In praise of Argow cabin

By Posted on Jul 25 2012 | By

          Almost two years after restoration reviews confirm expectations

On October 29, 2010, a party—literally—of over fifty PATC members and friends dedicated Argow Cabin, located just outside the South District of the Shenandoah National Park, a mile hike west from milepost 70. The festivities of speeches, pork bar-b-que and hay rides culminated a five-year restoration project.

Standing on the covered porch that bright fall day, many of the attendees predicted the cabin would become a favorite of the outdoor cognoscenti. The thirty mile views from the side porch alone seemed to clinch that conclusion.

Argow Cabin Today

As the second anniversary of the cabin’s entry into the club’s rental system approaches, one need only flip through the log book or check out its availability on the PATC website to confirm its popularity. Let’s hope Travel & Leisure magazine doesn’t discover this place.

And what makes the cabin a magical spot to stay? Its natural beauty and history dating back to the Civil War. Samuel Eaton, the builder and first occupant of the cabin lived in the tumultuous era of the War Between the States. Time obscures what role Eaton played in the conflict but to gaze at the hand-hewn 13 inch thick chestnut logs is to look back at a time when a man’s success was often achieved by back breaking labor.

The restoration project is all the more remarkable when one views a photograph hanging inside the cabin taken in the early 1990s. The three story building had been abandoned for years and looked more like a decaying tobacco curing barn—with partial chinking and listing on its crumbling foundation—than a snug mountaineer’s cabin. Its days were numbered as the forest slowly closed in on all sides.

Then, two serendipitous actions occurred: the property was sold to the club at a favorable price by Keith Argow, a professional forester. And club member Jeff Testerman agreed to lead the restoration project. Testerman, a commercial construction project manager in Charlottesville, engaged his exceptional management and building skills to save the cabin.

One weekend a month for over five years, Testerman organized a group of some fifteen volunteers to slowly bring the cabin back to life. Given its location high on the evening side of the Blue Ridge, it required a steep ascent up a narrow, winding dirt road to reach the site. One transmission and an endless number of scratches on the crew’s vehicles were part of the project’s unfunded cost.

But on dedication day, only satisfied memories and a sense of accomplishment reigned among the work party.

So what has been the reaction among club members and the public since the cabin opened? PATC is in a unique position to assess renters’ experience through the evaluation of the cabin log books.

The journals are a throw back to the days when the written word prevailed everywhere. Today, it’s seldom one can read a diary-like journal of a person’s thoughts on living the outdoor life. There is a bit of Henry David Thoreau in all of us and his words resonate today for those seeking to briefly escape the stresses of modern society:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” he wrote. Amen.

Soon after Argow was dedicated, an occupant penned these words in the log, “What a great job on this cabin. There were some veteran PATC cabin-goers in our group and many times over the weekend it was mentioned Argow is one of our favorites.”

A month later, some winter visitors recorded, “The Drive was closed (snow), so we backpacked in the six miles from the park entrance. Wow—what a beautiful cabin. We were so impressed with the quality in the renovation, the beautiful covered porch and the unbelievable view!”

The log book is replete with similar observations since the cabin became available for rent.

Testerman has continued on as the cabin’s overseer and says, “It’s gratifying to read the comments of folks staying at Argow. Yes, it was a lot work and toward the end our crew was eager to wrap the project up. But to see what was gifted back to the club is rewarding. I hope this mountain jewel is still sheltering visitors decades from now.”

Anyone who has stayed at Argow cabin echoes his hope.


Published in the August 2012 edition of the The Potomac Appalachian.

Argow Cabin View

Categories : HAGARTY TALES