Off The Beaten Path

A Cabin Waits for You Along the Appalachian Trail

 

For years, my friend Alison has been telling me, “You’ve gotta rent a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabin! You’ll love it!”

So here we were, my husband and I, on a late winter afternoon so dank and foggy we could have driven into the side of a mountain without knowing it. We were following the west branch of the Naked River, a tributary of the Shenandoah, traveling up a dirt road in what seemed like the Middle of Nowhere, VA, until we rounded a slight bend, and there in the woods was the unmistakable outline of a small, old log cabin.

This was it: the Robert Humphrey Cabin, built in the late 1700s and one of 42 dwellings that the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains along and near the trail from southern Pennsylvania to Charlottesville, VA. From completely primitive one-room cabins that require a vigorous hike-in to the beautiful and commodious Highacre House in Harper’s Ferry, WV, where Presidents Grover Cleveland and Bill Clinton have visited, the club’s cabins are an extraordinary collection of dwellings that tell stories of the Chesapeake Bay’s headwater region in a completely unique and personal way.

Some were built by Prohibition Era moonshiners, and others by the Civilian Conservation Corps, forest rangers, farmers, and even PATC members. They range in era from the late 1700s to the 1970s and encompass styles from one-room log or stone structures to traditional frame farmhouses. Some are nestled deeply in the woods along tumbling creeks; others, perched in high mountain meadows, offer stunning views.

Each has its own story and features, such as “an active and reliable spring that feeds into a cast-iron bathtub, which, according to legend, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Winston Churchill and Bertrand Russell bathed in when it was located at a guesthouse at the University of Virginia.” That’s at the Morris Cabin, according to the club’s helpful guidebook, which provides a history of the cabin network, photos and details about each cabin, as well as practical information such as how to operate a woodstove, and certain caveats, all delivered through clear and occasionally wry prose.

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Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—plan a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine.

Wendy Mitman Clarke

Wendy Mitman Clarke is a writer who lives on the Eastern Shore. Her novel Still Water Bending was published in 2017, and you can see more of her work at http://www.wendymitmanclarke.com.

January 17, 2019

Main image: The Robert Humphrey Cabin, nestled among Virginia mountains, is one of many cabins available for rent from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Photo by Wendy Mitman Clarke, http://www.wendymitmanclarke.com. Headshot by Tamzin B. Smith.
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