Appalachian Trail Histories

Menu

Browse Exhibits (17 total)


The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.), stretching 2,189 miles across 14 states, is cared for by a coalition of federal and state agencies, as well as by 31 volunteer Trail clubs. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the main conserving organization of the A.T., oversees these various clubs and contributes to their funding. However, the given amount varies, depending on aspects of each Trail club's level of activity. As a result, the Trail clubs are engaged in an undeclared competition, for substantial funding from the ATC. 

Backward, barefoot, unclean, hillbillies- they were called idiotic, frail, half-wits.  These are only some of the terms used commonly in the 1930s to describe the people who lived among the mountains of Shenandoah.  They were painted as uneducated, slow, drunks.  They were photographed, studied, given tests and documented for the parties interested in evicting them.  Their land was to become Shenandoah National Park.  They had to go.  To justify such an act the "resettlement" of these residents was portrayed as a service to them.  The isolation of their lives was said to tear away at their physical and mental health.  Their hardships, the same hardships of many lowlanders, were used as proof of their dire need for relocation.  They were being thrown out of their homes- but, was it really for their own good?

Some say it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

The Appalachian Trail is not just a trail, but over two thousand miles of vast wilderness and nature stretching down nearly the entire length of the eastern seaboard. It is home to numerous indigenous species of wildlife and vegetation as well as home to many people who've lived nearby or dedicated their lives to walking, preserving and/or protecting the trail. It is also a century-long storybook that has captured countless historical moments, people and artifacts.

This exhibit is meant weave together the story of the Appalachian Trail through pictures taken by photographers, hikers, historians and other individuals throughout its existence. It will go as far back as the 1920s and 30s and come as far forward as the modern day, and include a special collection regarding those displaced by the federal government's attempts to acquire land for the trail.

In the Appalachian trail area and in the Appalachian Mountains, the population of many animal species have been declining over the years.  The major factor that causes population decline is habitat loss.  Animal species whose habitat is destroyed or ruined, makes them vulnerable for extinction because they would not be able to survive without their habitat.  This causes them to be endangered placing them under the Endangered Species Act where they will be protected against extinction. 

This exhibit is about the endangered animal species that live in the Appalachian area. There are many reasons why they are endangered or near to being endangered such as human impact, climate change, habit destruction, and pollution.  Even though the Endangered Species Act does guarantee the protection of endangered species, there has still been some animal species in the past years and in the present that have suffered and who are still suffering from habitat loss causing them to be vulnerable for extinction. 

 

Homemaking liquor is a longstanding tradtion in Appalachia, even if the process isn't legal. 

Scenic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia lies at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. For Appalachian Trail Hikers, Harpers Ferry is significant as the approximate mid-point of the 2,178-mile trail. Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the headquarters for the AT.

Harpers Ferry is perhaps best known for abolitionist John Brown’s October 16, 1859 raid on the federal armory there. Brown hoped the attack on the armory would spark a slave rebellion. The raid failed, but it did help to focus the nation’s attention on the growing tension between pro and anti-slavery factions. Just 18 months later, on April 12 - 14, 1861, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard bombarded Fort Sumter in South Carolina launching the Civil War.

For those interested in Civil War history, Harpers Ferry is close to several battlefield sites. Antietam Battlefield is 17 miles away. Gettysburg Battlefield, in Pennsylvania, is approximately 60 miles northeast of Harpers Ferry. Manassas Battlefield is approximately 60 miles southeast in Virginia.  

The town of Harpers Ferry itself is a popular tourist destination offering restaurants, museums, and incredible views. Outdoor activities include rafting on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and hiking the many trails. Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive lie just to the south with an entrance to the park in Front Royal, Virginia.  

 

The American Chestnut tree once grew in abundance throughout the Appalachian Mountain region, from the southern United States to Maine.

Benton MacKaye dreamed that people would venture out to the Appalachian Trail as a way to connect with nature and rejuvinate their health.  He did not take into account the existance of microscopic parasites, microbes, and diseases that called the wilderness home. 

This exhibit will explore those illnesses, how people avoided contracting them, and how they handle being sick while on the trail.

For the most part, hiking on the Appalachian Trail is a safe activity.  In fact, for the 2016 Hiking year there is only one recorded case of an actual bear attack.  According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, approximately three million people visited the trail this year (2016). Taking the numbers in hand, the chances of a bear attack are roughly one in three million. 

 

However, along with bears there are several other dangers that come into play.  Some of which many overlook when planning to visit the Appalachian Trail. Many dangers, very easy to avoid but also just as easy to overlook and become a serrious problem. Before embarking on a hike, whether it be for a day, a week, or the full through-hike.  One should learn about what potential dangers there are and keep an open eye to their surroundings. 

The Appalachian Trail traverses history as well as Geography. In Virginia, the trail runs through Shenandoah National Park, established in 1935, as one of the first National Parks (along with Great Smokey Mountain and Mammoth Caves National Parks) in the Eastern United States and in the South. This presented a challenge to the National Park Service. The National Parks in other parts of the country were full integrated, at least in theory. Now that there were to be National Parks in the Jim Crow south, the Park Service was faced with the unsavory prospect of segregation in the new parks. The National Park Service policy at the time was to comply with local law and that meant the park would be segregated. This decision did not go down easily with everyone. From the Park’s beginning, African Americans and their white allies spoke out against the policy.

Nonetheless, initially at least the plan was for segregated facilities in Shenandoah National Park. Facilities for White visitors were constructed in the new park, while facilities for African Americans lagged behind. Complaints about the lack of facilities for African Americans were brushed off. As luck would have it, the Department of the Interior, of which the National Park Service is a sub-agency, was led by Harold Ickes, a longtime supporter of African American civil rights. Harold Ickes, aided by his advisor on Negro Affairs, William J. Trent, Jr., pushed for the creation of facilities for African Americans in Shenandoah National Park, but at the same time worked for desegregation of the entire park. Eventually a facility for African Americans was constructed, the campground at Lewis Mountain, but Ickes continued to push for desegregation and after World War II, the signs for segregated facilities quietly came down, the park was desegregated.