Appalachian Trail Histories

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The old route of the Appalachian Trail crossed into North Carolina on Fisher's Peak, just north of the Blue Ridge Music Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway, both of which were built much later. After passing through the resort known as Norvale Crags, the trail looped back northwest into Virginia toward Galax.

This photograph, taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in 1932 during one of his hikes along the old trail route, looks west along the Virginia/North Carolina line toward the New River and the Grayson Highlands in the far distance.

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The view north and east from a point along the old route of the Appalachian Trail approximately two miles south of Sling's Gap.

The man in the photograph is Shirley L. Cole, the County Agent in Floyd County, and the original overseer of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia. The photograph is from ATC Chairman Myron Avery's personal scrapbooks and was taken during one of several scouting expeditions he took with Cole in the region between 1930-1932.

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This photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery shows the view of the Appalachian Trail south into North Carolina at Fisher's Peak from Fancy Gap, Virginia. This is one of many photographs of the old route of the trail taken by Avery during his numerous expeditions to this part of Virginia between 1930-1950.

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Hikers on the old route of the Appalachian Trail crossed the Dan River at the bottom of the Dan River Gorge, either just after descending the Pinnacles (if hiking northbound) or just before ascending the Pinnacles (if hiking southbound). This photograph from 1932 shows the river crossing as it was in the original version the trail. The creation of two dams in the Gorge required the trail's overseers to relocate the river crossing to avoid the inundation created by the dams.

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The Townes Diversion Dam is one of two hydroelectric dams built in the Dan River Gorge in the late 1930s by the Danville Power Authority to generate power for the city of Danville. These two dams forced the old route of the Appalachian Trail to move to avoid the lakes created for the project, however, the trail continued to traverse the Gorge and the Pinnacles of Dan until it was relocated west in 1952.

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The Dan River Gorge, also known as the Kibler Valley, as seen from the summit of the Pinnacles of Dan in Southwestern Virginia.

This black and white lantern slide is part of a set of promotional slides used by the Appalachian Trail Conference to promote hiking the trail beginning in the late 1930s. ATC members could borrow the slides for public presentations. This particular image was from a photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in the early 1930s during one of his many tours of the trail in Southwestern Virginia.

The Pinnacles were regularly described by AT hikers as the single most difficult part of the hike, except perhaps the climb of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Today the Dan River Gorge (where the Pinnacles are located) is closed to hikers. The Gorge itself is now largely filled in by two lakes created in the late 1930s by the Danville Power Authority when they dammed the Dan River.

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This black and white lantern slide of the Pinnacles of Dan in Southwestern Virginia is part of a set of promotional slides used by the Appalachian Trail Conference to promote hiking the trail beginning in the late 1930s. ATC members could borrow the slides for public presentations. This particular image was from a photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in the early 1930s during one of his many tours of the trail in Southwestern Virginia.

The Pinnacles were regularly described by AT hikers as the single most difficult part of the hike, except perhaps the climb of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Today the Dan River Gorge (where the Pinnacles are located) is closed to hikers.

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A group of hikers on the Pinnacles of Dan in 1908, led by John Barnard (in hat on far left). Barnard later became the overseer of the Appalachian Trail in Patrick County, VA, and was described as the "King of the Pinnacles" in a story about the trail that appeared in National Geographic Magazine in the 1940s. 

The Pinnacles were regularly described by AT hikers as the single most difficult part of the hike, except perhaps the climb of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Today the Dan River Gorge (where the Pinnacles are located) is closed to hikers.

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The Sidna Allen house just outside of Fancy Gap, VA, is locally famous as the home of Sidna Allen, a member of the Allen family who were notorious for their role in the "courthouse massacre" in the county seat of Hillsville in 1912. Following his conviction for his role in the shootout, Allen lost the house to the state and it was eventually sold to the Webb family. When the Appalachian Trail arrived in Carroll County, Erna Webb was listed in the trail guides as being willing to take in hikers for the night. It is currently under renovation with the goal of turning it into a house museum.

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Constructed in 1929 by the U.S. Forest Service, this 40' steel tower with 14'x14' wooden cab was eventually transferred to Virginia Forestry for safekeeping, but it was vandalized in the late 1980s, the state returned it, and the Forest Service removed it.
The 1934 trail guide says:

"Ascend steeply on truck road which crosses old dirt road, former Trail route, in several places. Road affords splendid views. Where road reaches crest just west of firetower, at 6.85 miles, turn sharp left, descending on Forest Service trail."

This description of the trail's route in Southwest Virginia is very typical, in that the route alternates between trail and roads, and emphasizes locations where hikers can have "splendid views."

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Southwest Virginia’s long-established Lutheran community began to expand its missionary activity in the region in the 1920s. A principal accomplishment was the Konnarock Training School, begun in 1924 by the Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Lutheran Church in America. The school served simultaneously as a private boarding school and a public day school with a special focus on the cultural, spiritual, and social development of girls from underprivileged mountain families.

The old route of the Appalachian Trail passed just north of the school complex. Hikers on the trail who wished to divert south to Mt. Rogers and Whitetop Mountain took a side trail that joined the road through Konnarock, passing directly by the school.

The Lutherans’ Board of American Missions considered its work done in 1958 and closed the school. The complex is now owned by the U. S. D. A. Forest Service.

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The text of a scouting report laying out a potential route for the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia between Roanoke, Virginia and Roaring Gap, North Carolina. This report was sent to the Appalachian Trail Conference headquarters by Donald Campbell of Mount Airy, NC, and Shirley L. Cole, the county agent in Floyd, VA. It became the basis for the route of the trail between the Peaks of Otter north or Roanoke and the New River just west of Galax, VA.

Appalachian Trail Data (1930)