Sarver Cabin: The Spookiest Place on the Appalachian Trail

After a long, 20-mile day on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, I arrived at my night’s destination on a muggy summer evening: Sarver Cabin. I had never heard of it, but could see it would be a long steep descent off the ridge to reach the spring and campsite there. I let my backpack drop to the ground and sank down, feeling a sudden weight of a different sort bearing down on me.

The day had been a typically joyous day of hiking, but now I was feeling…well…suddenly scared and a bit sad. In fact, my fear of going down to Sarver Cabin was so strange and profound that I remembered it distinctly over and above the other memories of that day.

Historical photo of Sarver Cabin (date unknown)

The following year I was “talking trail” with my then-boyfriend, Andy, who had thru-hiked the AT a few seasons before me. I asked him if he ever got really scared on the AT, and he said no, but recounted a night in Virginia when a good friend of his had a very strange experience at a place called…Sarver Cabin.

I was stunned and immediately asked for details. His buddy was a grounded and fit sort of fellow who enjoyed yoga and health food, and like most long distance hikers, was used to camping alone. He had set up his tent near the old dilapidated log cabin, overgrown with brush and unlivable with its roof caved in, and started a small fire in the fire ring. After dark, he felt a very unusual growing sense of unease. He said that the unease grew until he began to feel extremely nervous. He added wood to the fire at a time when he’d normally be putting it out so he could retire to his tent.

Suddenly, he distinctly heard a child’s voice coming from inside the dark cabin, saying, “Hurry! Get out of here.”

The site of the cabin is very remote and not near a road. It would be a long, difficult hike into or out of the area in the dark. As the voice repeated itself, Andy’s friend packed up everything. He ran six miles in the dark to the next shelter, where he found other hikers who helped ease his fright.

I never ended up hiking down to Sarver Cabin that night on the AT. After several other thru-hikers arrived, none of whom wanted to camp by Sarver Cabin, a young, strong hiker named Purple (for his choice of hair color), volunteered to hike down the side trail and bring back enough water for all. That night we all somehow crammed four tents on the narrow ridgeline.

I still remember just a few other details about that day, but I can distinctly recall the strange look on Purple’s face as he returned and said, “You don’t want to go down there.”

“Why not?” I asked. “It sounds like a neat old historic cabin to explore.”

“I don’t really know. Just don’t go down there.”

My friends and I never had anything like that happen on the AT again, or for that matter, off the trail.

Nowadays, one can easily search the Internet and find similar stories about ghosts visiting campers at Sarver Cabin. It is known that the family who homesteaded there at the turn of the century lost many children at a young age. A small family cemetery near the cabin ruins still has one gravestone that is legible, that of Mary Sarver, only nine when she died.

Since then, there have been a few other spots, both on trails and off, that I have had that same sense of inexplicable dread. Even though I don’t personally believe in ghosts, I do believe that intuition is real, and I still have no interest in camping at Sarver Cabin.

Karen Borski Somers is a native of Spring, Texas, and currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband, two daughters and their hiking sheltie. An avid hiker and cyclist, she has logged more than 9,000 trail miles in 36 states, including the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Click here to read her journal concerning her journey on the 96-mile Lone Star Trail in Texas.


Color photos courtesy of Andy Niekamp

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