Mule team to supply remote moonshiner’s cabin in Shenandoah Park

A historic log cabin built by a moonshiner and slated for restoration starting tomorrow is so difficult to reach that Shenandoah National Park managers will use a team of miles to deliver and retrieve construction materials.

Photo courtesy of Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
An old moonshiner’s cabin in Shenandoah National Park, slated for restoration beginning tomorrow, is so remote it will take a mule team to bring in construction supplies.

Built by bootlegger Harvey Nichols exactly 100 years ago in 1918, access to the remote chestnut log cabin — known as “Jones Mountain Cabin,” above Madison County — is by a strenuous 3.8 mile hike, the longest hike-in of all three-plus-dozen cabins maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).

“When Shenandoah National Park was established, the Jones Mountain cabin was within the boundary of the park,” the park service educates. “Nichols left the cabin in 1937 and it was abandoned until 1969. The cabin was restored by the PATC [from] 1969 to 71 . . . on the original foundation. Since that time, little work has been done to the cabin other than routine maintenance.”

The restoration project, which will last through early November, includes replacing the entire roof of the cabin, disassembling and rebuilding the existing porch and porch frame, repairing various log timbers using a combination of full replacement, partial replacement and epoxy repairs, stabilizing the fireplace hearth, and replacing the wood stove — all repairs deemed critical to the preservation and structural integrity of the cabin.

According to the PATC, which rents the moonshiner’s cabin to the public for $30 a night on weeknights and $45 on weekends, the structure consists of a main floor with 2 bunks, an eating area with counter space, a wood stove (the fireplace has not been operational) and large covered porch in the front. In addition, there is a loft space for up to 7 mattresses. The maximum capacity is 10, and dogs are welcome.

Shenandoah managers will temporarily close the trails leading to Jones Mountain Cabin to all hiking and backcountry use during two phases of restoration operations, when the team of mules will be used between the cabin and the parking area at the Graves Mill trailhead (off of Route 662 in Madison County).

Phase 1 of the temporary closure will be from 8 a.m. Aug. 17 to 3 p.m. Aug. 24, and include the Graves Mill trailhead parking lot off Rt. 662, Graves Mill Trail to the intersection with Staunton River Trail, and from there to the intersection with McDaniel Hollow Trail, including the entire McDaniel Hollow Trail. Also closed will be the entire Jones Mountain Trail from its intersection with Jones Mountain Cabin Trail to the intersection with Staunton River Trail. Similar closures will be put into effect during phase 2 of the project from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2.

The moonshiner’s cabin will be available again for rentals once the renovations are completed. More information visit here.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.