My first assignment as a full-time volunteer at Mt. Rogers was that of a backcountry ranger. My area was bounded by Elk Garden to the west, Fox Creek and VA 603 to the north, Grayson Highlands State Park to the south, and the forest boundary to the east. My job was to hike the trails and make visitor contact, passing along information to visitors and render assistance where needed. My home in the backcountry was a one room cabin about 1/2 mile north of The Scales, a fenced in area popular with hunters, blueberry pickers and any other soul brave enough to make the journey up the five mile 4WD road that led there from the valley below.
The Lincoln Cabin, as it was known to a few old-timers, is a one room cabin that the forest service uses to house their volunteer backcountry rangers. It has propane lights and cooking stove and a wood stove for heat. It sleeps four and at times, space can be tight. There is an adjacent building that is used for trail crews and provided additional space for the backcountry crew. We would get our water from a piped spring and the forest service had built a vault toilet for use by volunteer staff. Although it was located about 50 feet away from the Appalachian Trail, it was so well hidden, most hikers I have talked to over the years never knew it was there.
Even though I had the cabin to sleep in, it was not uncommon for me to camp out on any given night. I could hike out to a certain area for the day and pitch a tent for the night, then hike back the next day. Having spent the better part of the year already hiking and camping in various locales, I was accustomed to sleeping in my tent. When the weather was nice, I would, on occasion, forego the tent and sleep under the stars. After living a somewhat transient existence for most of the year, it felt good to finally be in one place for an extended period. I found, too, that for $15.00 per day, I was able to eat fine and thanks to the abundance of blueberries, haw apples, and that prime southern delicacy called ramps, I could supplement my grocery purchases with a little foraging. It was a different existence than what I had been used to, but for where I was in my life, it just felt right.