A Stay at the PATC Jarmin Gap Cabin

Jarmin Gap Cabin

Jarmin Gap Cabin by “Shaupie” – From the cabin log book

February 5-7, 2022

Cold. Arrived at Jarmin Gap cabin on the evening of February 5th right as the sun was setting. It was a steep climb on a single lane road that transitioned from asphalt to gravel and back to asphalt 2 or 3 times. I can see the benefit of having a 4-wheel drive vehicle on the trip up the mountain, especially after entering the gate. The road after the gate is especially steep and when we arrived the ground was covered in old snow and ice. 4WD was mandatory to make it up the ice-covered road unless we wanted to walk the last half mile. The road was more open and clearer that I was anticipating which made for easy navigating with my F250 crew cab truck.

Day Two – Parked in front of the cabin

We parked in front of the cabin which made for easy unloading of packs, food, and firewood. This cabin has an abundance of downed trees surrounding it which would make for easy gathering. Being a new cabin and not knowing the lay of the land, we decided to bring enough for 2+ nights. Speaking of firewood, the wood burning stove is a medium sized model and barely fits 4 pieces of wood. Be ready to get up a couple of times in the night to add wood to the belly of this stove. In comparison, the stove at Argow cabin (another PATC cabin) is huge and easily holds all the wood needed for a comfy night.

Getting the wood stove going was priority one because the temperature was 20°F and dropping. We had the cabin warmed up to about 55° in about 3 hours and had it up to 75° by 10pm. For that first night, we played a game where one player picks an object to draw, and everyone must take their best shot at drawing it. Then the group then takes a vote as to who won that round. No score is taken, but it’s a fun game to see how everyone interprets an object and to see just how bad I am at drawing.

The results of the drawing game

The cabin itself is a one-room model that sleeps six – there are two bunk beds and one futon sofa that can sleep two. Jamie, Lexie, and I occupied the bunk beds, while Lillian grabbed the futon. The bunks come with sleeping pads, but you should bring your own bedding & pillows or sleeping bags – as these are not provided.

The bunks

The kitchen is very well equipped! It has a two-burner propane stove (with propane supplied by the PATC), all the kitchen silverware, plates, cups, bowls, and cookware that one may want on a stay to this cabin. Some of the pots and pans have a non-stick coating so we were extra careful with the metal utensils to not scratch them. There is also a cast iron pan that will get more and more seasoned with each passing year of cabin use. The propane stove has great flame adjustability and it was a joy to use. For coffee lovers, you’ll find a percolator in one of the cabinets if you choose to use it. There is also a tea kettle that we kept going all weekend to provide hot water for hot chocolates, tea, coffee, and washing dishes.

There are two closets containing miscellaneous items that are handy around a cabin. One closet contains a bow saw, maul, and hatchet; while the other closet contains some fire-starting material, broom, mop, and dustpan. A steel trash can with lid is stored under the kitchen counter.

The dining table is about 6 feet long by 2 ½ feet wide and can seat 6 people comfortably around it on two fine pine benches and two chairs at the table’s ends. The table appears to be made of solid pine and of a style that I would love to make for my own home.

Jarmin Gap Cabin – bunks, table, and futon bed

While this is a primitive cabin, there are some battery powered lights and lanterns provided by the PATC and come in very handy. One of them is above the two-burner stove, another in a closet, and we found a third in the outhouse. Push them to activate and push again to turn them off. You may want to tuck 3 or 4 D-cell batteries in your gear for the provided lights, as I didn’t see any spares in the cabin. These lights are great for playing Settlers of Catan when the sun goes down!

Outside of the cabin is a very spacious deck with a fire pit nearby. A sawhorse can be found to help with cutting any firewood into stove-sized pieces. Pro-tip… place the provided wheelbarrow under the end of the sawhorse and let the sawed off firewood fall into it. We spent only about an hour cutting firewood and we doubled the stack of wood that was provided at the time of our arrival. There is a LOT of downed trees that can be used for firewood all around the cabin. I imagine that it will take years of PATC renters to diminish the supply.

The ‘Front Yard’ at Jarmin Gap cabin

On day two I noticed an abundance of birds outside of the cabin. I counted over 30 (Robins…?) in the front yard and in the trees around the cabin. My attempt at getting a couple good photos from inside the cabin was hampered a bit by the cold…. So I was shooting through the glass windows instead. If anyone can help identify these birds, please let me know and I’ll update this blog! (thanks!)

The outhouse is not far from the cabin. In fact, you will pass it on your left when you make your way up the road to Jarmins Gap cabin. Being practically brand-new, it was very clean. The plastic toilet seat didn’t stick to anyone’s bums despite being used at 15° F on Saturday morning.

Jarmin Gap Cabin outhouse (cabin in the distance)

Within the PATC information pack they mention that a spring can be found at the Calf Mountain shelter; about ½ mile uphill from the Jarmins Gap cabin and that it can be reached by bushwhacking a trail on the way there. While we did find the spring, the directions are not entirely accurate.

Don’t bushwhack a trail behind the cabin… we did, and you will end up on private property that is marked as such. Instead take the easier path of walking out to the dirt road you drove in on and walk uphill. After 75-100 yards you will come to what looks like a dead end and the private property will be marked on your left.

From Jarmin Gap Cabin, walk uphill on the dirt road until you see these posted signs… turn right at the dead end and look for the Appalachian Trail.

At this dead end, look to your right and find the sign that marks a property boundary for the Appalachian Trail. Not 15 feet past this sign is the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail boundary marker – walk past this sign and you’ll be on the AT

To get to the spring at Calf Mountain Shelter, take the trail ‘Northbound’. This will be to your right as you climbed the mountain on the dirt road. From here you will walk until you see this sign:

Sign pointing to the Calf Mountain shelter & spring

After you turn left on this spur trail, you will walk about 2/10 of a mile and you’ll see a clearly marked sign for a spring on your left that looks like this:

Hard to miss…. & hard to follow… – look left at this sign for the Calf Mountain Shelter spring

Fill up your water here, fresh from the mountain!

Calf Mountain Shelter spring in February – flowing strong!

A little further past the spring is the Calf Mountain shelter which is provided for AT through hikers.

If you are not familiar with the Appalachian Trail, it is a footpath the runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mount Katadin in Maine.

One nice hike that you can do from Jarmin Gap cabin is walk to the top of Calf Mountain for a spectacular view! We camped at the top of Calf Mountain in late April (or was it early May?) of 2021. The sunrise isn’t great, but the sunsets can be nice. There is a large clearing that allows breathtaking views to the North. You can reach the summit of Calf Mountain by hiking ‘Southbound’ along the AT for I think 1.5-2ish miles. This hike is all uphill, but not exhausting for those in shape.

I want to thank the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and its volunteers for making this cabin available for renters! You’ve done an amazing job at renovating this little gem. The small touches like the sink that drains outside, push-to-touch lighting, the propane stove, and spacious deck make this cabin a very nice PATC addition. Well done!

Here are some other photos from the trip:

Here are the log entries so far:

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Degree Sleeping Bag Review

In full disclosure, per FCC regulations, this website uses affiliate links that may earn me a small commission if you purchase a product using these links. Rest assured that you will get the same pricing for these products as if you visited that website directly. Commissions earned through this website help me keep fueled with beer and caffeine so I can keep the content coming! All opinions are my own.

After 3 years of steady use, I’m going to tell you what I like and what I don’t like about the Kelty Cosmic Down 20° sleeping bag, and if it’s worth buying! (Hint: Yes, I DO recommend it! 😉 )

I have personally owned the Kelty Cosmic Down 20° sleeping bag for over three years. My old model has served me incredibly well, but the newest model for 2021 is even better! They upgraded from 550 fill power down to 600 fill power down, all while keeping the price very reasonable. This bag has been with me for many many miles, and more nights than I can count. It has been to Canada, and all over the Eastern United States from multi-day backpacking trips to car-side camping trips.

What I like:

  • Price – This is a 20° F down bag that retail for under $140!
  • Weight – For the regular size bag, it weighs less than 2.5 pounds.
  • Packed Size – Kelty says it will pack down to 8″ x 13″, but I can tell you that I pack mine smaller than that!
  • Warmth – I love being super cozy when I’m sleeping, and this bag kept me toasty!
  • Women Specific Design – The Cosmic 20° DOES come in a women specific version!

Price This bag is hands down the best option for the money that I have ever used. It will give any other sleeping bag in the $140 price range a real run for the money! While many other sleeping bags in the 20° are either more bulky, more costly, or weighed significantly more.

Weight At only 2.5 pounds, this sleeping bag is way under what most bags weigh in the $140 price range. This is attributed to the 600 fill power down that is used to fluff up the trapezoidal baffles. Could some more weight be shaved off by eliminating the hood or using a lighter zipper? Sure. But if you are looking for strictly a super light bag, you will need to up your budget a couple hundred bucks.

Packed Size – Kelty states that this bag stuffs into a 8″x 13″ bag… which is correct. However, when backpacking I stuff it into a Zpacks medium-plus dry bag that measured only 7″ x 13″, but I could always get it down to 7″ x 11″ without issue. Even after being crammed into my backpack for days at a time, it always fluffed right up when pulled out of the stuff sack.

Warmth – Lets talk about warmth! I HATE being cold while I’m sleeping. In fact, I hate being cold at any time, but that is a story for another time. The Cosmic Down 20° is very warm. Never and I mean never did I wake up at night because I was cold. I’ve used this bag in temperatures down to 25° in the Virginia mountains without issue.

The only time I had an issue with being cold, is when I fell asleep with the zipper open. Zip up. Problem solved.

Women’s sizes? – Yes, the Cosmic Down 20° sleeping bag is available in a women specific version.

What I don’t like:

There aren’t any options from Kelty for a higher fill power option. Say, if you want a lighter bag and can afford a higher fill power down, you may opt for a 800 or 900 fill power option. Unfortunately, this isn’t available.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely! Many different people will choose a sleeping bag based on different reasons, but the reason to choose this bag is because of the very low price point for such a high quality and pack-able bag.

Are there other temperature ratings available?

Yes. Kelty has Cosmic Down sleeping bag that range from 40° F all the way down to 0° F.

What is your favorite sleeping bag? Have you used the Cosmic Down? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

If you would like to see specific gear reviewed, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to review it!

A Hike… To the Top of Virginia – Mount Rogers

The idea to hike Mount Roger started in January. At 5,729 feet (1,746 m) above mean sea level, it is the highest point in Virginia.

We arrived at the parking area around 10am on Saturday. The weather not what we would consider ideal for a weekend getaway. The fog was thick and the air very damp. All of the trees were heavy with the water droplets’ weight hanging from their leaves and twigs. The kids were a little less than excited due to the lack of sunshine. But, I assured them that this would be a great trip! We grabbed our bags and started on the trail.

Hiking in the fog, rain and wind, on Mount Rogers in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia

We didn’t get 300 feet away from the car, and Lexie said she forgot her water bottles. Yes, this was a little frustrating, but we were only a short distance from the car, and she would definitely need them, as we all carried enough water only for ourselves. As I told Lexie to go back to the car and get her water bottles, I noticed a privy nearby and had some business to take care of. Jamie took Lillian ahead and agreed to wait for Lexie and me at the clearing in the trees a few hundred feet ahead.

I finished my nature call and walked up the trail to meet Jamie and the kids. Jamie was there. Lillian was there. Where was Lexie? Maybe she was having a hard time finding her water bottles at the car? I walked back to the car while Jamie and Lillian waited to see if Lexie would walk by or otherwise show her face. When I got to the car, it was locked up and I found no evidence of Lexie. Where would she have gone? She knew what trail we walked up. Now I started to get an uneasy feeling as to where my child would have walked off to.

I checked a spur trail near the parking lot – no luck. With some pep in my step, I walked back to Jamie and Lillian to see if they had seen Lexie. They hadn’t. Now we had to make some decisions. Split up and find her?

We pondered for a few minutes to think like Lexie would have done. Lexie didn’t know to look for Jamie because she had already started towards the car when Jamie and I spoke. And from where Jamie and Lillian were waiting, there was a blind spot where Lexie could have walked by and not seen them. Now we decide that I should start up the mountain to see if Lexie walked by and started up without us.

I start the trek up the mountain and realize that Lexie has a solid 30-minute head start on me by this time. As I pass other hikers, I’m asking them if they have seen a red-headed child – about yay tall (holding my hand about yay high). I’m getting a lot of no and nope’s. This isn’t making me feel any better.

About a half a mile up the trail, I see a couple of day hikers are coming down the mountain. I ask them about the red-haired child about yay tall, and they said that they did, in fact, see a child about yay tall a few hundred feet ahead sitting on a large boulder. I was elated. There is still a possibility that the child they saw wasn’t actually my child, but I ran as fast as my tired legs would take me.

There she was. Calm and as chill as a cucumber – sitting on a field rock. Wow, was I glad to see her! I gave her a big ‘ol hug, and we gave each other a joyful and joking hard time for losing each other. Once I explained what happened and understood her story, it became clear that she did indeed walk right past Jamie and Lillian in the blind spot that was created by some pine trees. Not knowing where we were, she walked right up the mountain!

We walked down the mountain and joined Jamie and Lillian. They were super excited that we were all back together and we could continue our trip to the top of Virginia!

We hiked on. Through the pony-resistant gates. Past the “Lexie Rock.” Up the trail. One thing that is very unique to Mount Rogers are the ponies! Wild ponies are all over the mountain. They mostly ignored people, but on occasion, one would be very friendly and try to make friends with us.

One of the wild ponies as it inspects us for snacks near the AT shelter on Mount Rogers.

The trail up the mountain joins the Appalachian Trail after a few miles. From that junction, we get on the AT and head south towards Mount Rogers’s peak. We pass the 500-mile marker on the AT, a group of rocks placed on the trail that spell out “500” on the wet ground.

Only about 2 minutes walk past the 500-mile mark, we see two young girls pass us; hiking North. A peculiar sight indeed. These weren’t just a couple of kids day hiking with their family – these two were thru-hiking from Georgia to Maine. They waved and said hi but didn’t skip a step as they moved North. A few steps in front of me, Jamie turns around and asks me, “Are they part of the family?”.

“The Family”

Several months prior, I had reached out to a family that started hiking the Appalachian Trail to see if I could host them at my home for a day or two when they reached Waynesboro. (I reach out to thru-hikers rather often to offer some bit of “trail magic”) Now, I do understand that when hiking a long-distance trail, an email will often go unanswered. I really didn’t expect to get a reply, and that’s okay. I’m not sure I would respond to some random guy on the internet anyway.

Was this the family that I had reached out to several months earlier when they were in Georgia?

We walked only around the next bend, and hiking towards us was Sunshine and Papa Bear! The mom and dad from the family that I had emailed. What are the odds??!! What are the chances that a random family in Waynesboro sends an email to a random family hiking the AT and happen to cross paths on a random section of the AT? Crazy!

We introduced ourselves, and they did remember seeing the email. Sunshine and Papa Bear were very gracious that I offered my home, but they had other plans when they arrived at that part of the trail. We said our goodbyes and hiked on. They headed North on the trek to Katahdin, while we headed South towards the peak of Mt. Rogers.

A big congratulations to Jamie, Chris, Maya, Harper, Josie, and Sabina Malone, as they did reach the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine that summer!

The Malone family on the summit of Mount Katahdin – via awaking-dreams.com

It wasn’t much further, and we found the spur trail on the right, which led up to the summit of Mount Rogers. As we walked up the trail, we noticed a very abrupt change in the forest and scenery. The scrub brush and dry open fields gave way to dense greenery as we went further and further up the mountain.

The summit wasn’t far up the trail, perhaps only 15 minutes walk. Once at the top, the true summit isn’t obvious, but looking around revealed a marker embedded in the large boulder at the top. It’s a brass color and gives the geological information marked by the U.S. Geological Survey.

U.S. Geological Survey marker at the top of Mount Rogers – the highest point in Virginia.

Of course, we had to take a selfie to mark the accomplishment!

At the top of Mount Rogers! Kevin, Jamie, Lillian and Lexie; counterclockwise from bottom left.

We set up our camp in a small grassy clearing in the trees right along the trail. It seemed to be at least slightly protected from the wind, which was picking up as the day went on. The weather forecast called for more of the same the next day, with increasing winds. We could have set up camp near the AT shelter, but it was full and not very protected from the wind. Previous stays in AT shelters taught me about the mice that like to hang out there. Some shelters are okay, and some are… well… not okay.

Setting up camp in the clouds.

We woke up the next morning to more fog and more wind. Breakfast was oatmeal with almonds. I did the cooking while Jamie packed up the tent. Lexie and Lilly are great about taking care of their gear. They set up their tent and sleeping gear and pull it all down in the morning. It really makes a trip like this so much easier when the kids can take care of their own and pitch in to help. After eating breakfast, we hit the trail! It was several miles of hiking to the parking lot, and we wanted to get back before the real rain came down.

Hiking down the mountain in the cold fog.

After a couple hours we make it back to the car, and not 10 minutes later, it POURED rain!! We made it just in time!

Mount Rogers was an enjoyable trip, despite the cold and rain. We will definitely make another trip! Maybe on the next trip, it will be sunny, and we can catch some of the amazing views that the Grayson Highlands has to offer!

Weekend Getaway to the PATC Tulip Tree Cabin

It was mid September and I really needed a break. I had no vacations or trips in what seemed like an eternity. Maybe it was only 3 or 4 months, but who’s counting… So I wandered on over the the patc.net website and booked the Tulip Tree Cabin for a weekend stay the coming December.

Why December? Well, because most of the nicer and easy-to-access cabins/houses that are offered through the PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) get booked as soon as an opening becomes available. The first available date (actually the only available date) was the weekend before Christmas on December 18-20. Being as I needed a getaway, and this was the only weekend available, and the cabin looked really rustic and all – I booked it.

It’s sometimes hard to make a reservation for a rustic cabin without electricity when the weather can be a large unknown. In thinking about the last couple of years, we have had very little snow, and even less in the month of December. So what could possibly happen? Snow of course! December 16th a storm dumped about 10-12 inches of snow in Luray, Virginia. Yikes. Frigid cold, too! Perfect timing for our trip!

I almost called the trip off, but trips like this are what makes memories. It’s not the perfect weather, sun is always out type of trip that people reflect on in twenty years. Actually, the trips where something happens and that obstacle has to be overcome are the trips that make the story books.

So I packed the truck.

I took a vacation day on Friday to get a head start on the weekend. Along with all of the usual camping/cabin essentials, I threw a good stack of seasoned firewood in the bed of the truck to feed the belly of the wood stove when we arrived at the cabin. The kids and I left Waynesboro and headed north around 2pm – destination Luray, Virginia – Tulip Tree Cabin.

Summer time scenery around the outdoor kitchen – Image by Richard Heath via PATC.net

There was about 2-3 inches of snow in Waynesboro when we left and although it wasn’t snowing (the snow had ended a day prior) we were seeing more and more snow as we closed in on our destination. When we arrived at the turn off point, where the asphalt meets the gravel, we became a little worried because the gravel road was covered in snow! It did show signs of plenty of vehicle traffic from local residents.

I locked the truck into 4WD and started up. The going was slow and took about 15 minutes to cover the distance up to the Y where the road forked. To the right, is the Tulip Tree Cabin and Lambert Cabin. To the left is another PATC cabin called Huntley Cabin.

Cabin interior as viewed from the loft – via PATC.net

Now the issue at the fork is not which direction to go, because we knew we needed to go to the right. The issue at hand was the road… the road to the left was fairly well traveled while the road on the right was covered in 10 inches of fresh snow and exactly zero tire tracks. While I’m debating turning the truck around, I hear both of my daughters from the back seat say in an overly enthusiastic yell:


Just like that, I turned the steering wheel to the right and headed up the unknown road hoping my ridiculously long crew cab F250 wouldn’t get into a jam on the very narrow road. I swear school buses have a smaller turning radius…

It wasn’t long and we were at the end of the road with a little sign that indicated we had made it to the parking area. The cabin wasn’t in view because it’s about a tenth of a mile walk from the parking area to the cabin. This, we knew, because the PATC did inform us of this on their website. Knowing that this trek was in front of us, and we had a weekend sized stack of firewood in the bed of the truck to keep warm, I did manage to bring a wheel barrow to haul our good to the cabin. Good thinking.

One of the many wheel barrow loads hauled from the truck to the cabin!

What we didn’t know, is that there was a 15 foot wide (give or take) creek that crossed our path to the cabin about halfway there. This was a bit of a surprise, as it wasn’t mentioned anywhere that I recall. No matter. With the trusty wheel barrow, I hauled one kid at a time over the soggy ground to the other side. This worked well because the kids didn’t get squishy wet feet on day one, and I certainly didn’t mind because I was able to use my knee high muck boots that are kept in the truck.

The cabin itself is very cozy and situated in the woods about a tenth of a mile from the parking area. The walk isn’t bad, even in the snow! Once inside, we promptly stoked a fire in the wood stove to get the cabin warm while we unpacked our gear.

The wood stove is located right in the middle of the cabin and next to the kitchen area.

There is a fireplace on the right, with the wood stove in the middle of the cabin, next to the kitchen space.

The fireplace to the right when you walk in.

Two twin over twin bunk beds are located on the left as you enter the cabin. Also on the left, is a stair case that leads to a spacious loft overlooking the kitchen and dining area.

Sleeping arrangements in the loft include two queen beds side-by-side. Accommodations for a total of eight people are in the Tulip Tree Cabin.

The stay for the weekend was a lot of fun! There were eight of us in total, which includes Jamie’s sister and her family. With no cell service around, it was a great opportunity to talk and play games on the picnic table, cook over the wood stove and enjoy some adult beverages. The wood stove kept us plenty warm even at night when the temperature dropped to around 18 degrees.

A non-battery powered game to fuel the kids’ entertainment (thanks Mark!)

This cabin was a very pleasurable stay for us. If you would like to book it, click here:


Keep in mind, that PATC club members have the largest selection of cabins to choose from, and joining the club is worth every penny.

Opening a Canning Jar – The Easy Way

Like most gardeners, I can fresh veggies during the summer and gradually work the canned inventory down over the winter. For a long time I struggled with the best way to open pesky stuck lids… until now. This method is crazy easy and I wish I thought of it sooner.

You’ll need a makeshift pry bar, like a dull butter knife. First, remove the metal threaded band that holds the lid in place.

Step 1 – Remove the metal band holding the lid on.

Take a look at the threads where the metal band threads on the jar. Rotate the jar and find where the glass thread is closest to the lid. This is where you want to put the tip of the pry device.

Step 2 – Insert your pry device right between the highest thread and the bottom of the metal lid. (here I’m using a butter knife)

Slide your pry stick in between the lid and the glass thread – then twist.

Step 3 – Twist the butter knife (pry thing) to gain leverage between the glass thread and the metal lid.

Pop. Off comes the lid! Now it’s time to enjoy this sweet batch of strawberry jam!

Step 4 – Enjoy!!