Pinedale, Wyoming: A Centennial History” by Ann Noble.
Barracks were abandoned as the New Deal program fizzled out in the early 1940s. Farson’s camp closed in 1940, and CCC structures went on the market for a cheap price. The buildings later moved to Pinedale through the efforts of Andrew Sulenta, joining additional CCC structures in town that had been brought in from various camps in the region. Many of these structures remain in Pinedale to this day.
The Farson barracks were soon transformed into the Half Moon Lodge, which operated through the years with multiple owners until being shut down in the fall of 2012. The motel had been winterized for the season, but never reopened … until now.
Sofia and Forest Wakefield, who currently operate the historic Log Cabin Motel, first met on the scenic shores of Jackson Lake at Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park as concession employees of the lodge in 1991. Sofia later became the lodging supervisor at Signal Mountain, and lived out of a historic log cabin on the lake year-round.
The couple worked for a few years in Grand Teton, and later moved to Jackson to operate a business together, called Harvest Café Bakery and Natural Foods.
To get away from the hustle and bustle of Jackson, the pair would often escape to the Upper Green to find solitude and relax when not working. In a spur-of-the-moment decision in the fall of 2003, the couple came across a 40-acre ranch along Forty Rod Road and purchased it on the spot with a handshake agreement.
“We just wanted to have space and quietness,” Sofia said. “It was a good fit; it was unexpected and not planned.”
The purchase of property coincided with the couple selling their Jackson business, and they moved into the home for one month before deciding to travel to Sofia’s home country of Germany and other locations in Europe for a year to see if they wanted to move to Europe.
“We decided we’re happily coming back to the United States,” she said. “It was a good way for my husband to see European culture.”
Forest hails from the west coast, growing up in Sacramento, Calif.
The couple traveled from Europe back to Sublette County in 2005, and Forest went into the real estate business. That fall, the couple came across the historic Log Cabin Motel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but was in need some repair work.
“It was for sale for some time,” Sofia said.
The couple didn’t purchase the property initially as they feared winter business wouldn’t be enough to make it a viable option. After tossing the idea around for a winter, the two made the decision to move forward with purchasing and revitalizing the Log Cabin Motel in May of 2006.
“It felt like the right thing to do,” Sofia said.
Each year for the past 10 years, the couple renovated one cabin a year on the 14-unit property. Sofia says it was the right decision to take the journey with the historic location.
“It’s been great; it’s an honor,” she said. “It’s big history here.”
Walter Scott originally constructed the cabins in 1929. Back then, locals that lived in remote reaches of the county would come stay at the cabins in the winter months to be near a doctor prior to giving birth. Over the years, Sofia said many return to stay in cabins they were birthed in to reminisce in their own personal history.
One block east of the Log Cabin Motel on the corner of Magnolia Street and North Sublette Avenue sat the vacant Half Moon Lodge.
“We had no intent to buy,” Sofia said. “It never occurred to us to buy it.”
At the end of January of this year, the couple decided to make a move and purchase the lot on a whim.
“We knew we had to do it; it felt right,” she said.
The lot sat empty since the fall of 2012, and in March this year, they began giving the historic buildings a facelift.
“We began with clearing snow and getting into the units,” Forest said. “We looked at three of them.”
Since the lodge closed after being winterized and never re-opened, the rooms sat fully furnished for years, untouched.
“It was like a time capsule,” he noted. “We pretty much bought it sight unseen. Every room had a different style.”
For the past few months, they have been working hard to renovate the property in order to open up this summer. Work to fix up the property has included new plumbing, all new fixtures, new flooring, new stain and paint, some windows being replaced and new porches.
Progress on opening the property back up is right on schedule, with the first guest expected to arrive on June 16. More guests are expected around the 20th of June, which is also when an open house event will take place from 3 to 6 p.m.
Forest says the 19-unit Gannett Peak Lodge will compliment the Log Cabin Motel, as it will satisfy those who do not want to rent a cabin. They will have specials set up for those hiking the Continental Divide Trail, and will also serve as a budget location for nightly rentals.
“It’s mainly for nightly budget travel for bikers and backpackers who come in late and leave early that need a clean room and a hot shower,” he noted. “We’ll rent to whoever comes by.”
The new owners say this will simply enhance the lodging options already available in Pinedale.
“Pinedale has a lot to offer different travelers and budgets,” Forest said. “We wanted to have a nice, clean budget hotel. We feel like it gives us the opportunity to provide more guests a positive experience with the history in Pinedale.”