I greeted the morning with more happiness (and relief) then I have known in a long while. We went down to the stream to collect water, cooked breakfast, hung out in rocking chairs on the front porch, and gave names to all the butterflies that befriended us.
Hoping to avoid further intrusions by curious hikers that kept poking their heads into our cabin all morning, we locked up and went for a (mostly uphill) hike on Indian Run Trail. Just when we reached the summit the the wind picked up, and in a matter of seconds the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, the sky went dark, and the trees shook furiously. Then came the cold, pouring rain. Nothing like being stuck on the top of the mountain in the pouring rain with nobody in sight and five miles away from a known shelter (that would be our cabin). Having no other choice, we continued down hill on the trail, soaked through our rain gear.
After about an hour, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We continued on the loop back down the mountain until we reached the river where we took a break and finished off what food we had left. Up until this point, we hadn’t seen or heard anyone on the trail, but as we were sitting on a rock, contemplating the beauty of our surroundings, a middle-aged guy with curly hair, thick glasses, and 1970s attire mysteriously appeared out of nowhere, completely dry, and toting two heavy paper grocery bags. He didn’t respond when we said hello, so we decided that he was either an apparition or a serial killer. We didn’t stick around to find out the truth. Instead, we noted the direction he was headed and hiked the opposite way. Which is how we stumbled across an irresistible swimming hole with ice cold water and a tiny hidden “waterfall.” Sly jumped in immediately. It took some coaxing, but eventually so did I.
We chased the daylight back to camp in sloshing shoes. Sly chopped more wood, we built a large fire, I collected rocks from the stream and made blueberry muffins. We drank wine, ate large slabs of cheese and smoked salmon, and played a bootleg 80s version of a trivial pursuit like game called “Game Show.”
The next day we said goodbye to Corbin’s cabin (because it really still did feel like it belonged to him and that we were just guests in his house) and hiked for what seemed like an eternity out of camp in the blazing hot sun. The closer we got to our car, the more our minds played tricks on us–every turn seemed to be the end of the trail, and yet it just kept going…and going…and going… And then there were the stupid gnats, then the stinging nettles, and then finally, the reward: flip flops, ice cold diet cokes, cheeseburgers, and not one but TWO desserts at Big Meadows Lodge.
Corbin Cabin: $30-$90/night. Cabins are rented through PATC and are extremely popular during the peak months. Reservations can be made 2 months prior to the date you are planning to stay at the cabin (earlier for PATC members or if paying an additional premium).
- Corbin cabin can be reached via Skyline Drive (parking is at a mile marker) or via the Old Rag parking lot. We opted for what seemed to be the shorter of the two: the Corbin cut-off trail from Skyline Drive. Detailed instructions are included when the PATC sends the keys to the cabin.
- Because of the cabin’s location, the cabin does receive foot traffic from curious through-hikers who like to have lunch on the front porch. This can get pretty annoying unless you like company. Camping and fires are not allowed outside of the cabin.
- The cabin is well-equipped with cooking utensils + dining ware, water bottles/containers, solar shower, cooler (though obvi you would need to supply your own ice) spices, linens, bedding, matches, and a wide assortment of tools, however it is recommended you bring your own camp stove(otherwise there is a wood-burning stove or fire place) and your own light/candles. It gets really dark out there.
- There are two sleeping areas in the cabin–the upper loft area (no beds) and an annex that contains several bunk beds and mats.
- Water can be obtained from a cold spring located down river from the cabin. There are many directions for how to reach the cold spring taped up in the cabin. We chose to just drink treated stream water.
- The outhouse is located in the front of the cabin via a short trail. There is no running water or indoor plumbing.
- The cabin has mice (and according to the guest book, a resident rattlesnake). Make sure all food is sealed in containers and/or hung from the wall/ceiling hooks.
- The cabin is locked — the key is shipped to you via the PATC a couple weeks prior to your reservation. They also maintain the cabin and outhouse regularly (every other week?) but daily maintenance is up to the residents. All trash should be hiked out.
- Make sure to leave chopped firewood for the next guests.
Hiking: Nicholson Hollow Trail, Indian Run trail, and Old Rag are some of the most popular trails in the area, with Old Rag ranking as probably the most popular hike in Shenandoah National Park. For a detailed map of trails in this area, click here.
Swimming: There are quite a few swimming holes off the Indian Run and Nicholson Hollow trails. When you are near the Hughes River, look for small paths that leads off the main trail — these usually lead to wonderful private swimming lagoons.
Ruins: The remains of Nicholson Hollow and the family cemetery can be visited just across the river from Corbin Cabin.
Big Meadows Lodge: If you are desperate for human contact, a beer, and entertainment, then New Market Taproom in the basement of Big Meadows Lodge has all of the above. Hidden down in the basement is also a very vintage looking tv room. Of course this means hiking back to your car and driving to the lodge, then hiking back…
The two main lodges — Skyline and Big Meadows — have dining rooms and taprooms that are pretty much open all day. In addition, you can order picnic lunches, grab groceries or visit a Wayside — a roadside food stand. Tip: You can get Starbucks coffee in the gift shop located right beside Big Meadows Lodge.