Monday, March 7, 2016

Meadows Cabin Weekend

My friend Gina decided to celebrate her birthday by renting a historic cabin at the edge of Shenandoah National Park and inviting along a bunch of friends. Despite being swamped (as usual) at work, or maybe because I was swamped at work and needed some time "off the grid", I jumped at the invitation. The group included Gina and Peter H2, Dave and Cyndi, Nelson, Suzanne and me. Oh, plus the icing on the cake - Jen had a business trip to DC and came down a little early to join the outing.
Meadows Cabin

I volunteered to drive Jen. She flew into National, took the Metro to my neighborhood and walked to my house, detouring to walk up her old block along the way. Given the limits of bringing stuff with you on an airplane, she was short 1 or 2 gear items and hadn't brought any food and so our first order of business was to gear her up. I grabbed some stuff for her (now, in addition to saying that I have slept in Jen's tent, I can also say that she's slept in my sleeping bag) and after a stop at Westover for lunch (Italian Store pizza!) we picked up some food food and then headed for the hills. 
Cabin Selfie

We got to the cabin just a few minutes behind Gina and Peter. Dave, Cyndi and Nelson (who had driven together) were already there. It's not quite clear to me why, since there's a perfectly good dirt road there, but they don't let you drive all the way to the cabin. You have to park about 1/4 mile away and walk the rest of the cabin. Knowing that Gina was bringing a garden cart for the purpose of hauling gear I I hadn't exactly packed light. I had the basics in my backpack but had also brought a tub of extra stuff, plus instruments. We made a few trips with backpacks and a garden cart to bring all our stuff up - gear, musical instruments, drinking water, food, etc. 

The cabin dates from 1913, from an era before they created the park. On the main floor it has a great room with bunkbeds on one side and a sitting area with a big wood stove on the other, and a kitchen. Cooking is via a cast iron wood stove or hot plate. There's electricity but no running water or refrigeration. No bathroom, of course - outhouse only. The cabin also has a loft room up a steep stairway with some more beds. Dave, Cyndi and Nelson stayed upstairs. The rest of us stayed downstairs, closer to the stoves. Dave siad he heard "a rat" walking around upstairs at night. I'm sure he heard something, though whether it was a mouse, a rat, squirrels or whatever I don't know. 
The kitchen

It seems perfectly natural that a house from 1913 would be rustic - rough-hewn beams and wood stoves for heat. When I thought about it, though, I realized it's ten years newer than the house in which i grew up, a Victorian charmer (well, technically Edwardian) with stained glass windows, parquet wood floors, and central heat. Urban NYC vs. rural Virginia living, I guess.

Planning Saturday's Hike

Down the Trail
Anyway, I noticed on my phone that at some point in the afternoon I had gotten an email about gigs at Westover. I had been chasing their booking agent for months and so I was eager to get back to him before he gave the slots away. Cyndi mentioned that she had found a spot with cell service  on the nearby blue-blazed trail and so I took off in search of coverage. So much for "off the grid". To make a long story short, I found a spot where I got phone coverage, and so I took the opportunity to call Valerie. I had a nice walk. I briefly got lost off the trail because I was paying too much attention to the phone. With daylight fading I hightailed it back to the house. But I never found data coverage. It was Sunday before I got the email out.

Dinner was Gina's white lasagna, lots of snacks, sides and veggies, and no shortage of wine.

Saturday Hikers
Saturday was chilly, cold enough that we got a dusting of snow, but not super cold. After a nice breakfast (Jen's breakfast burritos) and a little wood splitting we headed out for a hike. Hiking in Shenandoah always means rocky trails and lots of elevation change. We let Peter choose the hike - which may have been a mistake, given that hes a pretty extreme hiker. We hiked out for a bit. Jen and Suzanne turned back because Suzanne's hip was hurting (we're all getting older). The rest of us continued, hiking about 13 miles by our estimation with well over 1,500 feet of elevation change. We hiked in and out of snow all day as our elevation changed. The hike included a brief lunch stop at Rapidan Camp, which was built as President Hoover's country retreat (Roosevelt established Camp David). Overall, a very pleasant day, but we were beat by the time we got back. I felt generally OK, but my feet hurt from a day of rocky tread and up-and-down hiking. I sat down with a glass of wine and dozed off for a bit while trying to read my book.
Saturday Hikers

Saturday dinner was a feast - Dave and Cyndi's sweet potato and squash chili, cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet, my vegetarian stuffed cabbage, and the usual assortment of snacks and sides. And no shortage of wine. After dinner Jen and I played music for a while. Everyone was tired and we headed to bed early. We had gotten the hang of feeding the wood stove and the place stayed nice and warm overnight.

Sunday morning, after a nice breakfast of omelettes, we headed out for a short hike. It was a warmer day and so we were less bundled up and we could stay warm without being on the move. We hiked down to a pretty set of waterfalls where we hung for a bit. When we got back to the cabin we laid out all the leftovers on the picnic table for lunch. And sang happy birthday to Gina!
Sunday Hikers

Birthday Cake!
Peter and Dave cutting wood

After that it was time to head home. We trundled everything back to the cars, then all of us except Gina and Peter hit the road. As always, it was great to get away from it all. As always, it was nice to get back to indoor plumbing.