We’d heard of people renting PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) cabins for years, but it wasn’t until last year, when I was in the throes of planning my first backpacking trip with friends and buying up all the necessary gear, that we decided to finally try it for ourselves. As I was planning my trip we made the decision to join the PATC as well as the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy). My hike was going to be on the Appalachian Trail in Southern Virginia beginning in June. By Easter, I had a water filter, backpack, bear canister and other gear that we were eager to try out. We booked Argow cabin in Shenandoah National Park, and it was one of my favorite things we’ve ever done as a family.
We all agreed this needed to be a tradition, so this year we planned another trip, this time to Conley Cabin in the PATC’s “Vining Tract” of property that contains several cabins and borders the park. The way it works, is that some of the PATC’s cabins are available to the public and some only to members, and if you book less than 60 days in advance they’re half price! This makes a PATC cabin trip super affordable, but to find a place that suits you can be tricky. We decided to go in the middle of the week to have more cabins to choose from – some are modern, some aren’t, some require a hike and some don’t. We wanted a primitive cabin, and the half-mile hike to Conley was ideal for our family of three boys and two labs!
As expected, our trip was another memory maker for our family! It was our puppy Banjo’s first trip with us, and he did GREAT! We loved the hiking available right outside our door – it was a pretty easy climb to Andy’s Overlook and past several of the other cabins. The hike to the nearest running spring at Wineberry Cabin was a tough but beautiful one. As usual, the boys loved helping out with the chores of chopping wood, filtering water, building fires and cooking. A swing on a tree just outside the cabin provided a nice fun break, and the yard was perfect for lots of running and playing and hide and seek.
Conley is perfect for its views, lawn, and pretty short and easy hike in. The spring was a little far, but doable. Only thing we could’ve used was warmer weather – it hasn’t been truly warm YET this spring! But the stoves inside kept us more than toasty at night.
So far we haven’t done another cabin trip outside of these two spring break trips but I want to make it a priority because it is such a nice escape. It always strikes me how peaceful it feels to set technology aside and get busy with the simple work of getting by without electricity and plumbing. I truly love it! And watching the boys play wizards with sticks they found and whittled themselves, play hide and seek and set up a fort inside a bush … nothing better!
I have to thank my husband because he is great at cutting wood and building fires! We couldn’t have done this without him! I am so thankful to see him teaching these things to our boys, too. I want them to know that there’s nothing they can’t do and they are off to a great start.
Former journalist, full-time wife and mom of three boys, native West Virginian and amateur adventure seeker